Cloud solutions and services can bring significant cost savings and flexibility to schools around New Zealand, but many education providers are still apprehensive about making the move, according to Dynamo6, the IT support company based in Auckland that works on cloud implementations in the education sector.
Dynamo6 says that while schools are using more cloud services they still have a foot firmly in the server camp, and this creates added complexity.
Igor Matich, Dynamo6 managing director, says while there is huge support for schools to use cloud services, from technology companies as well as the Ministry of Education, there is still reticence to take the plunge and be 100% cloud based.
“The problem we often find is the service providers working with the schools don't take full advantage of all the services on offer to create a low cost and flexible cloud based environment. Instead they still use the server as the foundation and this often gets in the way of flexible learning, quick adoption of new learning apps and just costs more to upgrade and manage.
“The main result is the school IT resource is spent on systems management and not supporting the students as they learn - we just think this is a wasted opportunity and affects learning,” he says.
The support for schools to move to cloud based services includes Google Apps for Education being free and the Ministry of Education paying for all schools to have entire network infrastructure upgrades from physical cabling, to switching and even wireless, according to Dynamo6.
The Ministry also pays for the NZ Schools Microsoft Agreement, which now includes more cloud tools to enable schools to run less infrastructure to support the technology they are running. It also includes free internet through Network for Learning (N4L) who also provide free firewalls for schools.
However, after years of using server based infrastructure people are slow to migrate, according to Dynamo6.
“The issue we have is one of changing people’s behaviour. Many teachers in leadership positions have learned in an era of server based learning systems. This is what they are used to so it’s natural this is what they are comfortable with,” Matich says.
“However, the students they are teaching are now living life outside school, completely in the cloud, and this is creating a gap in approaches between teaching and how young people are now absorbing information,” he says.
“We think two pressures in education will force more schools to completely move to the cloud. The first is cost – research shows potential productivity gains of up to 700% for organisations only using cloud based services,” he says.
“The second is the ability to provide the best education possible from cloud based services - learning can be adapted and tailored quickly and easily, and students can learn anywhere and at any time, in or outside school.
“The 9-3pm model for education is changing to being flexible, tailored to individual students and self-managed, and the best way to support this cost effectively is through the cloud,” he says.
Dynamo6 has implemented a number of cloud based systems for schools including St Joseph’s School Onehunga, Hamilton’s new Rototuna Junior High School, Hamilton Boy’s High School, the new Endeavour Primary School in Flagstaff and Otumoetai Intermediate School in the Bay of Plenty.