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Tuesday
Jul282009

H1N1 and cloud computing

A speaker at a meeting I attened yesterday, George Welles*, boldly predicted that there is 50% chance this year that U.S. schools will close for up to four weeks in reaction to an H1N1 (Swine flu) epidemic. He added that this is a good reason for organizations not to engage in cloud computing or using the services of application service providers outside the school network. What would happen, George asked, if an epidemic brought down a few crucial services like Google or Microsoft?

I had the opposite reaction. I was thinking of EARCOS's "Business Continuity Model" that schools in SouthEast Asia have constructed. The reasoning goes:

Should a catastrophe occur (epidemic, tsunami, political revolt, etc.) that requires the evacuation of an EARCOS member international school, the Business Continuity Model would allow schooling to continue even if students and staff can't come to the physical buildings themselves. This can only happen online and only happen if the tools, resources, training and experiences are already in place. In other words, by creating online learning environments that supplement F2F teaching now, schools will be prepared for any eventuality when ALL teaching needs to go online.

I think it's time US schools consider this as well. Has the time for online learning to become a part of disaster-preparedness for every school? If your physical school must close its doors for an extended period of time this school year, will your students keep learning? And is the cloud or in-house hosting of on-line teaching resources the more strategic option?

Inquiring minds want to know...

*I found it interesting that as a data security consultant to some high level government agencies, George does no social networking or online financial transaction. There are too many data privacy issues. Although I don't think this includes squirrels with Nikons.

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Reader Comments (7)

I checked your EARCO reference and saw that it was posted in 2006. YIKES..that was 3 years ago.
I attended a class this summer where a teacher made podcasts of her lessons and used them all year long. Good stuff.
I can see it catching on in my district. We can plan ahead for that eventual reality, but until as many kids have
home internet access as have cell phones, we'll just do what we always do when school is disrupted: cancel it and make the days up in the summer.

GW doesn't do online banking? If I were he, wouldn't advertise that one. Not in his line of work.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

I believe Valley City (ND) State University completed their Spring 09 semester entirely through distance learning after the city was evacuated due to flooding. Being in a fairly remote rural area, they were already equipped with a good infrastructure to serve distance-learners.

I found Paul's 2nd grade classroom's website helpful last year when the Fargo schools shut down for 2 weeks during the flood. I basically made use of the online resources that his teacher had posted originally for enrichment or home reinforcement of classroom activities. (SpellingCity.Com already had his specific spelling lists available, etc.) It allowed me as a motivated and available parent to pull together a mini-home-school experience from Grandma and Grandpa's house. But it was definitely me winging it based on what I knew about his classroom learning, not an organized lesson from the district or school.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

I agree that online learning needs to supplement teaching, but not only as part of a disaster-preparedness plan. The internet is becoming a very important and useful tool today, so why not utilize it more often for educational needs? In relation to online resources, I have been using a great teacher network website called http://applebatch.com. It is wonderful to share resources with other teachers as well as search available teaching jobs. A teacher community like this is something that would really help educators when it comes to the possibility of an increase in online resources.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Perhaps the possibility of massive school closings should be an incentive for government support of universal broadband access for ALL students.

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Yucht

I question the ability for school districts that have maintained the status quo and largely balked at the prospects of online learning are prepared, willing, or equipped to take on such an initiative except in places like Houston, MN where the school district houses its own online school. Should such a massive forced closure happen I anticipate a monumental rise in enrollment in online schools that have been in operation for a number of years, already have worked out many of the pedagogical kinks, are comfortable and familiar with the tools, and have already established a set of best practices for online learning environments. Such a rise will further cripple status quo schools because it will initiate the first mass exodus from these stale institutions we all (me included) love. The subsequent lack of funding will mean further program cuts and for many small school districts it will mean forced consolidation. This will spark the second exodus. Looking at the budget forecasts and examining how much funding the state is going to withhold from districts this year in the face of unprecedented school choice options it is hard not to see our traditional school systems as being on the verge of hemorrhaging.

As for Mr. Well's comments about cloud computing, this is absolutely ridiculous. The cloud is the internet and collectively the internet is arguably the most reliable machine mankind has ever built. It has been running nonstop since the 1970s and every year grows exponentially. One might take his statements as a good argument for diversifying service providers or for stressing the need for users to always keep a copy of their work on local machines but to suggest that something like the swine flu us going to bring the cloud to its knees is downright daft. Such advice is regressive and absolutely dangerous for schools. It is also indicative of a growing Ludite culture whose ideals have taken root in many of our nations schools.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Anderson

Hi Janice,

I believe we ought to stop using the excuse that not all kids have computers at home for not developing hybrid classes. Do we ever wait til 100% of a population can take advantage of something before we implement it?

Appreciate the comment,

Doug

Hi Sweetie,

Your note is a good reminder that caring and active parents will be critical for distance learning to have any impact.

Let's hope the schools stay open all year!

Love,

Dad


Hi Alice,

Never let a crisis go to waste??? Seems like we have to wait until it is too late to do anything about a problem to do anything in this country.

Doug

Hi Carl,

Your scenario sounds possible. I do know it takes a lot to create any lasting, significant change in how schools do business. And right now, most online educational efforts cost traditional schools money instead if saving them money.

Thanks for your comments!

Doug

July 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

So what's the status on that potential closure now?

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterN95 Masks

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