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Friday
Dec312010

2010: the year of the cloud

 

Predicting the future is easy. It’s trying to figure what’s going on now that’s hard. - Fritz Dresser

2010 was the year the cloud's impact became clear, permanent and more far-reaching than this slow-thinker had previously realized. Few things we did in my school district have not been in some way cloud-related - and those projects on the horizon look to be as well. My own personal technology use for both work and leisure has changed significantly this year due to ubiquitous cloud access and the devices meant to take advantage of it.

Like we now look back and wonder what life was like before there were PCs, before there was the Internet, before there was the social network, I'm confident we will look back trying to remember what storing information, media, computer programs and files locally and physically must have involved.

How DID we ever manage?

Manifestations at school

Implementing GoogleApps for Education for the staff about a year ago and for the students last fall was a huge jump to the cloud for our district. Our dependence on our own local file servers is lessening each year. Personal file storage and applications took the jump this year, joining our hosted web server, hosted IEP program, and hosted finance and HR systems. Our student information system is about the only big ticket item for which we maintain an in-house server - and that program uses a web browser interface. For both convenience and economy, the move to the cloud will continue as a primary goal for our department.

Our district also implemented a new Cisco VOIP telephone system - replacing over 1200 handsets along with re-configuring and upgrading our WAN and building LANs. The management, of course, is hosted off site. We upgraded our Circ/Cat Plus Follett library system to Destiny - which is hosted by a regional data center.

A major question for all technology implementation projects is now "Is your solution hosted?"

Personal uses

Although I bought one of the first Kindles in 2008, this was the year I read almost exclusively e-books on both the Kindle 3 and the iPad. For the past few months, I have been actually resenting having to purchase print books and have been replacing, when possible, my old paper-bound favorites with their digital cousins. Not only do I not want to worry about having access to them, but I want access anytime, anywhere.

I've stopped buying DVDs. The pace of physical discs slipping through my mail has slowed considerably as Netfix directly streams more of my favorites to the new LED television set that rivals the movie theater's picture and sound - and without the $10 popcorn and talking morons sitting behind you. (So yes, I've been going to few movies in the theater as well.)

This has also been the year that I've used GoogleDocs both at work and for my professional writing more than I have used Word. I've been sharing my articles with my coworkers and my editors on-line instead of attaching them to e-mails. I've opened up draft copies of the book I am writing to colleagues for suggestions. And I've taken to keeping both work and personal documents more online than off. My books, my photos, my theater tickets, my airline tickets, and my bank accounts all are stored in the cloud.

My new favorite applications have become DropBox and Evernote. Since the number of computing devices I'm using is growing (MacBook Air, iPad, iPod, desktop at work). Flash drives now seem so, I don't know, 2009-ish.

Ramifications

My wimpy prediction is that 2010 will be viewed historically as the pivotal year technology departments and personnel roles changed direction and mission. For both technology directors and technicians, the move to the cloud is having a profound effect that will only accelerate. This is the beginning of the end for school-supplied, school-controlled computer access. - of the tech department's primary task of keeping individual work stations configured and running and the end of the futile attempt to keeps kids away from their own technologies while they are in school. (Didn't everyone always have a smartphone and use the Facebook app to communicate all day long?) Kids really are little cyborgs anymore. Just one of the many horses that we are realizing are "out of the barn."

For libraries, 2010 will be seen as the last time that buying any reference materials in print made sense at all. The year doused any smoldering embers of the "library as warehouse" mentality, with surviving libraries being the place where you "do" instead of where you "get" things. This is the year that I've truly realized that libraries and librarians that are not changing really will go away - that economics really will trump traditional and sentimentality. And it is the first time I believe this is a good thing. We will be a smaller, more flexible and more vital profession as we adopt to cloud-based realities and merge with technology integration specialists into a single profession. For those willing and able to change at any rate.

As this year closes, I also see that relationship of the technology department with other departments will need to change as hardware and software support, maintenance, and even planning take a back seat to the role of enabler of other departmental and district objectives. My sense is that every department will need its own "technology guru" rather than departments depending on the staff of a separate "technology" department. There will need to be a blended subject/technology specialist in every department - curriculum/instruction, assessment, staff development, business, HR, transportation - well every department. Every teacher, like it or not, will be an on-line teacher that will use student-owned devices as transparently as s/he now uses the white board. As long it is needed, my department and I will be focused on providing the infrastructure and coordination required to make sure these folks are successful at their jobs.

