Success with K12 Linux Terminal Server Project (K12LTSP) turns school project into district initiativeby SchoolForge updated September 20, 2011

How things got started...

Aging Windows 95 and 98 school student PCs too much trouble to maintain, teachers not using student PCs in class instruction due to lack of reliability

Why Free Software?

K12LTSP chosen to convert aging PCs into thin clients. Survey of teachers showed that main apps of interest for students were web browsing and office apps, both readily supported in Linux Open Source Software.

The plan...

We took the existing 25 computer lab Dell desktop PCs, added memory and fast hard disk drive and we installed K12LTSP and deployed to classrooms as classroom servers. We converted existing classroom Win 95/98 PCs into thin clients merely by altering bios to boot 1st from network. Also, we solicited donated PCs from local businesses and received over 100, many of which could be easily upgraded to servers, and the rest used as clients. We built a few mid level servers to power 25 new computer lab thin clients (diskless mini-ITX workstations at $240 each) and also built a dual core Athelon server for the entire 5th grade (38 thin clients total). Near the end of the school year, using remaining PTA funds, we purchased 63 Ntavo thin clients at $99 each, and 63 15" LCD monitors with built-in speakers to replace some of the older thin clients in the older wings of the school where classrooms have limited electrical capacity, and moved older PCs to newer wings of school with adequate electrical capacity. The average number of PCs per classroom in grades K-3 is now 5-6, and average number of PCs per class in grades 4 and 5 is now 8-9. Finally, we took existing laptops from laptop storage carts, (which were previously unused due to Windows XP being installed w/o adding any memory and thus the laptops became slow and unusable) and constructed a new wooden laptop cart with shelves, K12LTSP server and printer and placed it in a wide part of the hallway so nearby classrooms could timeshare the cart for a daily 1:1 ratio as opposed to once weekly previously using computer lab.


The K12LTSP solution vastly exceeded our expectations in terms of reliability, functionality, ease of use/training and acceptance by teachers and students. We discovered that there is a tipping point at 5 PCs per classroom; less than that, and teachers were not regularly incorporating the PC into daily learning activities. With at least 5 PCs per class, the teachers could create daily centers using the PCs, and each student could have individual access to a PC at least 2 hours a day if desired. Student academic performance and productivity has gone up directly as a result of having enough PCs in each class: students can take Accelerated Reader tests immediately after reading a book (previously they waited over a week to take the test in the computer lab or media center), and a couple of teachers' classes are now in the top five in the nation on the First-In-Math web competition, with one 1st grade teacher's class being first in the nation.

The Future...

We successfully convinced the district IT leadership to try K12LTSP in other schools, and a pilot program involving 6 other schools is planned for rollout over the summer of '06. This was a major seachange for them, as initially they were very resistant to the use of Linux in schools. Our next steps at Brandon will be to use Open Source Linux software to implement a networked video recording system so teachers can record educational TV shows merely by clicking on programs on a web program guide (e.g., MythTV) and also we plan to explore voice and video over IP applications to collaborate with an elementary school in France on a science project via web content management tools. Finally, we will install powerful PCs in the music and art rooms so that students can compose music and produce videos.

Created: June, 2006
Morris Brandon Elementary School
United States

Grade Range:Elementary
Submitted by:
Daniel Howard