Right now, we’ve got 250 students who use Google Chromebooks as their primary computing device and who exclusively save their work to Google Drive. Teachers are increasingly using Google Drive and Google Classroom to monitor and offer timely feedback on the work of students. Teachers are using Google Drive folders embedded in FrogLearn to share all of their lessons and resources with students who can access these on demand. Moreover, over 1000 users in our school login to Google Drive every day. Our use of the cloud undoubtedly supports teaching and learning. We are not at a point where we can turn back the clock and pull out of the cloud.
Last week, Lewisham Council asked Local Authority schools to abandon their use of cloud technology (BBC News). Putting aside the Safe Harbour issue, did anyone at Lewisham Council consider the reality of what they were asking? Cloud computing can form the backbone of a 24/7 teaching and learning culture for some schools. We are well on the journey to reach this destination, as are a lot of schools. It is not practical to ask staff members to stop using a service like Google Drive or Google Classroom, or even Dropbox, if it is embedded into school culture and having positive outcomes.
Lewisham Council also warned teachers to “watch out for iPad Apps that store data in the cloud too!”. I also wonder if this would be possible for most schools? Where else can work produced on ExplainEverything and GarageBand be saved to on a shared iPad? There’s no option on the iPad version of ExplainEverything to ‘login and save to my trusty old Windows domain’. Cloud storage is the only practical option!
The reason I have chosen to highlight this issue is because it demonstrates a possible disconnect between IT support structures and the teaching and learning structures that can exist in schools. Over the past five years we have witnessed a revolutionary shift in how IT is deployed in schools. For most schools, the days when IT support staff were only responsible for a Windows domain which supported IT rooms, staff e-mail and staff computers are gone. IT support staff are now expected to keep a wide range of mobile devices operational and functional. These devices do not run on a Windows domain and do not work in same the way that many IT professionals have been historically used to. Chromebooks and iPads live and breathe in the cloud to save and share their files and resources.
I was very impressed when our IT Support Lead asked to go on a learning walk to see first-hand how technology was being used across the curriculum to support teaching and learning. I see no reason why this should not be a regular expectation of IT support staff in any institution. It can show a lot about how staff use devices to support learning and IT support staff can reflect on how they can best run their services in order to facilitate this.
To sum up, even if all support for the cloud was pulled in an organisation it would continue to thrive in some form or another. That is the reality of modern IT in school. The cloud is slowly, but confidently, becoming the bedrock on which devices and services operate in schools. This undoubtedly presents new data protection risks which need to be taken seriously. There needs to be firm international procedures that cloud services need to follow, and be regulated against, in order for our data to be genuinely safe and protected. This will take time. However, we are past the point where schools and IT support can just bury their heads in the sand and think that turning off the cloud is a feasible option. It isn’t, the cloud is here to stay, and it should be embraced as a useful teaching and learning tool.by