OEB 15 – What does it take to scale adoption of technology at your school?

OEB15

Last December, I presented at OEB in Berlin. It was a crazy time of the year – flat out at work and too busy on my return to post anything meaningful about it. Then when I did have time, the lead up to Christmas saw me preparing frantically for that and focused on family activities. Holidays saw me do something I hadn’t done in the longest time. Down tools and rest.

I needed it. Last year was time of great change for me. New school, new routines, new challenges. New, but similar to to what I had worked on for nearly three years at Toorak College in my position as Director of ICT and eLearning. What I presented at OEB is outlined below in the abstract I wrote for the conference proceedings and is a summation of that experience.

At its essence is what I think is the need to upskill the technology skills of everyone in your school, not just the early adopters, the willing few. If you hold a position of responsibility in the eLearning space, there’s a need to build the capacity of the many, not just the few. To do this takes strong resolve and a need to work strategically. In my view, you need to identify the platforms that will  best suit the educational outcomes your school is trying to achieve and you need a focused approach to implement effectively, supporting your staff through the process and building a sense of community around the professional learning required to bring people with you.

I’m fully enmeshed in this challenge once again. I’m now working across a multi campus school and rolling out the curriculum component of another LMS. This time, SEQTA. The challenge is bigger with a staff four times the size of my previous school, but the premise is the same – build teacher capacity at scale. I have a good team around me – let’s see if we can pull it off. 🙂

In the meantime, read the abstract. My blueprint.

What does it take to scale adoption of technology in your school?

In 2013 I was appointed to the position of Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College in Melbourne, Australia. Toorak College was a 1:1 Laptop school where pockets of innovation were occurring with use of technology, but many staff were using computers at what Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model would describe as substitution level. Use of Microsoft word processing tools were mainstream and a Learning Management System running off Sharepoint was used but wasn’t fulfilling the purpose of being the common place for delivery of classroom content.

Prior to gaining this position I had read Michael Fullan’s book, ‘Stratosphere’. Within it he identified four criteria for technology and pedagogy to maximise learning.

“It must be irresistibly engaging; elegantly efficient (challenging but easy to use); technologically ubiquitous; and steeped in real-life problem solving.” (Fullan, Stratosphere)

This formed the criteria for my approach to the introduction of new platforms to aid in building capacity with new learning technology tools at a level of scale for both teachers and students within the school.

Toorak College had identified new strategic goals that included the following:

One school – greater communication across a Junior and Senior campus and a unified approach

Personalised Learning

Quality Teaching and Learning.

To help meet the achievement of these strategic goals, 2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (a product called Schoolbox). This platform enabled teachers to create class pages where they were encouraged to explain what was happening in class each week (or lesson) and to populate this page with the resources students would need to undertake learning tasks. Homework needed to be posted and assessment task due dates needed to be visible. It was an expectation that every teacher use this platform to enable students to have a ‘go to’ point to know what was happening within the school and to keep abreast of what they needed for their classes. The developers of the system responded to critique we levelled at their product concerning the fact that the forums didn’t provide threaded comment trails and there was little opportunity for students to add content and co-create curriculum. They developed a page component called ‘Social Stream’ that enabled students to post comments and upload files and web content. This addition vastly improved the system and saw teachers encouraging their students to pose questions and add resources that could enrich the curriculum. This enabled two way communication and collaboration rather than just a one way teacher directed approach to curriculum delivery.

During 2013, investigation into Google Apps for Education began. Decisions to move staff and students in Cloud Computing (SAAS) solutions are complex and require thoughtful planning and consideration. Google Apps for Education was considered for the following reasons:

  • the collaborative nature of the docs – the way students can work together and co-create
  • the visibility of works in progress when shared with teachers
  • the ability to provide feedback and formative assessment easily at point of need, when students are in the process of writing
  • the cloud storage provided to users – unlimited storage for each user
  • providing staff with a cloud storage option that sits within a school domain, instead of staff opening their own cloud storage accounts eg: Dropbox, and sharing school documents outside of a school domain

