A teachable moment has arrived.
As schools continue to struggle with funding shortages, cloud computing services can drive cost savings and enhanced capabilities often not available onsite. Research from the Current Analysis advisory firm shows that, compared with other industries, educational organizations are twice as likely to adopt public-cloud solutions.
Although the trend is clear, technology advocates still must document and explain how cloud-driven savings and efficiencies translate into improved teaching and learning in the classroom.
A closer look reveals many solid examples; among them, Indianapolis Public Schools. The district’s ability to deliver a unified cloud that integrates private- and public-cloud deployments offers teachers a centralized, web-based dashboard that provides easy access to email, educational applications and files. A single password lets students access the learning management system, from which they can review lesson plans and homework assignments. Parents can log in to view their student’s work, check attendance and grades, and send teachers email.
Michigan’s Saline Area Schools, meanwhile, saves $172,000 annually using Google Apps for Education, a Software as a Service application that helps the district reduce staff, server infrastructure, storage and backup, and licensing costs. The district reinvests some of those savings in IT infrastructure, but it also spends a good portion of the money on educational applications that teachers have determined can improve learning outcomes for students.
Secure and Steady
Migrating to the cloud does present some risks. In its 2014 NMC Horizon Report: K–12 Edition, the New Media Consortium recommends that districts seeking greater control over security, privacy, performance and costs consider pooling resources to create systems such as the IlliniCloud. The statewide private cloud in Illinois offers the state’s 869 school districts access to virtual servers, online storage and high-speed network connectivity, along with important IT services such as disaster recovery.
There are many such cooperative efforts underway across the country — most notably in Oregon, which has rolled out Google Apps for Education to more than half of its 200 districts. North Carolina also plans to move IT infrastructure services out of schools and into a shared cloud.
Although the cloud may seem like a leap of faith for some districts, the potential benefits in cost savings, improved service delivery and, yes, enhanced teaching and learning far outweigh the risks. Together, we can move forward and deploy technology that creates the modern classroom we all envision.