Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Over the Cloud

We're having lunch and Elliot Levine, who works in the Personal Systems Group for Hewlett-Packard, makes a good point. The way to help educators in their mission to produce great results with students is to "make technology truly immersive."

Levine is Education Strategist at HP, and drives strategy and is the voice of the customers in K-12, higher education and student segments here in the U.S. and overall for the Americas region.

Cost to extend the school year, introduce new curriculum, provide professional development and so on keep increasing. That money comes from taxes and grants. Once a grant is used, the information and the technology are bought, that technology can become obsolete and the information needs to be re-evaluated and re-done.

Education needs to constantly improve to keep students eligible for careers and better schooling in higher ed later in their lives.

"The basic premise hasn't changed, but the costs to do it have steadily increased," says Levine, who used to be a school administrator in Long Island. Now he goes around offering tech solutions to school districts.

"Could we give a student access to technology, files, data and curriculum 24 /7?" he asks.

He pulls out a little grey brick of a box. This mock-up is part of HP's MultiSeat Computing Solution, which allows up to 10 students to share a PC in the classroom.

It's basically a conduit device that would go into school classrooms, allow students to hook up to it via keyboard, and then tap into "the cloud."

Now, the cloud is something separate, and not necessarily a part of the grey box situation. It's an other offering by HP.

That solution is called SchoolCloud, and that's will put all applications and content to be delivered via a datacenter, and enable students to access their information 24/7 from virtually any computing device. These were among three solutions in the client virtualization market that HP introduced globally in November.

Your basic school district would buy these devices, and if they used SchoolCloud they would store the data on a cloud in a central Blade server somewhere remote. Gone are all the tech issues of trying to keep hundreds of machines up and running. The boxes are easily replaceable if they have a flaw. All you need is ethernet, a keyboard, mouse or track pad and monitors.

Levine believes that technology is not the only solution. We had several interesting exchanges where he whole-heartedly defended the use of classrooms and bricks-and-mortar. He supports the true "academic experience." He defends the social setting of school. He strongly defended teachers. I loosely tried to connect the use of cloud computing with a need to no longer have classrooms and he just couldn't get there. He shook his head.

"What's going to remain [after the introduction and cycling of technology] is only what the teachers know. That's it. The greatest resource they have is their innovation."

This was eye-opening to me. If you take too much of a bird's eye view, you could easily overstep reason and think that excellent technology and its implementation would dissolve the school setting, much like it has dissolved the traditional office setting and methodology. Millions of people telecommute by desire or by necessity. Shouldn't a kid be allowed to stay home to learn?

But what Levine was saying makes sense. Hewlett-Packard apparently spends a lot of time in schools asking teachers adn students what they need. They don't seem to pitch devices at them to solve general problems. The thinking, Levine says, is that you use the technology to provide a student with a chance to reach a deeper and deeper involvement with what he's learning. Making him a teacher to other students, so to speak.

That's much easier to do with training on technology and it's much more interesting than just holding up a book and reading from it to your classmates. he used a figure that I am reciting from memory. Levine said that a student's ability to grasp and use information he learns in a classroom goes up to 70% when he is given technological tools, like tablets and mobile phones, to assist him in collaborating with other students. Make a student a teacher, and he and the other students will learn.

Makes you think what happens after school, like much later after school, when a student is no longer "studying" at an institution and is building his or her life in a career. Growing up with technology, I would bet it's that much easier for him or her to collaborate easily and to almost look forward to collaboration as a way of doing business.

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Anonymous said...

It is great that your institute is helping educators in their mission to produce great results with students to make technology truly immersive.

Anonymous said...
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