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Friday, 22 April 2011

The 'Super Systems' are coming. Are we ready?

The Future

Super System Functional Requirements
Everything is shifting to the ‘cloud’. The Australian Curriculum is delivered entirely on-line. You no longer purchase large servers and massive storage. You pay for “hardware as a service” hosted in the cloud.  The need to purchase and install software locally has been replaced with “software as a service” and Web 2.0.  Soon, users will bring their own devices to school, get a connection to the internet and then have all the tools they need for creativity, communication, collaboration and inquiry. Catholic Dioceses around Australia have completed a project to deliver high speed broadband to their schools. Now they are exploring ‘cloud based’ super systems with components such as: parent portal; on-line planning and reporting; mail; personal space; learner profile and student analytics, to potentially change the way we do business. In that mix, we need to remember our 21st Century Learner, who comes to us connected, empowered, and free to create and distribute to a global audience. From the time the 3pm bell goes to signal the end of school to the time a parent says “So what did you do at school today”, a student with nothing more than a mobile phone could have: created a website online; uploaded video to You Tube; contributed to some global conversations; downloaded music (legally or illegally) and accessed anything they desired on the web. This would be without filters, editorial guidance or any fear of being held accountable for their actions.
Our commitment to create life-long learners is also a commitment to create responsible digital citizens and part of that has to be providing the facilities where students exercise creativity on-line and (possibly) make all the mistakes and errors of judgement that young people make.
Whilst we wait for these super systems to unfold, our strategy is to ensure our LANs are ready for ‘connected students’ and our workforce is preparing  for the shift to the ‘cloud’. We are inviting our teachers to “play” in the “student as on-line creator” space, our technicians to explore the implications of “cloud” services that shift core infrastructure away from our Schools and Diocesan Offices,  and our leaders to engage in dialogue about the policies and guidelines required to support this unchartered territory. MyInternet will continue for as long as we can because it serves the needs of our P-5 cohorts. Google Apps has been rolled out to target Years 6-12 and to encourage staff to give power and control to their students so they can be creators and publishers on-line. (It is no more power and control than any student with access to a connected device would have when they are not at school.). BUT when students use our systems in response to our agendas, we get to guide their behaviours, shape their attitudes and advise them on issues such as safety and acceptable use. We also have the power to capture, close down, or delete their work and hold students accountable for their actions. A student has no anonymity when they use the systems we provide but we want them to be anonymous when they are on the ‘open web’ as part of the strategy for keeping them safe.  

Google Apps was selected because it is a $0 cost option that provides us flexibility and insurance at a time of great change and uncertainty. It not only lets us explore changes to pedagogy, but also changes to ICT delivery. Neither TCEO office nor a school builds it, hosts it or monitors space usage. It gives the user a lot of power to protect their work or determine who has access. And it gives us a lot of information should we have to audit a student’s activities within the suite. When a super system eventually rolls out, any work done by staff or students in Google can be added or linked to from within sites or documents created in the new system. Finally, if the super systems prove to be less than their “marketing hype”, we have all the tools we need to get on with our core business (creating, communicating, collaborating, and inquiring).