Cloud computing and collaborative environments topped the 2010 Horizon Report of technologies to watch and expect in the K-12 arena for the coming year, and both private companies and publicly funded entities are creating and merging products to meet that expectation.
Infrastructure Technology Solutions serves 20+ K-12 education clients throughout Eastern Iowa with security cameras, consulting, web design, web hosting, firewalls and content filtering, and data backup.
Many of these K-12 clients are also one of 54 schools/districts served by Grant Wood Area Education Association (GWAEA). There are ten AEAs throughout the State of Iowa, which are state funded and have no taxing authority. Instead, they are funded via a per-pupil ratio determined by the Legislature and other governing bodies, as well as grant money and sale of services.
GWAEA provides a myriad of solutions and services for our local schools; lending libraries, child support teams, parent and educator training opportunities, graphics and printing, and managed/hosted services.
From hosting payroll and budget applications, to email and websites, GWAEA serves as a model of how schools can use cloud computing to eliminate costs and increase efficiencies. While some of the hosted offerings at GWAEA might be better defined as software as a service (SaaS), it is certainly exciting to see our public schools and associated bodies evolving technology right along with -or ahead of – the private sector.
Schools are no stranger to hosted services, and it makes sense. When schools use hosted solutions (via GWAEA or elsewhere) for business and student management programs, schools can concentrate on integration of technology in the classroom and maintaining equipment used daily by staff and students for learning and growing. Schools can also take advantage of local training opportunities when a group of schools use the same budgeting tools or student management systems, and have a larger support network.
As schools begin to take advantage of more cloud computing services, they will have the ability to grow their network space during times of peak usage. Yearly events such as student registration, fiscal year planning, benefits enrollment and parent-teacher conference scheduling can burst into the cloud when needed, and shrink back to the original allocation after the usage has subsided.
With the advent of state-wide academic expectations known as Iowa Core Curriculum, Iowa and its AEAs have a tremendous opportunity to provide collaborative environments for students and educators as well. Companies like Pearson, Google, Microsoft and ePals are rolling out new products to excite and engage students across the curriculum.
Education is evolving, and our Iowa schools and AEAs are right on track.