Last night, I attended #cloudcamp and joined 150+ IT professionals sharing, presenting, and at times passionately debating the definition of cloud. It was quite the event, and it provided technical insight on a term that is so loosely thrown around not only in IT , but also in education circles.
When speaking with teachers, admins and edtech folks, the term cloud is often associated to web-based software services hosted outside their infrastructure. Popular educator tools such as Google Apps, Zoho, and DropBox are frequently termed “cloud” computing. While Microsoft Live commercials call it the cloud, IT die hards will gladly contest that is not quite “cloud.” Part of the debate last night was the SaaS (Software as a Service) is not what the term “cloud” is all about. This is when the technical jargon between IaaS, PaaS, and other “aaS” (yes really!) are really where cloud begins. This is when platforms such as Microsoft Azure are really “cloud” solutions. In fact, cloud is considered to have only started in 2006 where Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was offically offered. According to the #cloudcamp folks, cloud computing is simply defined as OSSM (awesome!), which stands for On Demand, Shared, Scaled, and Measurement. CIO.com also recently posted an article debating the same issue: What is Cloud Computing?
While this technical vernacular may mean nothing to my education community, I find the definition differences to be quite striking. The term cloud will continue to be a buzz word used by different communities to mean all sorts of technologies. The debate continues…but one thing I do agree upon from last night, “don’t buy the cloud, buy the solution.”
For those uber edtech and teacher geeks, here is a detailed explanation of IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS.
- Cloud computing has eliminated many in house IT needs and made IT operations web based.
- EdTech understands the teacher and classroom needs.
- EdTech has experience in both education and technology.
- District budget costs – merge the two departments.
- Traditional enterprise IT environment doesn’t fit open collaborative school environments.
- Security concerns are not as stringent as corporate sectors.
- Network requirements are not as comprehensive as corporate sectors.
- IT departments should model 21st century learning environments.
- Web 2.0 applications are simple, effective and affordable to use.
- Finding a computer operations technician to fix everyday hardware issues is cheap.
- No need to maintain own servers anymore.
- Many teachers can run their own technology environments with proper training.
It has dawned on me that schools require a new bread of Information Technology than the traditional enterprise network. From my experience working and selling to corporate IT, the closed hierarchy lend itself to politics of control, security and money. I have tremendous respect for IT departments who have to manage secure enterprise networks spanning across the globe. However, when I look at schools, especially K12 communities, the secure enterprise network model doesn’t seem to fit the nature of a school. Obviously, we need to protect student information systems that house confidential data about our populations, but overall I feel instructional institutions need to embrace an open & collaborative environment focused on integrating technology into the classrooms.
This is where I feel the traditional IT Director may not fit the bill for school technology infrastructures. Simply put: “Whoever is in charge of educational technology should be in charge of the direction of information technology at the school.” I still believe there needs to be IT ground workers who take care of day to day technology support, but the Director of IT should be an Education Technologist who has classroom experience to bring to the table. We are at a point in education where technology is a paradigm shifting tool in our classrooms, and we need experts in both education and technology to lead the way.
I would like to coin the new department as EdIT (Education Information Technology). The EdIT director has to envision a school infrastructure that fosters 21st century skills and invests in products & training that lends itself to empowering teachers to use technology in the classroom. Why keep the two departments separate? EdTech should be driving the decisions on infrastructure, such as moving to a Google Apps environment for communication and collaboration. Not only does moving towards a cloud environment lend itself for better collaboration between teachers, it will also save money and time from an IT perspective. When we moved to this environment at our site, we saved plenty of money and time working on tech support issues while also creating an environment that supported effective real time communication.
The EdIT director will spend more time working with teachers and administrators to create the ideal integrated technology classroom environment. This will lend itself to focusing on products such as Doc Cams, SMARTboards, and Netbooks for classroom integration. It will also focus on collaborative web environments focused on wikis, microblogging, and other social media apps. The cloud computing sector has evolved to a point where traditional IT processes & job duties are no longer needed, and less time is needed to support our users. Moreover, the web 2.0 environment has evolved to make it easier for non-tech savvy users to integrate technology with little tech support. The role of EdIT director would focus primarily on professional development training with focus on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).
As our schools are evolving and continually to embrace educational technologies into the classroom, it only makes sense that Educational Technology should merge with Information Technology. But it will only work if the EdTech people make the decisions in the direction of all technology being put into the school.