How do you improve and accelerate the educational learning process for an entire School Board? How do you meet all 1,300 expectations that the Ontario Ministry of Education expects from its School Board in a timely and cost effective manner?
Is it possible to implement an IT solution on a limited budget without altering the educational process of the future?
The answer is yes, it’s possible.
How? With a dedicated and committed staff, like Elio Palermo, Principal at St. Barbara Elementary School in Scarborough, Ontario and Joe Di Fonzo, Senior Coordinator of Technical Services of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), whose vision helped improve the educational process.
What else? A reliable IT solution partner such as Metafore is vital in providing the ongoing IT expertise and support to help transform the vision into reality.
Improving the IT resources in schools is critical in aiding students to accelerate the learning capabilities such as numeracy and literacy - crucial elements to ensuring tomorrow’s future.
The major challenges are finding an IT solution that is sustainable, efficient, flexible, cost effective and, above all, capable of delivering a standardized IT solution across the entire school board. We’re talking about implementing an IT solution to a large population of about 90,000 students, 10,000 teachers and an administrative staff working in 170 elementary schools and 30 secondary schools.
Phase 1 The solution: a mobile lab pilot project
The mobile lab pilot project originated mainly because of technological constraints. Elio Palermo came up with the concept and met with Joe Di Fonzo to further discuss the feasibility of setting up a mobile lab as a learning tool. Elio Palermo’s initiative was inline with the objectives of the TCDSB.
Metafore: the IT solution partner of choice
Metafore immediately agreed to offer its IT knowledge and support in paving the way for this pilot project to take form. By working with Metafore and its vendor partners, HP and Citrix, Joe Di Fonzo and his IT team spent several months designing and testing an IT solution for a mobile lab. “As a solution, we wanted more than just a computer” said Joe Di Fonzo. “We wanted to provide students with a learning tool that is accessible, flexible, durable, efficient and inexpensive. The pilot project took several months of research and development before implementation could begin at St. Barbara Elementary School.”
Implementation of the Pilot Project at St. Barbara Elementary School
After reviewing Metafore’s solution and having conducted a strategic proof of concept, the TCDSB was ready to test this pilot project in a school environment. St. Barbara Elementary
was the school of choice since it allowed for different types of inputs: a mobile lab with thin clients, computer classrooms with four regular desktops and a computer lab in the Library. Running the thin client pilot in a school alongside the existing regular computers permits collecting information and gives the ability to compare variables from the same single environment.
Mobile lab: HP thin clients, wireless networking and Citrix application
Metafore implemented the mobile lab at the beginning of 2010 which consisted of 30 HP thin client Mini Netbooks (5101) featuring a 6-cell battery, courtesy of HP. These HP thin clients are stored in a mobile cart with a wireless access point and this is where the HP thin clients are recharged when not in use. Secondly, a wireless network infrastructure was set up and the Citrix XenApp application solution was utilized to serve virtual desktops located on a central server at the TCDSB head office. “Metafore in collaboration with HP helped develop a solution that fully met our objectives and exceeded our expectations,” said Joe Di Fonzo.
Empirical results - Quantitative and empirical results will be accessible only at the end of the school year where data collection and compilation will be available and will corroborate the success of this pilot project and demonstrate numeracy and literacy improvements.
Being a visionary goes a long way
The primary mission of the TCDSB is to educate students to their full potential. Throughout
the process, the school board never lost sight of its mission and vision and therefore developed and implemented an adequate, fast and inexpensive technological infrastructure. The success of this pilot project is mainly attributed to Metafore and its team of experts. “Without Metafore’s IT expertise, this pilot project wouldn’t have seen the light of day,” said Joe Di Fonzo. “Metafore’s IT solution and collaboration was a key element throughout this pilot project. Metafore has responded to the unique needs of the school board in developing the solution.
We also greatly appreciate HP for all its support and hardware”.