The Power to Enrich

Rocky View Schools

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Teachers Heads Are In The Clouds!!!

Posted by Angela Spanier February - 22 - 2011 11 Comments

Guest Author:  Nancy Lake

“Mom!  Mom!  Do you want to see our school project?  I’m working on it with Jordan and Avery.”  These were the words out of my eleven-year old as he rushed in the door.

“Sure…” He had nothing in his hands, and thankfully, his friends weren’t with him this time as I didn’t have any “good food” (cookies) to offer them today. “Where is it?  Is it in your back-pack?”

“No…it’s on the computer,” he replied.  I expected him to get his flash drive to show me.  “It’s in the cloud Mom, on Google Docs.”

“What??”

The cloud?  Google Docs?  What was he talking about? Perhaps you’ve had this conversation with your own child…

For those of you who are just joining me, the Horizon Report has identified various emerging technologies that will impact the educational community within the next five years.  The report breaks it down into various time frames for adoption:  one year or less, two to three years, and four to five years.  According to the report, “Cloud Computing” will impact our educational communities in the next twelve months or less.  And as my son was showing me, they were right…

First of all, what is “cloud computing”?  As my tech explained it to me, it is a network of servers and other computers that power the Internet.   Traditionally (if that can be said in a business that is less than 10 years old) businesses hosted their own network servers, had their own technicians, did their own trouble-shooting, etc.  With cloud computing, businesses can take advantage of larger servers and services, and concentrate on their business models instead of their server space and various tech issues.  They only pay for the computing power that they use.  It is kind of like paying for the taxi fare, rather than paying for the taxi.  Some cloud applications that you may be familiar with are Dropbox, Flickr, Gmail, Quicken, TeacherTube, MobileMe, etc.  Information is stored in the “cloud,” rather than on your home computer.

What does all of this mean for education? What does it mean for your child?

At RVS, we are using some cloud applications like Google Docs to facilitate student learning and collaboration.  Students can create, modify, and share documents (spreadsheets, presentations, forms, calendars, etc.) with one another, with their teachers, and with their parents.  They can collaborate in a new and exciting way.  They can access their work from anywhere, whether it is at school, at home, or on vacation.  They can retrieve it with any device including desktop or laptop computers, and mobile devices such as iPads, iPods, and cell phones.  Most students in our middle schools and high schools have an email account with our domain.

Secondly, there is a cost savings in terms of hardware (servers), software, and even IT support.  With limited budgets, cloud computing helps us meet the growing needs of our students and staff.

Perhaps the best way for you to experience it, is to ask your child to show you what Google Docs can do.  What types of projects are they doing in their classroom?  As my son has shown me, students can collaborate with their classmates, with students across town, or students around the world.

Watch this short video that demonstrates how teachers and principals are using  Google Docs.

Please comment on how your children/students are using the “cloud”.  This could be a great place to share information and ideas with one another.  Having your head in the clouds is a fantastic way to promote collaboration.  Thanks in advance for participating!

About the Author:  I am a teacher currently working with the 21st Century Learning Team at Rocky View Schools. I have been teaching for eleven years, both in Canada and overseas, in the classroom and online, and am excited about the possibilities of dynamic blended learning environments for elementary and middle school students.  I am a Moodler, a Mahoodlum, but most importantly, a Mother.

11 Responses so far.

  1. Sherry Scoville says:

    I like using the cloud. When my computer crashed and finally was restored I got an online back-up system called Carbonite. Also starting to use Google Docs. and Flickr. When some school systems are not able to supply decent computers or enough for all students the cloud seems a great way for students to retrieve and store info. My college son uses the cloud to store a variety of papers and research information and as a backup for his computer.

    • Nancy Lake says:

      Thanks for sharing these ideas Sherry! The great thing about the cloud is how you can access your information from anywhere…home, work, vacation, Grandma’s house, etc. I think there can be a “trust” issue at first when you begin using the cloud. Another analogy that helps explain it is when your Grandpa wants to store his money under the mattress rather than in a bank. It takes a while to build trust with the bank, and to know that they are secure. I think that more and more people will begin to use the cloud more frequently. It will be interesting to observe how cloud computing develops over the next few years. Thanks again for contributing!

