Tag: cloud computing

With Technology in Schools Nothing Has Changed

design

Image Credit

With technology in schools nothing has changed.  Several years ago, I performed some original research about technology in schools (reference).

While this study occurred in a limited scope with a few school districts and I stated it could not be generalized, the results appear to be similar to what is appearing in popular media today.  The results:

(a) educational technology policy formulation focused on collecting the objects of technology, such as computers, modems, networks, and the like, rather than viewing educational technology as a systematic process of achieving goals;

(b) active leadership from a superintendent was essential in each school district, formulation of the plans was more than an empowered committee or executive blessing, and it required active participation by a superintendent;

(c) school districts developed educational technology policies regardless of their financial state;

(d) educational technology policy formulation occurred without regard for student demographics;

(e) applied technology or technology education–including electronics, robotics, video production, industrial technology, and metals technology–was part of educational technology policy formulation in two of the three school districts;

(f) while planning focused on the objects of educational technology, planners took little action on other elements of educational technology planning, such as staff development, finance, evaluation, and school cultural issues;

(g) technology planners did little to communicate aspects of their educational technology plan to their school communities;

(h) educational technology policy was a political process. Whether it was a new superintendent pushing his technology agenda or a teacher influencing a computer purchase, politics were part of the process; and

(i) the planning committees were not representative of the school community.

Looking at today’s social media posts in a very unscientific fashion, nothing has changed:

(a)  Today’s social media postings are about buying tablets and the “top 10 apps.”  Little in the social media is about students learning and focusing on students.  It’s about “buying” and “integrating” — a lost cause.

(b)  Leadership is always essential;  today it appears to be driven by peer pressure.  An executive administrator or a board member attends a conference where a school district reports on an effort of a presenting district and “tada” technology is purchased and expected to be used.  Many times the initiatives are way out of context.  Yes, leadership is essential, but is largely misplaced.

(c) They continue to plan, but with dwindling funds.

(d)  It still happens everywhere.  Wish lists are developed, regardless of the school district.

(e)  Still part of planning.

(f)  Professional development continues to be a challenge as teachers are taught skills, told to integrate, and left to go their way.  Usually not successful and not worth the results.

(g)  Communication about technology is swamped by NCLB and budget reductions.

(h)  It’s one of the most dynamic political processes as teachers and groups work to get the latest techno gizmos.

(i)  Planning committees still are composed of techno geeks and not representative of the larger community.

So the cycle continues.  Purchasing new hardware and then professional development is focused on integration – not transformation.  Teachers continue to teach the same old ways except with new technologies.  They no longer focus on “computers, modems, networks, and the like,” but it’s tablets, apps, wifi, white boards, and web 2.0.”  Their attitudes and practices around technology in schools remain the same.  Nothing has changed.  I did not expect that my research was a “game changer,” (another overused word choice to accent the insanity of technology in schools) but I was hoping that a new group of school leaders would emerge that would transform teaching and learning.  Well, with technology in schools, nothing has changed.

Advertisements

Moving to the Cloud

 

Cloud Computing
Image source: http://blogs.channelinsider.com/cloud_computing/cloud.jpg

Schools should consider moving their networked resources to the “cloud.”  In cloud computing networked software programs and stores of data files, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and the like, exist in a data center or multiple data centers outside the organization.  The district’s financial system may reside in one data center, student information system in a second, email in a third, and file storage in a fourth.  The most important component of this idea is that the end customer does not know the difference.  The data centers are better equipped than schools to manage equipment, back it up, and prevent fires.  Yes, the unknown and unspoken issue among school CTOs is that school district data centers are high risk operations because of their lack of redundancies, under capacity cooling, and stretched electrical capacities.  Simply stated, school district data centers are fire hazards.

Further schools cannot keep up with the upgrade paths required of newer technologies, especially in an era of reduced budgets.  School districts are pulling back rather than focusing forward.  The paths are unsustainable to meet recommended upgrade cycles, and impossible for those on shoe-string budgets.  New servers and new operating systems push limited human resources beyond their capacities.

Further school districts’ technology staffs will be concerned about jobs.  New servers and new software require new learning by the technical staffs to meet the upgrade cycles.  Formal training is expensive.  It’s difficult for staff to learn new systems while they are implementing them.

Further technical staff will be need to maintain the data in the systems, to create reports, and serve as the link to the data center for various purposes.

So schools should move their operations to the cloud and let the data center providers worry about the upgrade paths.  The technology staff can be put to higher value operations, such as assisting trainers and directly assisting teachers to make technology work in schools.

Such a move will require a policy creation and a sense of confidence in the move.  Data centers are likely more “secure” than local school data centers.  Afterall what’s there to steal from a school data center?  Schools do not have nuclear secrets and what would the headline read, “Data Center Hacked, School’s Powerpoints Revealed” or “Data Center Hacked, Exams Posted Online?”  Who would want the files schools have on their servers?  Schools are low-yield hacks.

Moving to the cloud is more an emotional consideration than a technical, budgetary, or staffing initiative.  The leaders of the school district need confidence and assurance that the data and operations are better in the data centers than in the school district’s data center.   As a strategic leader, the CTO can address issues that executive administration and the board of education have.  Additionally, the CTO can develop a plan to put bring the technical staff into a higher yielding support system rather than chasing upgrades of hardware and software.