Our thin clients at the high school have served us very well. A few bumps along the way, a bit of learning for me in terms of the capacity of our network and the limitations of our terminal servers, and occasional adjustments of expectations, but overall, they have met our instructional needs and drastically reduced desktop support requirements.
Although it's time for a refresh (our 3-year lease is up this spring), the servers and thin clients are generally functioning quite well and budgets are too tight to justify replacing good equipment. In fact, a 3-year lease on thin clients seems sort of silly. Aside from occasional failures, the devices have a minimum 5-year lifespan. I wouldn't object to more performance and storage on the servers, but they certainly have another year or two of life in them as mission-critical servers (I'm knocking on my wooden desk at the moment here, but I'm pretty confident).
So we're buying out the lease and the thin clients are staying. That being said though, several teachers have asked for labs that lack some of the limitations of thin clients. For productivity applications and Internet access, they do quite well. Streaming video can get a bit choppy if plenty of students are online and graphics applications are tough. Web content creation, though not generally demanding in terms of processors, can eat up storage very quickly. Geometer's Sketchpad works fairly well, but Maple starts to push on things. You get the idea.
So it's time for a redeployment. Every classroom has a basic (but solid) dual-core desktop and we have a full lab of relatively new dual-cores that tends to get monopolized by our science department. Then we have 3 thin client labs (1 in the media center and 2 classroom labs). Given that most teachers (with the exception of a few using SMART boards or doing complex demonstrations) only need Internet access and basic productivity applications, it shouldn't be hard to redeploy their desktops into a new lab of standalone computers to meet the needs of teachers who require more robust computing environments.
If all goes according to plan, we can eek out an extra two years and plan for a more serious refresh in FY12 and 13. If I go for more thin clients then (and I expect that I will), not only will I have a nicely differentiated usage pattern in place, but will also purchase/lease the clients with the expectation of much longer lifespans. For this coming year, I'll gladly trade some new desktop/server hardware for some cost savings and more instructional technology (SMART boards, interactive response systems, and the professional development to go with them are at the top of my teachers' lists). Besides, a little summertime computer moving never hurt anyone, right?