Saturday, April 16, 2016

Economies Offered by Cloud Technology, K-12

Ronald L. Abate*
April 9, 2016

The following recommendations hold the promise of delivering a quality K-12 technology program at a significantly reduced cost. Savings can be realized by reductions in the cost of: (1) laptops, (2) textbooks and school supplies (paper, pencils, pens, etc.), (3) computer labs, (4) local area networks (LANS), (5) computer maintenance, (6) software (apps), (7) personnel used to oversee hardware/software usage, and (7) telephone land lines.

Three issues must be addressed to make these savings a reality: (1) one laptop per student, (2) a robust internet connection in each classroom, (3) ongoing staff professional development in the integration of technology into education.

1. Cloud-based Laptops.
An approximately sixty-six percent (66%) reduction in the unit cost of laptops can be realized when Google Chromebooks are purchased. These units cost between $200 and $300. Software and operating system upgrades are included in the price. Prices this low increase the desirable goal of moving to a 1:1 distribution of computers.

2. Textbooks and school supplies.
According to the Scholastic Administrator, “Typical elementary-school textbooks cost more than $100 each, and, as a result, the four largest textbook publishers rake in more than $4 billion each year.” (David Rapp | November/December 2008.) In Oct. 2015, the US Dept. of Education announced their #GoOpen initiative, “a campaign to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials.” The need for physical textbooks can be reduced by using online, resources. These include commercially authored e-books, and especially free reading materials prepared nationally and locally by district and other personnel. Note that online materials do not wear out, may be multimedia, and can be updated online as needed.
The cost of paper supplies can be reduced when assignments and homework are completed and submitted online and are corrected and returned online. Similarly, testing can be administered and scored online.

3. Computer Labs.
Cloud-based laptops can communicate with one another online, assuming a building internet connection is available, thus negating the need for many school labs. For example, students will no longer need to use the library network of computers as they will carry their laptops wherever they may be.

4. Local Area Networks.
Wired networks (LANs) will be unnecessary since all communication between students and teacher, and teachers and staff occur via the cloud. The cost of adding and maintaining these LANs will be minimized.

5. Hardware Maintenance.
The use of cloud computers should reduce maintenance issues as these laptops do not have hard disk drives or fans - both mechanical components that eventually break down.

6. Software.
Software (apps) is included in the cost of Chromebooks eliminating the need to purchase software rights, like MS Office 365. Also, upgrades to the Chrome Operating System are free.

7. Technology Personnel.
Cloud-based laptops should reduce the cost of personnel to maintain hardware. The price of replacement is so low that repairing is often negated.

8. Land Telephone Lines.
The use of a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system could eliminate the expense of land lines. Calls are free in the USA and Canada for many systems. Voice quality is excellent. (Note: Every Chromebook contains a VOIP phone at no extra cost.)

*Mr. Abate, now retired, was the District Computer Coordinator of Fairfield Public Schools, Computer Applications Instructor at Briarwood College and Research Associate at Yale University. He was also the owner of Galaxy Computer Services.