Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cloud Computing and Learning @BVSD

DSC00481.JPGToday’s teaching environment is broader and more accessible than ever before. The online environment, or “cloud”, that our educators are able to access offers a robust supply of resources, experiences, and connections for both teachers and their students.

Yet, the move to Chomebooks, and cloud computing, in BVSD is sometimes perceived as a limit to experiences and resources needed for learning or working. And while this view is not surprising, especially for those who grew up in an age of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and locally installed software, it no longer accurately portrays the access that Chromebooks and cloud computing provide for learning and participating in our global society.

In my role as CIO, I use the Chrome environment and have not turned on my Mac in months. I’ve learned the device does not matter--it’s what I can access through the portal of the device that really impacts my work. I can communicate, collaborate, create, learn and lead with the resources available online. I see this shift to cloud computing in education as even companies like Microsoft are developing tools like the Cloudbook, a future competitor of Chromebooks.

Birchdec16 32.jpgIn the shift to cloud devices and resources, we have a dilemma.  As a parent I want to see BVSD eliminate 40-pound backpacks and physical textbooks in favor of digital resources that are hosted in the cloud, but this shift requires devices and time. I’ve heard we don’t need devices until we have digital curriculum, and I’ve also heard that we don’t need digital curriculum until we have devices. The classic catch-22.

Like most transitions, at some point a leap is needed. In our case in BVSD, that leap is to the Chromebook, a device that allows for learning to happen anywhere and at anytime. In the move to the modern world of the cloud, BVSD has purchased an extensive set of educational technology software that is cloud-based -- powerful tools like Google Earth, WeVideo, BrainPop, Voicethread and G Suite (Google Apps) for Education to name a few.  BVSD is exploring digital content resources available from companies like Discovery Education that could potentially replace the physical textbooks that many of our courses still require. In addition, there are many free open-access resources, like Khan Academy, that can begin some of this work now.

This shift to cloud computing is evident in many classrooms in BVSD. For example, Kay Davidson, 1:Web Specialist and Biology teacher at Broomfield High School, leads the efforts to transform teaching by using cloud-based learning. This year, she’s exploring how Google Classroom helps her connect with students beyond the limits of face to face and in an online, blended environment where students can learn and collaborate in real-time. Kay has presented on these ideas in her work with the 21st Century Cohort. Her reflection on her time in the cohort illustrates how these connections impacted her students:

You can view a variety of projects designed and produced by BVSD students using cloud-based resources in our student examples collection.

BHGT 01.jpgIn the transition to education in the cloud, BVSD will continue to support many device types including PCs, Macs, iPads, and Chromebooks.  There are still a few programs in our schools (Digital Arts, Engineering, etc.) that need a device like a PC or Mac to run software for those specific courses. Even still, many of these programs are moving to the cloud and I anticipate will be available on a Chromebook soon. The latest graphics based program to move from the device to the cloud/browser is Google Earth. It runs just as well on a $180 Chromebook as it does on a $1200 Mac. The same can be said of the iMovie replacement, cloud-based WeVideo.

Regardless of where you are on the journey to using educational resources in the cloud, the transition is happening quickly. BVSD’s general move to Chromebooks and the ability to teach from resources that are always up-to-date and accessible highlights this change.

I know the full transition to the cloud will take a few more years. Be assured that IT and Ed Tech are here for you. We all can learn together in this migration to anywhere, anyplace, anytime education using the cloud.

I want to hear from you!  Please chime in below with your thoughts and questions and maybe examples of any software you rely on that requires a Mac or PC.