    • mitch brennan says:

      It was hilarious to me how much resistance we found when we started using and saving to the cloud. Teachers would rather save important data on their five-year-old powerbooks than on the cloud. We have to opt for Carbonite and maybe even pay out of pocket. I am pretty comfortable converting things to Google Docs and saving it in the cloud. If Google fails, well, I guess we probably have bigger problems as well.

      I also liked your other point about the quality of computer. We use the cheapest netbooks we could find. The less we download or save to the actual machine, the better it will run. Someday, my kids will tell their kids about when people actually had to download things to their computers. Your grandkids will not understand this.

  2. Cindy Schmidt says:

    Nancy, I loved the taxi cab/fare analogy!

    Of course, using the cloud makes so much sense. But I think it becomes even more imperative that we (parents AND schools) be extremely vigilant at teaching our kids boundaries. I fear a generation that is becoming voyeuristic…anything and everything out there for the whole world to see. The idea of being “published” (term used in the video) is a powerful draw; notoriety, “fame”, recognition…all tantalizing motivators. If schools are advocating use of the cloud, then schools MUST be PRE-training students on developing healthy boundaries.

    • Nancy Lake says:

      Digital citizenship is very important. At one of my workshops today, the speaker spoke about how there shouldn’t be a “course” about digital citizenship, but that it should be “embedded” in EVERY course that we teach. We want students to take charge of their digital identity, and not leave it up to someone else to create it for them. We also want them to be aware that once they “put it out there”, it is “out there forever”. Making careful choices as to what information you want public, and what you want private is very important. One of the great things about our Google Docs is that it is password-protected, and it is a safe environment for all RVS students. Thank you for bringing up this important issue!

      • mitch brennan says:

        Those are really great points. When we were kids, we could do stupid things without any real record. Our students are leaving a paper or “cloud” trail that could haunt them for the rest of their life.

        I agree that digital citizenship should be embedded but where do we go to find out what that really means? Everything keeps changing. Adults are so frustrated with the way younger people use technology, but who is teaching them right from wrong or rude from considerate?

        • Nancy Lake says:

          I’m not sure if you have heard of “Passport to the Internet,” but it is a great resource to have your students learn about appropriate behaviour on the internet. It is an interactive website for middle school students…let me know what you think!

          • Pam Davidson says:

            Passport to the Internet was a prerequisite for our students to gain their internet access at the outset of the year. Our tech savvy students were surprised by some of what they didn’t know, but thought they did. I recommend the program. Another resource that parents can access to augment the training and education provided at school can be found at http://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/inet_safe_overview

          • Nancy Lake says:

            Fantastic resource Pam! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Kristina Tucker says:

    I am currently an education student. We use “the cloud” all the time in many of my classes – particularly google docs. Please don’t get me wrong. I think that there are many advantages to this kind of technology, especially in terms of collaboration. However, when it comes down to it, I often feel that I learn better when I can hold the written word in my hands or when I can physically put pencil to paper. In providing our students with these kinds of opportunities, are we accounting for the diverse ways that students learn? How can we reach all ways of learning through these types of technologies?

    • Nancy Lake says:

      As I was an education student twenty years ago, I’m hoping you can “feel MY pain” ;o) For myself, the difficult transition was from composing on paper to learning how to compose on a computer. I needed to write it out with my pens, do all of my changes, and then use the typewriter (at first) to type my papers; learning how to make a draft on a computer was a real challenge. I think the important thing is that I learned one way, unlearned it, and then re-learned a new way. Change can be difficult, and thankfully, we can still print our google docs in case we need to hold it, but the important lesson is that we need to teach students to be flexible. I am wondering if soon I will be talking to my computer and it will be typing the text for me. That seems daunting too, and uncomfortable for that matter, but I am willing to give it a go as it is important to me to model change. I think that many of our technologies are able to assist diverse learners, and we have more opportunities than ever before with assistive technologies to reach a variety of learners. Thank you for commenting Kristina, as this is a great point.