When you’re not on a cloud you fall a long way

This will be a quick post.

I’m having to re-jig my work processes. It really is a bit of an unfortunate pain, and would be entirely unnecessary except for more strict work ICT policies. Anyway, to summarise these policies bar any kind of social networking or cloud file sharing and insist that files are transferred via USB pen drive or email. Ok then…

2010 and early 2011 were an extremely productive time for me thanks mainly to services such as Dropbox, Twitter, Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Sites, Google Docs, Prezi and WordPress. I love them all and heartily recommend you sign up for accounts today! These sites were openly available to staff at my previous school and not a single virus or malicious piece of code was launched via the above sites in the time we used them. Whether this was luck or good network management I do not know but being given the autonomy to leverage these services improved the development work I completed as well as making the day-to-day learning and teaching more high impact through extremely up-to-date information related to the course which I could access with a simple Twitter search or Dropbox click; more accountable through constant use of Google Forms for unit evaluations; more accessible through use of Google Sites and Google Documents to distribute course notes, tasks and homework to the pupils and through issuing of a teacher GMail address through which pupils could ask questions and get quick, individual feedback. These were all fantastic successes in improving pupil motivation and results. I was also in the process of extending the use of Google Calendar to provide pupils with catchup notes on lessons missed as well as remove the need for me to carry a teacher planner.

Tonight I sat down to complete some planning for two of my five lessons tomorrow. One was a Primary 7 task which will require them to re-order some interview audio clips after reading a text transcript and participate in a discussion about a bad interview example to highlight good interview technique. The other was an Advanced Higher Computing lesson on the system investigation part of the Software Development Process. Both required Word documents and the Advanced Higher lesson needed a PowerPoint.

In the past it would not have mattered where I was and what machine I was using – I would be able to access the files and applications I needed. As Dropbox synchronises between your computer file system and the cloud you can ensure you always have the most up-to-date file version. My USB pen drive collective were banished to a desk drawer. They’re back in my bag now and let me tell you, finding the most up-to-date file is now a royal pain. I also am in the process of waiting for software4students to issue replacement Office 2010 DVDs so am using the Starter edition (limited to Word and Excel) in the meantime. So to update PowerPoints I had to upload to Google Docs and then convert (usually losing a lot of formatting in the process), make the changes then download the updated file and save to the USB again. I remembered tonight that you can edit PowerPoint documents using http://office.live.com but the upload / download process still interferes with the smooth organisation of files previously enjoyed.

I realise that this blog post is a bit of a rant against something that I cannot – at the moment – change but I felt this experience was worth sharing for the benefit of those who had not yet attempted to work using cloud file services and who had not yet experienced the huge benefits of leveraging the myriad Google applications that exist. Once you enjoy background synchronisation of files, shared calendars, high impact presentations, highly motivated and helpful educators on tap and can begin to remove some of the barriers to personal and professonal organisation, you don’t really want to go back. And when you’re forced to for no reason other than another person’s fear, it hurts.


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