Employee Experience

The Virtual Whiteboard Jungle – Chapter 2

by Andy Powell – Sr. Business Strategist, End User Computing


Chapter 2: Life after the physical PC

It sits there in the classroom, lab, backpack or library.  It is a portal to unlimited resources. It is seen by many well intentioned people as the key to the future, and one of the most important things that we can provide to our students and teachers. Those that brought it, fought for it through referendum, grants and bake sales. In many cases, photos and speeches heralded its coming to the lucky and progressive district. It sits there, and only there. The software to provide enlightenment and development, the applications that fulfill promise of the investment sit there too.  It is like a book in a locker, but it has to be actively maintained and supported.  It is like a map on a wall, but it needs electricity and a network to be engaged. It is like a pencil next to the paper, but the user has to have significant and specialized trained to make it work. It is a tool. It sits there and only there, until someone can use it.

The physical PC is expensive, even though the per unit cost has been driven down over time.  It is the support/maintenance that becomes the Achilles' heel of the PC.  See the CoSN-Gartner TCO Case Studies for more on this.

The value can be debated.  See The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Computers in Schools and A Puzzling Fact about High-Tech Use in Classrooms for more on this.

The result of much of our investment in technology has been focused on what we can see.  That is why it sits there.  We can point to it and say "See what we provided you!!!!"  However, like the locker bound book, the map on the wall, and the pencil on the paper, the PC is of no use if someone is not in front of it.  Considering that schools are only open for a very limited amount of time (If you consider a 24X365/year model), the investment is even more inefficient. And, don't forget about the other parts:  We have significant investment in applications, curriculum and training. We have significant investments in school network access through E-Rate. We have an ever increasing number of access devices that are being used. So, what do we do with it? Transform it from physical to virtual.  Make it not a "it is there" limitation, but a "it is where you are" revelation.

Next up… Chapter 3:  I don't get virtualization…

Previous… Chapter 1: Lessons, thoughts and Ideas for the virtualization of End User Computing for Education