Sky high technology
Most teachers will tell you they’ve always had a problem with pupils having their head in the clouds. Today however, looking skyward has become a positive thanks to the latest developments in cloud technology.
The omnipresent data cloud holds a whole host of potential silver linings for the education sector. A strong advocate of cloud-based solutions is The Lady Eleanor Holles School in West London. Matt Britland, director of ICT at the school and director of Realise Learning, told me: “Cloud technology such as Google Apps for Education has brought many advantages to my school. Being able to create and save documents online using a web browser or smart device means our documents are available from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. It also enables staff and students to work collaboratively on the same document in real time. This really does change the way people work.”
Cloud storage is becoming an essential commodity with the increasing use of mobile devices. It complements the use of tablets and other mobile devices, whether it’s 1:1 provision or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) set up. Students employing these devices will need access to their work saved in the cloud, both in lessons and in the evenings, in order to complete homework tasks (in the process rendering ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses irrelevant). It’s the quickest and safest delivery method to offer students access to their work at all times – and can save schools money.
What’s more, if documents are stored in the cloud, with data copied multiple times and stored across different locations by the cloud service provider, there’s no time wasted manually backing up data and no disruption to the school day.
Other cloud-based benefits include:
Cloud printing: Cloud-hosted printing services (or Cloud Printing Solutions) are rapidly finding fans who are switching from traditional pull printing, where documents are queued on a server. Print devices are pointed to an IP address meaning IT managers won’t have to purchase servers, install them, build them or network them and schools won’t need to pay to replace them every four years, run them, store them or cool them.
Cloud-hosted telephony: Cloud-hosted phone systems, VoIP as they are otherwise know, allow calls to be made and received via an internet connection rather than a phone line. The great benefit here is the lack of restriction. Most schools have a number of phone lines connected to a private branch exchange (PBX) that sits in the office but is limited in size. Instead, if VoIP is used, the PBX system is in the cloud and as many individual lines can be added as needed.
Space saving: An indirect benefit of utilising cloud technology is that schools can free up valuable space. Less paper is stored in hard copy form and there’s a possibility to do away with servers. This frees up valuable floor space which could be used for classroom space and help in easing the pressures of burgeoning class sizes.
Disaster recovery: If anything were to happen to your school building your information will be instantly recoverable and accessible. It’s a worry-free technology.
Save money: Cloud costs are scalable and there are no huge start-up costs – just a monthly fee. There’s total flexibility to grow with the school or college.
Only as good as…
Finally, it’s worth remembering that superfast broadband is the great enabler of cloud solutions. To fully utilise the benefits of cloud technology brings, schools need to ensure their wireless network is up to scratch.