Extensive investigation into Google’s security measures and the SLA (service level agreement) offered to schools was entered into, with the reference point for this investigation being the Australian Signals Directorate’s (Defence Force) Cloud Computing considerations. This process is documented in a blog post called, ‘Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? Coupled with this was investigation into Hapara Teacher Dashboard. Hapara is a third party application used with Google Apps for Education. It provides an instructional management layer for teachers. Teachers access their dashboard and are given a snapshot view of student activity across Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Sites. Any time a student uploads a file to a folder that is visible in the teacher’s dashboard view, that document is instantly writable by the teacher. This enables teachers to access student documents easily and they can provide formative assessment on work in progress. When a teacher leaves a comment on a document, the student receives email notification. If the student replies, the teacher is sent an email. This enables a quick feedback loop for students.

A report tabled to the School Executive led to agreement that Google Apps for Education combined with the management layer of Hapara Teacher Dashboard was an appropriate platform that had the potential to improve the technology capacity of teachers and students and develop a collaborative culture that would help meet the school’s strategic goals.

2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across Toorak College. Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices were introduced in the Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. Professional development opportunities and support in the LMS online environment were offered to build teacher capacity. The College wide move to Gmail as part of this initiative was instrumental in seeing adoption and understanding of Google Drive. Staff members’ need to understand the new mail interface spawned opportunities to discuss mail’s integration with Google Drive. This led to strong adoption of the platform, reinforced by the leadership team’s use of Google Docs as a means for sharing of key information and for collaboration for meeting notes.

Feedback about Google Drive and Hapara Teacher Dashboard from staff and students can be seen below:

Staff feedback:

“Hapara has changed my life in the classroom immensely. I love it”


“It works really well for individual or group tasks. In group tasks I can see if all students are doing an equal share of the work”.

“Google Docs works best for my teaching style, it has changed my work load for the better”.

Student feedback:

“I love the quick feedback”

“I love the accessibility and the accountability”

“I like that I can easily back up my work”

“Google Apps works well for school, because it allows me to have my work constantly backed up. It can be used offline, so the use of internet browsers doesn’t restrict my ability to work. It is easy to organise my work with and has all the capabilities of programs on my computer, but with the ease of mind of constantly backed up work and the ability to work from my phone or another computer”

2015 saw consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. The LMS was fully integrated into school life and all teachers had a presence and the skills to create class pages. The focus for staff development was in seeing full integration of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard into everyone’s practice. Continued professional development sessions were offered and analysis of platform use enabled identification of staff members with little presence. This led to focused professional development opportunities.

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition describes “Scaling Teaching Innovations” as a “Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address”. Having a coherent strategy around technology platforms to utilise in a school or district system goes some way to meeting the challenge of scaling teaching innovations. When teachers are provided with the tools that allow for collaborative practice, quick and easy insight into student work in progress, ease of providing formative assessment, tools that allow students to become creators of content and the ability for group work to be managed effectively, there lies the potential for teachers to have opportunities to rethink their pedagogical practices. When everyone is utilising common tools, you are speaking the same language and can support one another in gaining a deeper understanding of the tool’s potential to facilitate richer learning experiences and become a normalised part of the teaching and learning process.

References:

(2014). Cloud Computing Security Considerations: ASD Australian … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.asd.gov.au/publications/protect/cloud_computing_security_considerations.htm.

Luca, J. (2014). Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? | Lucacept … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from https://jennyluca.com/2014/04/03/moving-to-the-cloud-what-should-you-consider/.

Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.amazon.com/Stratosphere-Integrating-Technology-Pedagogy-Knowledge/dp/0132483149.

(2015). NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition | The New Media … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/.

Puentedura, R. (2012). The SAMR model: Background and exemplars. Retrieved June, 24, 2013.

(2011). Schoolbox Learning Management System (LMS) & School … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://schoolbox.com.au/.

 

Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider?

This year our school has adopted Google Apps for Education. Sounds simple, huh?

