Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cloud Computing: An IT or Educational decision?

As many institutions move towards the adoption of cloud based computing, one sees a great deal about the need to manage various types of risk. For example, in a recent article from Educause they identified a number of institutional risks:
  • 'Operational risk — service or business failures
  • Financial risk — surprise support or integration costs
  • Compliance risk — failure leads to liability costs and reputation damage'
 From the perspective of the individual user, staff and students they noted that for the 'User view' one needed to consider:
  • 'Reliability, privacy, security — similar to operational risk
  • Utility — functionality
  • Simplicity — which requires interoperability'.
Now I have quoted directly from the article because it highlights what seems to be a gap in the thinking/ planning process. Educational issues seemed to be lumped under utility which is loosely considered to be issues of collaboration and communication (email to alumni for example). It is only much later in the process that educational issues start to get addressed more seriously. For example, how the various cloud services integrate with the manner in which staff and students use the various technological tools for teaching, learning and engagement. Many of the articles I have been looking at seem to take a very technological approach and while that is important, surely the ultimate users (staff and students) need to be a part of the process very early on. I would be interested in hearing from anyone that has already been down this path and is willing to share their experiences, from an educational perspective.

In closing this post, we have all seen the discussions about what is wrong with the iPad, no USB, the need to sync with another computer, and no really familiar file storage system (e.g., see HERE). However, cloud computing and iPads seem to be a near perfect match, the cloud being where all of the collaborative services are available for sharing, communication, file storage, and interaction. Now all we need are really fast wireless services freely available on campus and in the city - as we have here in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

ICEL 2010

ICEL 2010 is an international conference that is being held (for the first time) in Penang, Malaysia with attendees from 19 countries. What is clear is the extensive interest from developing countries in the use of mobile learning. I was very interested in the presentation by the second Key Note speaker, Laura Czerniewicz, from the Centre for Educational Technology (CET) University of Cape Town, South Africa who presented on The digital native in a new era- apartheid or democracy? Her presentation may be found HERE.

One of the things that was very interesting was the finding that the development of computer literacies is virtually the reverse of the western world: with the more impoverished students coming from mobile phones, often relatively low level technology (the so called vanilla mobile phone), to the desktop or notebook computers. The demographics and data also challenge the statements from the likes of Tapscott and Prenski, in particular. The South African data indicates that it is experience with computers rather than age per sec that is the determining factor in the concept of a digital native. She also introduced the term the 'digital elite', describing those people how have had extensive access to technology and have become very confident in the use of these technologies. There didn't seem to be a correlation with age, unlike the statements of the two authors mentioned above. 

I find that this mirrors my experiences in Hong Kong. Students from the mainland come to Hong Kong with very little experience in the use of computers, and the assumption that because of their age they should be computer experts. However, they are not, reinforcing the findings that the individuals described as 'digital natives' by Prenski are in fact extremely diverse, and in higher education we need to be cognizant of  this information and address these particular student needs.  

All in all, an interesting conference with a diversity of views from developed and developing countries. ICEL 2011 will be held in Kelowna, Canada.