Privacy & Security

Cloud Use Dissipating? Not Likely

By Ian Quillen — June 30, 2010 1 min read
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At Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, teachers use the Google Docs cloud application to comply with federal programs, compile surveys, report data, and check out and return equipment.

And with all that information published to a shared online location accessible from anywhere, Nashville professional development specialist Richard Alcantar says it’s natural to raise security concerns.

But those worries should drive districts to think about how they choose to use cloud software rather than whether to use it, Alcantar said Wednesday at a session at the ISTE 2010 conference in Denver. Because the potential benefits of saved time, money and resources are too great to ignore.

“Don’t say I can’t have confidential information out there in the cloud,” Alcantar said. “If you know [the risks], you can set up protocols and processes and rules to minimize them.”

Alcantar said schools should consider using cloud software for a robust variety of school functions, like filling out payroll and attendance forms, registering students for activities, and submitting public address announcements. That eliminates both the overuse of paper and the time it takes for a document or e-mail to flow from one desk to the next.

To be cost effective, Alcantar suggested using more nuanced software for sensitive data that may include teacher or student identification information, but basic free software for information that would, by law, be public record. That may ease safety concerns of information technology specialists who worry about data corruption or identity theft.

“Whether IT wants it to happen or not, it’s going to happen,” Alcantar said of the continuing move toward cloud applications in schools. “These changes are too big, they’re not going to stop them. But we need to know their concerns are legitimate, and we need to listen.”

With co-operation and persistence, even large districts like Nashville, with 76,000 students, can implement effective cloud practices, he said.

“I work in a huge district that’s incredibly bureaucratic,” Alcantar said to conference-goers. “The hierarchy is thick and we’re still able to get some of this done. So you can do it too.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.