As both parent and teacher, I always felt my mission was to work myself out of a job - to help create individuals who have the skills, understandings and values that enabled them to learn, work and live without any help from me. Cloud computing, out-sourcing support, and low-maintenance Internet devices will allow me to adopt a similar mission as the head of a technology department - to create technology users who can focus on their real jobs - teaching and learning and leading - just fine without me.

I'm thinking I may need to renew my teaching license.

And a happy 2011 to all Blue Skunk Readers!

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Reader Comments (7)

Doug, I couldn't agree more with everything you've written in this blog post, especially the last paragraph. Unfortunately, with the economy suffering as it is, it may be yet another nail--if not the final--in the coffin of the "way it was done in the past." I just wish I was financially independent.

So, what's a middle-aged director of instructional technology to do? Write my future, Doug...you've always been my mentor, as I pored over your published articles, and I prayed I'd one day be able to be like Doug Johnson.

Hoping you'll bring vision to the blind,

Miguel
;->

January 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

Ah, let me guess: you're in the US. Because if you're not, a Kindle can be a very very frustrating thing to own. In this brave new world, the organisation/allocation of digital rights - audiobook downloads, ebooks - is lagging way behind if you're in, for example, Australia. I can't buy most of the books I would like to on the Kindle because the rights have not been sorted for Australia (and my reading tastes aren't that obscure). I discovered this problem with audiobook downloads a couple of years ago, and it's been exactly the same with Kindles. Fine and dandy if you're in the US, tough luck if you're elsewhere (and I've heard the same from folk in other non-US marketplaces). Sure, I can buy physical versions - print books, audio CDs - but not the same titles in digital form. Owning a Kindle has been more frustration than anything else. Perhaps in several years' time it will be less a case of US and Them?

On the question of libraries: there is still a whole lot of content that is copyright and not freely available on the internet; that someone has to pay for to read (perhaps via a library buying it? - if the digital rights for your market are sorted out (or exist), and you can afford the ongoing subscription/s, which are generally far too expensive for my budget, and unrealistic in what they think school libraries can afford) and certainly here in Oz, school libraries are more than encyclopedia warehouses. Our fiction section gets heavy use, too, and it will be (on current form) some time before digital overtakes print in that arena. Print beats digital in terms of rights/availability, not requiring (an expensive) device or electricity etc.

Education systems still need to come to terms with social networking etc in relation to child protection - they can be very sensitive and thus block many applications because of this issue.

Interested to read your perspective on teaching in this digital age, though. Thanks for sharing it.

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

Hi Miguel,

You are the last person about whom I worry career-wise. You are an excellent communicator, are adaptable, and have great people skills. I don't know what your job title might be in 5, 10 or 20 years, but I would bet dollars to donuts you will have a job that fully engages your talents.

Oh, I am middle-age - you are young.

Doug

Hi Ruth,

Guilty as charged about being USA-centric. My apologies for not acknowledging the challenges of those in Australia and other third world nations. ;-)

Your comments made me think of the old William Gibson quote: The future is here - it's just not evenly distributed." The future will get to Oz just as soon as Amazon figures out how to make a dollar off you!

Happy new year,

Doug

January 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Will definitely be using this as we move forward with libraries in our district. Thanks much Doug!!

"This is the year that I've truly realized that libraries and librarians that are not changing really will go away - that economics really will trump traditional and sentimentality. And it is the first time I believe this is a good thing. We will be a smaller, more flexible and more vital profession as we adopt to cloud-based realities and merge with technology integration specialists into a single profession. For those willing and able to change at any rate."

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

Although I hate the term "cloud", I have to agree. We use MIrcosoft OneNote as the primary organizer for our middle school kids in a 1:1 environment and with Windows Live moving out of beta, its foolish to even consider a Sharepoint server (file server) for the notebooks. Wi-fi is everywhere, and thus, so is OneNote notebooks on the "cloud".

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ.

Hi J.,

I need to check out OneNote. Microsoft 365 looks interesting too.

Doug

January 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Great post !!!

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