North Carolina School Takes to the Clouds with Virtual Desktops


Frank Porter Graham Elementary School in North Carolina is piloting a cloud computing initiative to bring virtual desktops to about 600 students and teachers. The initiative is part of the SIMtone Education Thunder Program, whose goal is to bring technology resources to those who couldn't otherwise afford them.

The program provides on demand access to SIMtone's Universal Cloud Computing virtual desktops. The virtual computers are maintained by the school and are accessible by students and teachers online. The "SIMtone-powered PC in the cloud" provides each student with homework, coursework, and other educational materials.

"Our school wants to equip each student with the most advanced computing environment necessary today to effectively study, learn and access all the digital courseware and teaching tools available. Asking each student to purchase and maintain their own PC is impossible, just as it is impossible for the school to ensure each student's PC is up to date and has all the latest courseware. SIMtone eliminates all these complexities and costs, and allows our school to deliver to each student a real 'PC in the Cloud,' fully maintained by the school itself, that is always available to our students on-demand and on-the-fly, in class, in the library and at home, without requiring them to purchase yet another PC," said Shelia Burnette, principal of the Frank Porter Graham School, in a statement released this week.

As part of the program, the United States Fund for UNICEF is providing educational materials.

"Through TeachUNICEF, we are empowering students to be active global citizens in learning about UNICEF's mission to do whatever it takes to save and [improve] children's lives worldwide. Therefore, we are quite excited about this opportunity to take the lead in accelerating the closure of the digital divide," said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, in a statement released Monday. "The low-cost and ubiquitous access to real PCs enabled by SIMtone allows us to reach students with our education material on an unprecedented scale and offer them programs that grow with them and stay with them throughout their entire curricula. It's their PC for life, always on, always available, everywhere they are."

TeachUNICEF is a program for schools in the United States that provides free lesson plans for educators in a downloadable format.

"Cloud computing and virtualization technology offer exceptional opportunities for the technology and the telecommunication industry to give educational institutions and students in both developed and emerging markets, the vital computing tools necessary to close the gap and eliminate the digital divide," said Mario Dal Canto, chairman and CEO of SIMtone Corp. "We look forward to working with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and other organizations to expand the SIMtone Education Thunder program and allow many more schools worldwide to follow the visionary steps of Frank Porter Graham School."

The program is being piloted at Frank Porter this semester. Frank Porter Graham Elementary School serves students in grades K through 5. It's part of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, which serves more than 11,000 students in 18 schools and one alternative program. SIMtone reported that other schools have been identified to participate in the program, but those have not been disclosed yet. Further information about the SIMtone Education Thunder Program can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

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