Is it safe? Secure? What is the cloud? Will someone steal my identity? What about tracking what students are writing? These are questions that continue to be asked whenever the “cloud” is discussed among educators. At Ontario Local Schools, we are beginning to move toward more cloud-based applications.
Our first priority was to build the infrastructure to support BYOD. When we introduced our new BYOD policy and students started using a variety of tablets and cell phones, it launched the movement to the cloud. Students needed to get to their assignments and documents beyond the school day hours. This immediately was helpful to students who were ill, athletes riding home on long bus rides, students in study halls, “snow” day assignments, and catching up on work on the weekends.
Immediate feedback is a powerful support for moving to the cloud. Teachers can quickly review an assignment and make comments for the student to review. Staff and students can collaborate at the same time on an assignment or a group of students can collaborate on a project at the same time from different places.
It is important that the cloud-based applications a district chooses for students and staff are checked for safety, ease, grade level needs, and success. We worked on a trial basis with different teachers and grade levels. The trials gave us a chance to work through the applications and find how each one fit the needs of our students and specific grade levels.
A top priority is providing staff development in the area of cloud-based applications. We conducted after-school workshops and offered college credit to all staff members. Staff had the opportunity to work with cloud-based applications, ask questions, interact with peers, and collaborate as a student and as a teacher. After the workshop, staff could draw their own conclusion if the applications fit the needs of their students. Professional development also gave staff the opportunity to hear how others were planning to use the cloud for assignments and lessons. ( I remember during an after-school workshop listening to a third grade teacher discuss how he was going to use it with a high school science teacher. The peer interaction is priceless!)
The Pros of “Moving to the Cloud”
a. Reduces a school district storage costs.
b. Reduces the number of servers housed in a district.
c. Students' work is more secure.
d. Provides staff the opportunity to further enhance or reinforce classroom lessons with BYOD and cloud-based applications.
e. Great for school districts that must design “Blizzard” bags for students to have assignments on snow days.
f. Instant feedback from the teacher. Real time collaboration with a teacher or group of students.
g. Many cloud applications are free!
h. Students documents are accessible 24/7.
i. Students are responsible for their accounts and passwords.
j. Teachers have more options to design homework assignments.
k. Students can work at their own pace. They are no longer restricted to school hours.
l. They can work on assignments in a variety of environments – school, bus, home, friend’s house, vacation, and so forth.
m. Assignments can be immediately uploaded to their teacher.
n. Fewer “lost” assignments or “I forgot my homework”
o. Students have the ability to get to assignments and classwork on any school computer if they forget their home device.
p. Districts save money on paper!
q. Staff members can grade assignments in a variety of environments.
Michelle Vance is the Director of Technology in Ontario Local Schools, Ontario, Ohio 44833