Virtual Technology Drives New Collaboration to Respond to Achievement Gap Challenges

A persistent academic achievement gap, determination to advance an effective response and the emergence of a cutting-edge technology are driving a new collaboration that is aiming to improve education opportunities for students in underserved communities and strengthen connections among students, teachers, parents, and the community. The first steps of the initiative – which brings a leadership donation by the Travelers Foundation together with the just-formed Connecticut Technology and Education Collaborative (CTEC) and the Hartford Public Library – will lay the groundwork for the introduction of “desktop virtualization” technology to support education for Hartford students.

The Travelers Foundation is providing no-longer-needed computers and financial support to CTEC, which includes The Walker Group, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), GreenShare Technology and SpaceFitters. The CTEC initiative marks the first time that such an effort has been undertaken in Connecticut - designed specifically to bring an evolving cutting-edge technology to K-12 students in the state.  A pilot project launched by CTEC began earlier this year in Windham schools.

The donation by the Travelers Foundation will support repurposing and installing the computers at a number of Hartford Public Library locations. In turn, they will be designated for student use and connected to the Hartford Public School network. This will give HPS students after school access to the applications and files they’ve used during the school day from reconfigured PC’s that operate better than new ones.  Access to their classwork offers the students the means to spend additional time reviewing material, working on assignments, and reinforcing lessons.

The technology enabling these donated computers to perform so well is known as desktop virtualization, which shifts the more intensive processing from the computer itself to a specialized server running in a secure data center in East Hartford, part of a previously established and underutilized state network that was developed to advance educational purposes.

The desktop virtualization technology enables students and faculty to access their school network from anywhere, anytime, using any type of device. It is a transformational technology in education, giving students a new way to access technology and opening up extended learning options for disadvantaged schools and communities.

“Virtual desktops hold tremendous potential for enabling under-served students to gain access to school technology," commented Tony Budrecki, Virtualization Services Director at The Walker Group in Farmington. “Our repurposing of legacy machines donated by Travelers into high performance systems wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. It’s a great example of creative philanthropy helping to solve a big societal problem.”

The Connecticut Technology and Education Collaborative is made up of Connecticut-based for-profit and non-profit organizations. The group’s goal is to help level the playing field for access to high-quality, affordable technology in school and from home, through creative public-private collaboration.  The initiative also offers the potential of cost-saving benefits to local schools, as computer network capacity is used more efficiently.