Creating classrooms and learning in the cloud
Guest blog by Patrick Fogarty, Faculty Advisor of Technology and Teacher at Xaverian High School
When I tell my students they need to be learning the skills for jobs that don’t even exist yet, I’m speaking from personal experience. As Xaverian High School’s Faculty Advisor of Instructional Technology, I find myself frequently defining an ever-evolving job I more or less made up for myself.
My responsibilities change with the needs of our students and institution, and that’s why cloud storage has proven to be one of the most invaluable weapons in our arsenal of tech tools.
I work at one of the first iPad one-to-one schools in the United States, which means each and every student and teacher is provided with an iPad and expected to utilize it in the everyday business of teaching and learning. It’s worked incredibly well on most levels up to this point, except for one niggling area of concern: space. Not “How many planets are there?” space, but rather “Where do we put all this stuff?” space.
For instance, every student has an iPad, but that iPad comes equipped with a paltry 16GB of storage. If he downloads two of the teacher-created textbooks Xaverian has uploaded to the iTunes bookstore, there’s a good chance he’s used up to 1/8th of his total space.
Add in the essential iOS apps, the operating system itself and the system profiles we’ve loaded onto the machines, and you’re left with less than 10GB with which to work. That’s barely enough to hold all a student’s preferred apps, and not nearly enough to crunch big audio or video files for class projects.
In short, the lack of storage space could prove to be a concept-killer for us. Without the ability to store, share and access files, giving every kid an iPad becomes a better idea in theory than in practice.
Enter the cloud. Sites and services such as CX have made it possible for us to keep students’ e-texts on a cloud server that eliminates the need to fill up local storage space with them.
The 10GB CX provides us with is more than enough room to house a class’s videos, iBooks, slideshow presentations, and more. Extrapolate that, and you might have a hundred teachers in one building using 10GB each to provide resources to thousands of students.
Instead of gormandizing device storage, we’re eating up space in the cloud. And since most schools are, by unfortunate necessity, as focused on the bottom line as any other institutions might be, the fact that it’s free (or at worst, cheap) space is a crucial component of why it works for us.
When we started discussing giving every student an iPad, I talked a lot about creating “cloud classrooms” that are vibrant and alive long after the school closes for the day. At the time, even I wasn’t totally sure why the idea seemed so important to me, but I think I’ve figured it out now: my job is to expand access to educational tools, anticipate the skills needed for 21st-century leaders, and increase student engagement so every style of learner feels like an important part of our school.
Storing and sharing resources in the cloud helps me accomplish all three of those objectives, and it also makes it possible for me to untether the classroom from its physical space. That means there’s no more leaving materials in school, forgetting books at home, or blaming younger siblings for the destruction of major assignments.
Instead, we’ve created a learning environment that isn’t limited by our building’s walls. We will go as far as the imaginations of our faculty and school building leaders will take us, and part of the reason we have free minds is because we also have free space.
Patrick Fogarty is the Faculty Advisor of Instructional Technology at Xaverian High School, New York’s first one-to-one iPad school. He’s also an adjunct professor at St. Francis College, where he utilizies a one-to-one iMac environment. Hear him speak at SWSX Edu in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, March 6 and at Long Island’s ASSET Conference on Monday, March 11, and follow him on Twitter @fogarty22.