When I visit our schools customers, we inevitably end up talking about cloud at some point. It may not be the starting point to a question about their ICT need, but I’m finding more and more that when we delve into the changes they want to make, whether they be based in storage, security, speed or service provision, cloud forms part of the answer. That was not the case last year; therefore, it would be hard for me not to conclude from this that the education sector will see far more traction this year in cloud services than in 2014.
Part of my reasoning on this is due to how some schools are currently safeguarding their data. Coincidentally, I wrote this on World Backup Day, where of course, we were being encouraged to back up our data. Too many schools are still backing up their data on tapes. Too many IT managers are still travelling home on the train with these tapes in their bags. Too many tapes are being lost and not replaced. Backing up data involving children’s personal information should be given priority status, and deploying cloud back up is a quick, easy and immensely cost-effective way of taking the risk away. The Information Commissioner’s Office is working hard to educate schools about the importance of data handling, and this is also driving cloud uptake.
Getting to spend time in lots of schools, visiting our customers, has given me a real sense of how amazingly social education is becoming. At Stone, we love the concept of location independent learning – using one to one device schemes, for example, to break free from the four walls of the traditional classroom, and take the lesson to another place. Teachers, students and parents all want learning to stay social and evolve, and when lessons are presented outside the classroom, they are taken using devices that are hosted outside of the school, via the cloud. Schools learn a lot about what’s possible using technology by talking to each other and seeing what other schools are using – cloud is spreading its wings fast here, as the flexibility and freedom of location independent learning is such an irresistibly empowering and fresh approach.
Even if schemes like location independent learning are too far, too fast for some schools – simple changes enabled by a cloud approach are reason enough for my confidence in education’s uptake of cloud this year. For example, having a cloud based storage network means that lessons and homework can be passed between teacher and student quickly, especially where a child might not be able to be within the school walls for a while due to illness. There’s no ‘master copy’ of anything with the cloud – the same piece of work can be looked at or used in multiple locations.
But my favourite nugget of simplicity is this – the cloud helps the learning materials themselves to keep learning. There never has to be such a thing as a ‘definitive lesson plan’ or ‘essential reading’ that is set in a textbook, or on a dusty acetate that everyone shares. When documents are shared, stored and hosted in the cloud, they can be refined and improved without losing previous versions. Imagine what this could do for a history lesson, or biology class. Cloud is making education clearer.