Not so. Decisions to move your staff and students into Cloud Computing solutions are complex and in my view, require thoughtful planning and consideration. When I became Director of ICT and eLearning at the start of 2013, my first job was to implement a new Learning Management System. That was pretty big and was the main focus for much of 2013, but the early stages of that project coincided with planning starting around the possibility of a move into the Google Apps space.

Why Google Apps? Plenty of reasons, but here are just a few.

The collaborative nature of the docs – the way students can work together and co-create. The visibility of works in progress when shared with teachers. The ability to provide feedback and formative assessment easily at point of need, when students are in the process of writing. The cloud storage provided to users – 30GB for each user when you’re a Google Apps for Education school. Providing staff with a cloud storage option that sits within your domain, instead of having staff opening their own cloud storage accounts eg: Dropbox, and sharing school docs outside of a school domain. I’ll elaborate further on my reasoning in another post (and I promise I’ll get to it!!).

But before any decisions could be made, I needed to familiarise myself with issues surrounding Cloud Computing so that I could evaluate whether or not a move in this direction was right for my school. What did this involve? Reading, and plenty of it. I looked at Gartner and Forrester research and followed links shared on Twitter to business blogs like Harvard Business Review and Forbes. I needed to see where business was heading and explore speculation about the future of work and what might be required. I read countless articles about cloud storage and privacy concerns. And through all this, I was linking what I was reading to the education system and analysing how what applies in business translates to school environments.

Coming across Data Sovereignty and the Cloud: A Board and Executive Officer’s Guide , published by the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, UNSW Faculty of Law was fortuitous. The report was sponsored by  NEXTDCBaker & McKenzie and Aon. NEXTDC is a data centre company, looking to become the biggest cloud data centre storage service in Australia. I have visited their Port Melbourne location, taking a tour through what is an impressive facility. Baker and McKenzie are a law firm and Aon is a global provider of risk management services. When you look at recent changes to Australian Privacy Laws you can see why organisations like this are interested in supporting research and policy reports of this nature. Australian Privacy Principle 8 deals with cross border disclosure of personal information – an area affecting schools and businesses if you use a cloud computing solution where the data is stored in overseas data centres.

The report raised many questions for me, and led to a 90 minute phone conversation with David Vaile, one of the authors of the report. Even at the end of that, I was no closer to firm resolve around the issues surrounding cloud computing and privacy. Within the report is reference to the Australian Signals Directorate’s (Defence Force) Cloud Computing considerations. Their discussion paper provides the following:

“…assists agencies to perform a risk assessment and make an informed decision as to whether cloud computing is currently suitable to meet their business goals with an acceptable level of risk.”

Contained within it is an overview of Cloud Computing considerations you can apply to whatever platform you are looking at implementing. In my case, this was Google Apps for Education. What I did was take this list (as follows) and then read Google Security Whitepapers and information about GAFE and found the information that addressed the following considerations.

