An Architecture Paradigm for Providing Cloud Services in School Labs Based on Open Source Software to Enhance ICT in Education

An Architecture Paradigm for Providing Cloud Services in School Labs Based on Open Source Software to Enhance ICT in Education

Yannis Siahos (Computer Technology Institute and Press-Diophantus, Greece), Iasonas Papanagiotou (Computer Technology Institute and Press-Diophantus, Greece), Alkis Georgopoulos (Computer Technology Institute and Press-Diophantus, Greece), Fotis Tsamis (Computer Technology Institute and Press-Diophantus, Greece) and Ioannis Papaioannou (Computer Technology Institute and Press-Diophantus, Greece)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/ijcee.2012010105
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Abstract

The authors present their experience and practices of introducing cloud services, as a means to simplify the adoption of ICT (Information Communication and Technology) in education, using Free/Open Source Software. The solution creates a hybrid cloud infrastructure, in order to provide a pre-installed (Ubuntu and Linux Terminal Server Project) virtual machine, acting as a server inside the school, providing desktop environment based on the Software as a Service cloud model, where legacy PCs act as stateless devices. Classroom management is accomplished using the application “Epoptes.” To minimize administration tasks, educational software is provided accordingly, either on-line or through repositories to automate software installation (including patches and updates). The advantages of the hybrid cloud implementation, include services that are not completely dependent on broadband connections’ state, minimal cost, reusability of obsolete equipment, ease of administration, centralized management, patches and educational software provisioning and, above all, facilitation of the educational procedure.
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Introduction

The importance and prevalence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education is universally recognized, because of their potential to create more comprehensive educational material that ameliorates the academic development of children (Kalaš, 2010). Despite this fact, ICT introduction did not meet their initial (since 90s) expectations (Watson, 2006). Since early 2000s many national and international studies (Kozma, 2003; OECD, 2006; Pelgrum, 2001) depict the fact that there is a serious gap between the theoretical enhancement that will result by exploiting ICT in education and the actual application of ICT in a classroom.

Some of the obstacles mentioned above, are mainly technical issues related to the schools’ networking, computing and building infrastructures. In Greece for example, computers are part of a local area network and are communicating using the client – server computational model, which requires administration of all components (all the clients and the server). Due to the technological evolution and the software and hardware prerequisites of educational software, many school labs’ computers need to be replaced. Unfortunately, the goal of procuring and maintaining computer labs to satisfy the requirements was impractical due to limited resources. To make things worse, in order to achieve a 1:1 student to computer ratio more computers are needed, not to mention that the lack of technical personnel to support the ICT infrastructure impairs all the aforementioned issues (Kondilis et al., 2007). In 2006, a new computational model, the thin client model (Becta, 2004; Nieh et al., 2005), was introduced, taking advantage of Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) package (Balneaves et al., 2009) and Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com) operating system, aiming to replicate successful references of other countries (Braaten et al., 2002; Reinholdtsen, 2002; Carter et al., 2004). Old PCs could be reutilized and students had accepted thin client performance as well as Ubuntu’s application environment, but there were still technical issues with regards to the installation and everyday usage and administration (Kondilis et al., 2008). In this paper, cloud services are introduced as a means to simplify and enhance the adoption of ICT technologies, rendering the outdated infrastructure of school labs as adequate client machines, capable of providing all the functionality that is essential within the school environment, while open source software is employed. The rest of the paper is structured as follows: First, we present the cloud computing model and its services. An analysis of the requirements is presented afterwards, while explanations of how the proposed architecture conforms to the previous requirements along with the technical issues of the customization procedure are quoted in the section after that. Results derived from schools that adopted the solution are then presented. We then discuss concerns about current trends aiming to utilize students’ mobile devices and then summarize and conclude the paper.

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