When we talk about moving school operations to the cloud, we’re really talking about changing a frame of mind. Administrators and educators alike struggle to choose resources that can be supported long-term, maintain security and privacy, get buy-in, and stay up to speed with the evolving technologies students use. During my years at Intel, I’ve worked with many Fortune* 500 companies and have observed their hurdles in adopting cloud computing. Education is now facing the same migration to the cloud and can learn from what these companies had to deal with.
As the U.S. Department of Education notes, digital learning is crucial to modern education.
Following are some common challenges schools face when transitioning to the cloud — and starting points to overcome them.
Old, incompatible applications
Legacy systems that are incompatible with or don’t support new software remain a huge problem in schools when the time comes to upgrade. If you’re working on a database from the ’90s, as many schools are, it might not exactly migrate elegantly to a stateless database.
Investing limited school resources is a complicated matrix. Variables include your budget, the capabilities of your IT staff and possible complacency, the state of your current systems, the level of support from teachers and management, and your school’s goals for student achievement. When your old programs become so incompatible that they limit your choices for other applications, that variable should be heavily weighted. School spending on technology upgrades is on the rise, but ultimately this is a judgment call.
Accounting for all costs
Any cloud migration strategy will have associated costs. Planning for these — both one-time expenses and ongoing costs — is crucial in getting your school up and running effectively and efficiently. Further, both on premise and cloud expenses should be mapped to ensure all budgetary concerns are met. Here are a few examples:
- A one-time on premise expense would include server and hardware purchases, as well as the necessary software licenses.
- A one-time cloud expense would include initial setup fees and configuration costs.
- Ongoing fixed costs are your internet service provider’s fees, base usage costs, and recurring software licensing fees.
- Ongoing variable costs could include utility fees based on season or usage changes, or additional usage cloud costs (per-minute charges, or GBs in/out, for example).
Privacy issues involving minors
When workflows move to the cloud, it becomes easy to track — and that’s the point. You can collect information such as where students are spending the most time on assignments, which questions they frequently get wrong, which teaching formats kids prefer, and which days of the week are best for due dates. As with any other industry, this information can be used to test assumptions about student behavior and then deliver better instruction.
But collecting student data poses a serious question: How much is too much? And who makes that decision? GPS location data is part of most any data collection; while it’s easy to see why any parent might want to know where his or her child is, it’s an ethical consideration as well. There’s no single or easy answer to these questions, but it’s a serious consideration when implementing any digital environment and especially when that data will be held in the cloud.
Professional development and teacher buy-in
Any decisions regarding implementing cloud technology at schools must consider the crucial factor of teacher buy-in. It’s important that teachers support the new technology — or at least stay open to the new opportunities it presents for learning. Without teacher buy-in, new systems may not be used, and the wasted opportunity may result in resistance to any other new technology.
The best classroom investments are teacher-driven. To ensure investment in cloud tech will be used in the classroom, talk to teachers. Ask them what they need. Present technology as an opportunity for professional development, and see innovation unfold in your school.
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