  1. Cloud computing security considerations include:
    • My data or functionality to be moved to the cloud is not business critical (19a).
    • I have reviewed the vendor’s business continuity and disaster recovery plan (19b).
    • I will maintain an up to date backup copy of my data (19c).
    • My data or business functionality will be replicated with a second vendor (19d).
    • The network connection between me and the vendor’s network is adequate (19e).
    • The Service Level Agreement (SLA) guarantees adequate system availability (19f).
    • Scheduled outages are acceptable both in duration and time of day (19g).
    • Scheduled outages affect the guaranteed percentage of system availability (19h).
    • I would receive adequate compensation for a breach of the SLA or contract (19i).
    • Redundancy mechanisms and offsite backups prevent data corruption or loss (19j).
    • If I accidentally delete a file or other data, the vendor can quickly restore it (19k).
    • I can increase my use of the vendor’s computing resources at short notice (19l).
    • I can easily move my data to another vendor or in-house (19m).
    • I can easily move my standardised application to another vendor or in-house (19m).
    • My choice of cloud sharing model aligns with my risk tolerance (20a).
    • My data is not too sensitive to store or process in the cloud (20b).
    • I can meet the legislative obligations to protect and manage my data (20c).
    • I know and accept the privacy laws of countries that have access to my data (20d).
    • Strong encryption approved by DSD protects my sensitive data at all times (20e).
    • The vendor suitably sanitises storage media storing my data at its end of life (20f).
    • The vendor securely monitors the computers that store or process my data (20g).
    • I can use my existing tools to monitor my use of the vendor’s services (20h).
    • I retain legal ownership of my data (20i).
    • The vendor has a secure gateway environment (20j).
    • The vendor’s gateway is certified by an authoritative third party (20k).
    • The vendor provides a suitable email content filtering capability (20l).
    • The vendor’s security posture is supported by policies and processes (20m).
    • The vendor’s security posture is supported by direct technical controls (20n).
    • I can audit the vendor’s security or access reputable third-party audit reports (20o).
    • The vendor supports the identity and access management system that I use (20p).
    • Users access and store sensitive data only via trusted operating environments (20q).
    • The vendor uses endorsed physical security products and devices (20r).
    • The vendor’s procurement process for software and hardware is trustworthy (20s).
    • The vendor adequately separates me and my data from other customers (21a).
    • Using the vendor’s cloud does not weaken my network security posture (21b).
    • I have the option of using computers that are dedicated to my exclusive use (21c).
    • When I delete my data, the storage media is sanitised before being reused (21d).
    • The vendor does not know the password or key used to decrypt my data (22a).
    • The vendor performs appropriate personnel vetting and employment checks (22b).
    • Actions performed by the vendor’s employees are logged and reviewed (22c).
    • Visitors to the vendor’s data centres are positively identified and escorted (22d).
    • Vendor data centres have cable management practices to identify tampering (22e).
    • Vendor security considerations apply equally to the vendor’s subcontractors (22f).
    • The vendor is contactable and provides timely responses and support (23a).
    • I have reviewed the vendor’s security incident response plan (23b).
    • The vendor’s employees are trained to detect and handle security incidents (23c).
    • The vendor will notify me of security incidents (23d).
    • The vendor will assist me with security investigations and legal discovery (23e).
    • I can access audit logs and other evidence to perform a forensic investigation (23f).
    • I receive adequate compensation for a security breach caused by the vendor (23g).
    • Storage media storing sensitive data can be adequately sanitised (23h).
    • ( Cloud Computing Security Considerations )

This took some time. There were weeks out of my life in 2013 where I was living and breathing information regarding privacy, security and cloud computing. Believe you me, if you encountered me during this time, my conversation topics were limited and suitable only for a specific audience!

But, it was worth it. I had a document I could present to my Executive that helped us come to the decision that Google Apps for Education was suitable for our school environment. What I gained from this exercise was a thorough understanding of issues surrounding Cloud Computing and the information I needed to be able to speak confidently with my school community about the move we were making.

If you’re a school looking to move into the Cloud Computing space, then measures like this are necessary. If you’re an Australian school looking for links to assist you with the process, then take a look at the following.

Defence Signals Directorate – Cloud Computing Considerations

http://www.dsd.gov.au/publications/csocprotect/cloud_computing_security_considerations.htm

Data Sovereignty and the Cloud  – a Board and Executive Officer’s Guide

http://cyberlawcentre.org/data_sovereignty/CLOUD_DataSovReport_Full.pdf

And if you’re looking to go Google, the following will help.

Google’s approach to IT Security – A Google Whitepaper

https://cloud.google.com/files/Google-CommonSecurity-WhitePaper-v1.4.pdf

Google Apps Service Level Agreement

http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/sla.html

Google Apps Documentation and Support – Security and Privacy Overview

http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=60762

Google Apps for Education

http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/education/benefits.html

Security Whitepaper: Google Apps Messaging and Collaboration Products

http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en/us/a/help/intl/en-GB/admins/pdf/ds_gsa_apps_whitepaper_0207.pdf

It’s not over for me. The next thing to consider is replication of data to cloud storage. Off I am to the Amazon Web Summit next week in Sydney to explore that one a little further. 😉