“Wonky learning environments”

Ewan McIntosh wrote a short post about cloud computing, illustrating the potential savings perhaps for a single organisation, but more significant savings for multiple organisations utilising shared hosted services. One paragraph really struck home with me:

And as more schools feel tied to wonky learning environments that don’t really serve their purposes, feeling tied more to the email services provided therein rather than the learning resources themselves, there is a super opportunity to cut ties and bring in the best of breed in email, shared platforms, communication tools and video conferencing on an ‘as-needed’ basis. This cuts not only the actual cost of services to near nil, but also cuts the educational cost of students using quickly outdated online tools that a school paid for upfront.

Wonky learning environments? I can relate.

It’s not that anything is wrong with the position we find ourselves in. It’s been a natural process of evolution for most educational organisations to build upon small, unreliable infrastructures with a handful of computers and make something more grand and purposeful of them. We’ve done our best to keep up with current technology – hardware and software – both of which have become more accessible, affordability and of a high quality.

The thing is, though, we do need to move on. Really (really), how much longer can we continue to maintain the position we hold? Ever growing server infrastructures, be they physical or virtualised, that require substantial resources to maintain. Ageing (sooner or later) desktop infrastructures and fleets of portable devices. Countless applications that we continually chase around our networks as demands from departments fluctuate. Back in September 2010, Martin King wrote exactly this, proposing that substantial change is needed in order for educational establishments to bring their infrastructures into line with the demands of an ever changing user base. The message is still valid, and must now influence us as we continue to rapidly evolve in a time of unprecedented change. Perhaps more striking, is that signs of change are still small – although perhaps growing day by day. Is this fast enough?

A senior colleague commented last week, “We have to learn to move a lot faster than we have been doing”. How true.