Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services – including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence – over the Internet (“the cloud”).
To run a cloud-based service, you don’t need a server or data storage physically located on-site. The software or service is accessed using an internet connection (in Aotearoa, schools access cloud services is via their N4L connection). Sometimes an app is required, but often cloud services are accessed via a web browser.
There are different types of cloud services, including:
Government organisations are required to use public cloud services in preference to traditional IT systems. They are required to adopt these services on a case-by-case basis, following risk assessments.
Most schools in Aotearoa use at least one cloud-based service. Many schools use G Suite or Office 365 for email and productivity purposes.
If your school still has physical servers on-site, examine what they actually do. Are they are providing services that could be moved to the cloud? Some school servers are still operational but providing redundant services, as the school has shifted to cloud equivalents already.
The most important consideration is the needs of users
If you are introducing a new cloud service, it is essential that your teachers learn how to make the best use of it. Tools that are part of the environment will only enhance learning if they are used in participatory, engaging, co-creative, and collaborative ways. Teachers need time to design learning programmes that are intuitive and based on the needs of the students and their learning.
All staff and students need to feel comfortable and confident using the tools. Provide time for learning and practising.
Support teachers to integrate the technology into effective learning programmes based on educational theory and practice. Making the shift in thinking to change practice is not easy; it is important to support teachers as they explore how to work together for the benefit of student learning outcomes. The teaching as inquiry framework offers a valuable approach to exploring effective practice using an online environment; it can be applied to all learning contexts so teachers can work from a position of strength.
A measured timetable of professional learning which is responsive and respectful to support staff as they shift their thinking and practice is essential. Professional learning groups are useful so teachers don’t feel isolated; they can work together to support each other as they build their skills, problem solve and share ideas and resources. It is important that staff are able to focus on developing their practice in the context of students’ needs.
Setting up a good filing system (folder structure) for storing and sharing files is important and requires planning.
Plan your folder structure for shared folders. Once the shared folder structure has been created, assign the groups that are to use the folders with suitable access permissions. The top two or three levels of the shared folder structure should be owned by a generic service account (for example, email@example.com) and shared so that they are "view only". This prevents people from adding files and folders and changing the orderly structure.
Have clear naming protocols for files and folders that are understood and used by all with access. If you have named a file/folder carefully in your cloud service, the search function will quickly locate it.
Think about who needs access to which files and folders. Best practice from a security perspective is to limit access to files and folders to only those who really need it.
Establish clear expectations (possibly through a policy or procedure) around the sharing of resources in your cloud service. Consider:
Sharing files and folders means that everybody is always accessing the latest version and they can collaborate on one document from different locations at the same time. Always encourage people to share files rather than send attachments.
When giving others editing rights to files and folders it is possible for items to be deleted.
Minimise accidental deletion of files by:
Keep personal and school online activities separate
Encourage staff to keep personal and school online activities separate by setting up:
Setting up shared calendars helps everybody know when events are occurring at school.
Tips for using shared calendars
Staff and students’ data is treated differently in terms of copyright and ownership.
New Zealand teachers don’t, as employees, hold first ownership of copyright to resources they create in the course of their employment. The 1994 Copyright Act grants first ownership to employers, which in the case of New Zealand schools is the Board of Trustees (BoT).
Legally, teachers cannot take documents
Legally, teachers cannot take documents they have created as part of their employment with the school with them. However, we work in an environment of sharing and collaboration and so your school could consider adopting a Creative Commons Policy which gives teachers advance permission to take their resources with them and share them online.
In terms of documents saved in Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365 accounts, the school should maintain access to them and should not delete them. This could be done by transferring ownership of the data to a generic account created for this purpose such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students own their data
Students own their own data so can take it when they move on. As a school, develop a common understanding about the value of students owning their online content and the online identity that they might have built up through their blogs, e-portfolios, and other activities that make up their digital footprint.
Clear systems and procedures give everybody confidence about what will happen to their digital data and accounts.
When an account for a service like G Suite, Office 365, or Seesaw is deleted, any files, folders, emails, and calendars that a student or staff member has created are also deleted so it is important to consider:
There are two key ways to migrate data when people leave the school.
Your school should be prepared to hold data and keep it available until the students or staff that are leaving have a new account to transfer it to. Where possible, your school and the new school should work together to ensure that accounts overlap for a reasonable period of time.
This systematic literature review identifies and categorises the potential and barriers of cloud-based teaching in schools from an international perspective.
The cloud and cloud-based services explained by CORE Education. This article includes links to research.
Microsoft software for schools
Microsoft software available for schools, including cloud-based applications, how to get it, and who can use it.
Microsoft School Agreement
Every state and integrated school in New Zealand has access to Microsoft’s suite of learning and collaboration tools for their students and staff.
Microsoft Education cloud solution: End to end guide for deployment
How to create an Office365 Education Tenant, setting up Azure AD and Student Data Sync, deploying MS Teams for Education.
Set up your hybrid learning classroom
Online training, product-specific skills, lesson outlines, and community interaction.
Find a training provider
Professional development for schools and teachers, delivered by qualified teachers that are experts with Microsoft Office365 and related tools.
Google software for schools
Information about the Ministry of Education’s Google agreement including software available, how to get it, who can use it, and the assurance benefits offered.
Resources teachers can use today
Resources and tools created by Google to inspire creativity, encourage hands-on learning and equip your students with digital skills.