Cloud computing is getting a lot of play in the k-12 community and there’s no doubt that there are some wonderful benefits to this model for schools.
Web-based software can be the road to 24×7 access from any location with Internet access.
Software as a service off-loads the costs of servers and the ongoing cost of maintaining them by an already overburdened tech support staff.
Web-based software gets updated centrally and insures that all students and teachers are using the same version.
However, there are some limitations to the public cloud:
Not all applications run in the public cloud.
Storage of sensitive student data is not under the complete control of the school district.
Software becomes an annual subscription and not an outright, one-time purchase. Over time, software budgets will grow as we add more subscriptions.
We still need the local network for policies, printing, grouping students, web filtering, and local storage
We can address these issues by developing ‘private clouds’ within the district.
We can virtualize desktops and applications and run them from servers in the ‘private cloud’ so that little or no software remains on the students’ or teachers’ computing device. Combining Public and Private clouds provides the best of all world’s:
All the benefits of the public cloud as stated above…
The school can run applications that are unique to their environment.
Access these applications 24×7 from any device with Internet access.
Become device independent (apps are running on servers) thus allowing the purchase of thin clients, netbooks, and other low cost computing devices.
Install and manage applications centrally.
Slow the replacement cycle (software runs on servers so no need to buy new computers every few years.
There is no doubt that we are at a unique crossroads in educational technology. There are huge changes in the ed tech paradigm that are about to take place. The Public and Private clouds are a means to an end and not the end itself.
As we shift to this new paradigm we also make it possible for each student to have their own device and to access their learning resources and files from anywhere, at any time.