The classroom has come a long way since teachers relied on chalkboards and students were putting pen to paper. These days it’s all about interactive learning, digitally enabled class rooms, bring your own device and the daily use of applications such as Gmail, Microsoft Office 365 and Dropbox.
While these core teaching and learning technologies continue to enter our classrooms, when they don’t operate cohesively, they become impractical and start to negatively impact a school’s overall productivity and efficiency levels. Teachers cannot teach what they do not know and cannot effectively engage students without the right tools and resources.
The Ministry of Education recognised such a challenge in 2016 and subsequently launched the Schools’ Cloud Transformation Project, which aims to have all schools in New Zealand moved to the cloud by 2020.
While many schools are already using the cloud for common email and file sharing applications, a majority still retain a large portion of their physical servers on school grounds. This means students and teachers can only access resources if they’re physically at school and plugged in to the network.
Moving to a full cloud model means schools can fully deliver and benefit from 21st century teaching and learning, allowing staff and students to access school resources anywhere and at any time. For instance, if a student for some reason is unable to attend class, they could have immediate access to notes from the classroom. Meanwhile, teachers will have the flexibility to prepare and finalise teaching notes, without having to be physically present at school.
The cloud also paves the way for improved collaboration as it allows everyone to securely access their files and applications at the same time inside and outside the classroom.
If a student transfers schools, his/her student record can be transferred simultaneously – which was previously a manual process.
More importantly, a cloud transformation will enable any school to more strictly adhere to national privacy and security guidelines, with improved identity and access management by the hosting provider and better organisation of data.
Cloud transformation offers schools the opportunity to move ICT spend from the server room back into the classroom and make significant cost savings – which is a key benefit, particularly as school budgets continue to tighten. Budgeting becomes easier as the costs of cloud services remain stable year-on-year. It’s also a chance for schools to move from multiple ICT suppliers to just one that can provide a suite of cloud-based solutions, including print, mobility and display – and just one monthly subscription bill.
The first 25 participating schools in New Zealand government’s cloud transformation program each saved more than $1 million on their ICT costs over three years.
There are clearly profound benefits of schools moving to a full cloud operating model. The next question is whether schools are willing to make that shift and give both teachers and students the ability to take full advantage of new technologies in the classroom.
Warwick Beban is Country Manager, New Zealand for CSG.