Remote Desktop Computer Lab Management Software
When I became a TVI teaching technology, I was assigned a computer lab/classroom, teaching various basic technology classes including Microsoft Office, Web Design, operating system navigation, etc. Since one of the most powerful tools in an IT administrators’ and help desk personnels’ arsenal is the ability to remotely control computers and servers, I started researching various softwares specifically designed for an educational computer lab for several compelling reasons, including the primary fact that leaning over students for instruction relating to the screen in front of them is not particularly effective and efficient, besides being intrusive on the students’ spaces. This is especially true in a VI environment, where VI students often must have their eyes inches from the screen.
There were specific applications designed to use the remote desktop protocol in a classroom. I selected the Faronics Insight application, since I had experience with the Faronics Deep Freeze application that restored lab computers to a pristine state upon reboot. Incidentally, from personal experience, Deep Freeze was a very useful application in a college computer lab environment and we used it to maintain computers in about 12 labs with roughly 600 computers so I was familiar with its efficacy and the Faronics company.
Faronics Insight allows for control of lab computers from a single teacher station and is specifically designed for a computer lab classroom. One can monitor all computers from a single window, and/or interact with a single student’s desktop, either by controlling or just viewing. In fact, one can guide a student since teacher and student input on the screen can be simultaneous or teacher only, if the teacher so desires. The software allows for restrictions of software and internet access, in case one has a student who just cannot resist listening to rap videos and music or any other of the innumerable technological distractions available (games, etc.) that work to dissuade students from working on classwork. I use this software daily to instruct and interact with students. Of particular interest to the VI environment is the ability to speak with students, either singly or in combinations including whole classes through their headphones that they must use to hear a screenreader while also enabling the ability to control the monitor screens to demonstrate various points, functions, lessons, etc.
In all fairness, this author is not endorsing Faronics Insight over any other type of computer lab management software; the author just chose Insight due to previous experience with the Faronics company. A list of other similar alternatives can be found on AlternativeTo.net: Faronics Insight Alternatives and Similar Software . This author has not investigated most of the software listed as alternatives but one thing to keep in mind when software is advertised as “free”, even open source is that one often gets what one pays for. However, this is not to say that all free and open source software is bad, only that testing and due diligence should be done before implementing software in an educational computer lab environment to avoid problems. It is also true that no software is entirely without flaws, including Faronics Insight, which can be subject to network lag, etc. and must be restarted occasionally after heavy use.
A teacher who is charged with teaching the visually impaired about computer technology use will find a classroom management software to be of great help in teaching computer technology. The author has found this type of software to be indispensable in creating a more smooth lesson flow and more efficient and enjoyable learning environment in a computer lab classroom.