Re-design your school technology around the Cloud

Sample Cloud Infrastructure, courtesy of Wikimedia

Sample Cloud Infrastructure, courtesy of Wikimedia

I decided to attend an administrative session hosted by Tim Lee, “Re-design your school technology around the cloud.” The focus of this session is about redesigning schools around cloud technology. The focus of this session is: why to go to the cloud, redesigning a school, and building a school around GAFE. The Prezi Presentation can be found here.

Why are Schools going to the Cloud?

  • Storage Requirements
  • Financial Savings (21% over four years)

What were the benefits of going to the cloud?

  • Increased efficiency (#1)
  • Improved mobility
  • Increased ability to innovate
  • Freed IT staff for other projects
  • Reduced IT operating costs
  • Enabled new products/services

By moving schools onto the cloud  it allows all of these elements. You are no longer confined to a space or a device. More and more educational institutions (districts, private, higher ed, etc) are going Google Apps. However, this is not without its challenges – must be concerned about infrastructure, security and compliance, etc.

Cost savings for GAFE:

  • IT Budget Savings
  • Email server
  • Spam filter
  • Resource Management
  • File Storage

Hidden Benefits of GAFE specifically

  • Efficiency savings
  • IT support redirected
  • browser based access
  • SAAS Apps – subscription based pricing
  • Ability to sample technologies
  • revitalize interactions
  • reduction in printing

If planned effectively, there are significant cost savings with cloud based elements. However, it does require that we redesign our environments. Instead of talking about platforms and software, we need to talk about what students and teachers need. This may be a 2, 3, 5 year vision… and it will change (sometimes radically).

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

So… does your school have a written plan and objective for Google Apps? I will say, most of us said “No.” He suggests putting Google Apps in the center, and then look at the key tools surrounding it: Digital signage, wireless/networking, desktop/app environments, web filters, LMS, devices, printing, etc. How does information get into Google? One tool that educators use is Chromebooks. However, the device itself doesn’t matter. You can still access a remote desktop/applications (like Microsoft Office) via Ericom.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Printing is another concern. For example, you can use PaperCut. If you are in a BYOD system, you don’t want to spend time and energy installing print drivers. Cloud printing allows students flexibility to print and the ability to institute  monitoring and controls, e.g. print quotas, charges, etc. Not only can this help to limit high volume printing, but it can help you to track your heavy users in the institution and help them to navigate over to more cloud-based, paperless options. Printing is a major concern with cloud computing, but it is a significant consideration.

Filtering is another concern. He highlighted the tool Securly. It uses Google Apps to authenticate for web filtering and allows you to block certain search terms and enable Safe Search. You can automate YouTube for Schools. You can also enable filtering when students take their devices home – you filter through the cloud.

Another concern is Mobile Device Management (MDM). How do we manage school based devices or BYOD environments? One program he discussed with meraki (which we use at Ransom for mobile devices). It allows you to track multiple devices and platforms, manage policies, push apps, and fully manages from the cloud. A real bonus feature is that it’s free.

Meraki’s control panel on the cloud also allows you to see how bandwidth is being used – you can run and navigate your entire network from the cloud. It will allow you to control and manage bandwidth.

The biggest concern people have for cloud based technology is security. Largely it stems from:

  • Lack of visibility of integrations
  • Inability to set policies on 3rd party services
  • Not planning future roadmap of adoption
Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

You must plan how to implement acceptable use policies for not only faculty and staff, but students. For example, should we allow students to share with those outside of our network? How do you manage what people have in their drive? One individual recommended FlashPanel. Tim recommended CloudLock. This can provide an app firewall as well as a system to manage permissions for sharing documents and define collaboration zones. By using CloudLock, they can look at what is being shared internally and externally. You can change and monitor settings. You can also search for phrases across documents. By using these tools, you can ensure whether this addresses your institution’s concerns and demands.

Many of the concerns we have about going to the cloud actually have solutions in existence that are actually more mitigating than the solutions we currently have in place. Even with this plan, we need to be flexible and allow for further growth. There will be challenges, but by reaching out to the community and using professional development, you can limit these problems.

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