In the York School Department we have a few ways to login to computers across the district. All teachers and 7th – 8th grade students are handed a Macbook from the state each year. These laptops allow the user to login locally to the computer no matter where they are in the world as long as it has power. In the schools themselves, all of our desktop and laptops are tethered to our local network, which means that each user either must login with their network account, or login locally using a generic login.
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Logging into the local network allows a user to see their files located on the network server from any machine anywhere within the five buildings of our school district. Therefore, if I am at one of the elementary schools and login as “elawson” I can see a file on my desktop that I saved while I was working on it over at the high school yesterday logged into the network. This is great, however, network files are only accessible within one of the five buildings within our district, right now. Had I wanted to work on this file at home, I would have had to save it to my laptop, or a pen drive, to bring home and work on as I cannot get to network folders outside of the buildings. This is just one of the many arguments for saving files to the Cloud (the Internet).
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Students login to computers within our schools via a network account too! They will have the same username and password from Kindergarten through graduation at the high school unless they move out of the district. That means all of their saved files, unless they are deleted by the user, will follow them all the way from Kindergarten through their senior year. This could be great for ePortfolio work, but again, these kids cannot access these files at home unless they make some adjustments to make it portable or accessible at home. (Pen drive, external hard drive, CD, email, or Internet storage site)
On our local network, all of the students should have access to a grade level folder as well as their individual network folders. This folder is often used as a repository for lessons, projects, templates, or electronic worksheets that teachers have created and dropped into the folder to use year after year. In theory, every first grader would then have a first grade folder on their dock that points to this location on our network server so that they pull a file from it, manipulate it in some way, and then save their version to their network folders. I say in theory this works every time, because truly it was setup and managed to work for every student, however, this year we have experienced “blips” in the network that have altered this workflow. Either the folders are not readily accessible on the dock or students or staff have received error messages stating that they do not have permissions to access these folders. Reconnecting to the server can work at times, but it is a hassle especially for our earlier elementary students.
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A solution, or work around, to this network issue could be to save all of these network files to the web. This way instead of trying to access a folder on the network, the students are accessing a page or folder on the Internet (The Cloud). This gives students and staff access to these files from anywhere in the world that they have access to the web. I could pull down a document to my smart phone while at a conference, or to my laptop while sitting on my couch at home. This gives universal access to everyone. Not just students and staff of our buildings, but also to the rest of the world that may visit this page. But shouldn’t we be sharing some of these great ideas and lessons to the world anyways? My moto as a classroom teacher was always, “Why reinvent the wheel if you could beg, borrow and steal from another educator?” Well, it’s time to give back too! Posting our lessons, templates, projects and other technology rich activities to the web allows parents, students, teachers and interested people all of the world a chance to use and collaborate on our material. In this model, students could login locally to any device (desktop, laptop, iPad, phone, etc.) and download, upload, or manipulate material and send it back via the web. It isn’t as closed as our local network, but maybe that’s a good thing. I have witnessed that students produce higher quality content when they see that their work will be published to a more global audience. I would assume that educators feel the same way. I wouldn’t want to publish mediocre work to the web where everyone could view it. The cloud could really open up the doors, windows and walls of our school district and promote global collaboration too!