education.govt.nz

Ask the Connected Learning Advisory –Te Ara Whītiki

Issue: Volume 94, Number 14

Posted: 10 August 2015
Reference #: 1H9cru

students working on computers

New Zealand schools have shown a desire to learn about and use cloud-based systems. Many schools have already contacted the Ministry of Education’s Connected Learning Advisory service to help them make decisions about choosing a cloud-based system to support teaching and learning.

Questions to consider when choosing a cloud-based system

New Zealand schools are being encouraged to use cloud-based systems rather than systems hosted on a server at school. Cloud-based systems are systems, such as a Student Management System, Google Apps for Education or Office 365, that are hosted online on the internet.

Making a decision about which cloud-based systems to use to support teaching and learning is a complex process. Schools need to ensure that they have a robust decision-making process behind the choices that they make.

Previous Education Gazette (external link)and NetSafe(external link) articles have given schools excellent information on what cloud services can do and the features to look for in these services. Schools need to consider exactly what they want to achieve and how well positioned they are to achieve it.

Vision

Schools need to understand which of their current services can be migrated to the cloud and what the implications of that migration are. All decisions need to be made in the context of the school’s wider ICT goals and policies, including any device policies that the school has.

Consideration should also be made of the capability of cloud-based systems in terms of the needs of your learners (including factors such as literacy support options and accessibility).

Schools are advised to make a budget assessment and consider:

  • Current costs: include eventual system replacement, maintenance, backup, support and ongoing costs.
  • Setup costs: including assistance to set up the service.
  • Migration costs: data will need to be moved from existing systems (email, SMS, LMS etc).
  • What devices are suitable for using with the cloud-based system.
  • Professional learning: consider whether external support is required.
  • Technical support: this may be offset by savings made by not having to support and maintain hardware and software systems at the school.

Community capability

Schools should also consider the capability of their wider community:

  • Are there services that other local schools are using that could be leveraged?
  • Are contributing schools using a common platform meaning that students arrive with a set of established skills? 
  • Can other schools offer advice on what they have found useful or describe issues that they have had in transitioning to a service?
  • Do people have the required levels of connectivity away from school to access particular services?

Professional learning and development

Professional learning and development for staff should always be examined when any change process is embarked upon.

If there is a service that staff already feel comfortable and familiar with, then they are more likely to embrace this and be able to offer support and guidance to other staff.

Clustering with other schools can provide real benefits by broadening the support base that is available, as has been seen in the Manaiakalani cluster model(external link).

There are many organisations that a school can use to assist with the delivery of professional learning and development if schools feel that they do not have the capacity to develop their own programmes.

Technical capability

All cloud services have a technical aspect. Once the services to be placed in the cloud have been defined, it is the role of the school’s technical support team to implement the solution.

The complexity of some tasks may mean that the school has to purchase support. Schools may need access to people skilled in topics such as DNS (the ‘Domain Name System’), firewall configuration, and web filtering systems. Where Network for Learning(external link)  supplies these services, schools will be able to get configuration changes made for them at no cost.

Schools should consult their existing ICT support company as many companies have experience with the implementation of cloud solutions and may be able to contribute to the planning process.

If schools would like information about what cloud services are available, contact the Connected Learning Advisory.

Contact the connected learning advisory

If you have a query about integrating technology with teaching and learning, or you want to suggest a topic for this column, contact the CLA through Te Ara Whitiki(external link) or Connected learning.(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 5:26 pm, 10 August 2015

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