MultiPoint Can Save Schools Money by Plugging Many Kids Into One PC

REDMOND, Wash. – March 24, 2011 – Like schools everywhere, Iowa’s Tri-Center Community Schools District wants to give its students the best education possible. And like most, it’s trying to make sure it provides students with the opportunity to use technology to learn while also coping with a shrinking budget.

Windows MultiPoint Server is used in computer labs at schools in Haiti that Microsoft and the Clinton Global Initiative have been building as part of the ongoing rebuilding efforts after last year’s devastating earthquake.

“A challenge that Tri-Center and other public schools in Iowa and I’m sure around the nation face is funding,” said Angela Huseman, Tri-Center’s high school principal. “There’s not always enough money, and you only get so much. And that’s the hard part for me to figure out: Well, if I’ve got this much money, where’s the biggest bang for my buck?”

For Huseman, the answer to that, at least in part, was a piece of Microsoft software that lets up to 20 students share one PC at the same time – each with their own keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

For months Tri-Center has been using a new tool from Microsoft that aims to deliver schools the most bang for their IT buck: Windows MultiPoint Server 2011. Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 (WMS 2011) – which went on sale earlier this month – lets multiple users simultaneously tap into the power of a single PC. The result is more computing at a lower cost, helping schools worldwide better prepare students for an increasingly competitive global economy.

“Access to technology provides students with a better platform for learning, but the realities of tighter school budgets make this difficult. Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is a great solution to this challenge,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education at Microsoft.

MultiPoint works by enabling as many as 20 kids with their own workstation setup to be plugged into one “host” computer, allowing each student to work in his or her own Windows 7 environment. It can be used in classrooms, libraries, labs or any other setting where there are multiple computers, Salcito said. A teacher or leader can use the main host computer to lead a lesson, and students can use the individual computers connected to the main PC to follow along.

For schools and administrators, one of the obvious benefits is cost savings. “The most important thing Windows MultiPoint Server does is dramatically drive down the cost of getting computing access into the classroom for students,” said Dean Paron, principal product unit manager for Windows MultiPoint Server. “If a school cannot afford one PC for each student, you can get one computer and share it across several students.”

For teachers, WMS 2011 gives them more control over the classroom for more focused learning, he said. They have the ability to see what each student is doing on their monitor, for example. They also can limit what websites and applications students can access and, in a 21st century update on “pencils down,” freeze each students’ screen.

“When we got Windows Multipoint Server, I basically – this is going to sound funny – but I almost went through the ceiling with my big hurrah,” said Georgiann Anderson, a high school teacher at Tri-Center. “Something I’ve been asking for since I’ve been here is some type of software that (lets me) see what everyone’s doing and help them out.”

Paron said he met one teacher who spent all her time walking up and down aisles keeping tabs on what students were doing on their PCs. “She said she felt more like a hall monitor than an educator,” he said. After WMS 2011 was installed at her school, she had the confidence that students were focused on what they were supposed to be working on, he said.

Many Microsoft partners are using Windows MultiPoint Server to deliver their own solutions that help teachers in the classroom. LanSchool, an independent software vendor, worked with Microsoft on Windows MultiPoint Server 2011’s classroom management features. It offers its own software that enhances Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 and provides a complete, cross-platform classroom management solution, said Ben Cahoon, vice president of LanSchool.

“Giving teachers powerful teaching and monitoring tools that don’t require deep technical skills are critical ingredients for integrating technology into the classroom,” he said. “With them, teachers can provide a rich learning environment for students.”

Companies like HP have built MultiPoint solutions on their own hardware and software. HP’s MultiSeat solution – the only complete, fully licensed and supported Microsoft MultiPoint Server solution from a single vendor – is designed to help schools with limited IT budgets deliver a technology-rich computing experience for every student, said Tiffany Smith, a marketing manager for HP MultiSeat.

Dean Paron, principal product unit manager for Windows MultiPoint Server.

“It really is opening up opportunities for schools to provide more computing seats to their student base and create more of a 1:1 computing environment that so many schools have been striving for but have been unable to do so due to cost barriers,” she said.

Smith added that shared resource computing solutions like MultiSeat and Windows MultiPoint Server not only can help schools double the number of computing stations without extending their budget. They can also drive down power costs dramatically.

Those power savings have made Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 attractive to nonprofits working to provide technology-based education in challenging environments, said James Duffus, group program manager for Windows MultiPoint Server. Microsoft is currently working with organizations such as the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to help deliver technology access to more people more sustainably. UNHCR is deploying MultiPoint Server labs in a refugee camp in Kenya called Kakuma. “The thing they really value beyond the cost effectiveness of sharing a single PC across multiple users is that because the setup consumes so much less power, they’re able to do more with solar power than they otherwise would be able to do,” he said.

Microsoft and the Clinton Global Initiative have been building computer labs at schools in Haiti as part of the ongoing rebuilding efforts after last year’s devastating earthquake. The first went in earlier this month, Duffus said.

Paron said there’s no limit to the number of schools that Windows MultiPoint Server could benefit. “We think that worldwide, there is the ability or the need to uplift something like a billion students with greater access to technology,” Paron said. “I believe access to technology is key as we develop the next generation workforce and leaders, not just locally but around world.”

The goal, then, is the same for schools in Africa or Iowa. As Tri-Center’s Huseman put it: “I think for a school our size, a small school in Iowa, technology opens up the doors to our students, which is the bottom line (and) is what we need to have happen.”

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