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March 2004 Article on internet applciations as a base platform for modern computing. Interesting how in March 20 2006 Microsoft announces that they will be featuring web based appliations and that office is one of the upcomming products

...and even more interesting to see how effectively Google in 2007 has deployed this technology for you and at no cost so far!

Think ... Web Based Curriculum Delivery

Recently I was asked to submit a proposal for the Northern Schools Resource Alliance. During the preparation of my response I had the opportunity to really look at where the organization might focus their efforts.

I had struggled with the proposal for about 3 days and was taking a much needed break at a local coffee shop. While reading a magazine I came across a line in one article that struck me as bold and progressive.

eWeek February 2, 2004 Page 12 "Everything is going to be Web" Hornbeck said. "You can drive a 20 year old automobile and still find a mechanic who'll fix it, but if you want to stay in the forefront of technology, you have to look at where things are going."

As I looked at their equipment list, the terms of reference, and areas they wanted addresses, I came to the realization that the web based computing concept was not a vision of the future but rather a viable option for the organization to pursue.

Now, instead of being the best suited for the job, I had a problem. The problem was that the terms of reference were really only asking for someone to audit their existing systems and to provide a quote on computer maintenance while I wanted to turn education delivery inside out.

SO... would you go for the knock them dead proposal to deliver something readically new or would you bid to get the work and maintain the status quo? I went for it!

Since this group was a school alliance as opposed to a single school board maybe they had the resources to pursue a bold step forward.

What direction should School Boards be heading?

  • Universal access to curriculum and tools in the most simple and efficient manner.
  • Secure location independant access to study materials.
  • All sites should have equivalent access to all applications with the freedom to select a location specific subset.
  • Support resources should be focused on the customer, there should be no more need for your resources working on computer infrastructure than for other utilities.
  • Any investment should be balanced against a return on the investment (i.e. cost savings or service enhancement).
  • Applications should be managed by the application owner
  • We should be moving to rent applications from the vendor or designer. (ie. be users not islands of under qualified technology guru's)

What is a schools core business?

It is so important to know what your core business is. A schools core business is delivering instruction, delivering exercises to reinforce teachings, answering questions, and testing comprehension.

How should School Boards be focusing their efforts?

I believe the rest of the effort is related to what to deliver and how to deliver it.

So why are IT specialists sticking to on-site servers?

The manufacturers have preconditioned us to look for upgrades and bug fixes not innovative customer focused solutions that reduce infrastructure investment.

Much of the propaganda we read comes from manufacturers of equipment, there sole focus is sales. Much of the Microsoft infrastructure design is based around hardware sales.

Additionally IT personnel like working on servers, it is a niche that they feel gives them job security. Management of outsourced servers on the other hand is precieved as giving away the house. Reality is that you still have to manage the data on the servers, you have to deal with issues related to application functionality. The organization would need systems engineers, just not as many server technicians.

If you are interested in cost savings you have to think outside of the box.

How can schools reduce infrastructure costs?

The vision is simple "Web based Computing" is where to go.

Want someone to work out the details for you ... just contact Amik Technology Today!

(807) 627 - 4111

 


Below is a previous version of the above discussion with some different thoughts worthy of looking over

Here is the quote from the magazine and the discussion area of my submission: eWeek February 2, 2004 Page 12

"Everything is going to be Web" Hornbeck said. "You can drive a 20 year old automobile and still find a mechanic who'll fix it, but if you want to stay in the forefront of technology, you have to look at where things are going."

The vision is simple "Web based Computing" is where to go. Universal access to curriculum and tools in the most simple and efficient manner is the business need. All sites should have equivalent access to all applications with the freedom to select a location specific subset. Support resources should be focused on the customer, there should be no more need for your resources working on computer infrastructure than for other utilities. Any investment should be balanced against a return on the investment (i.e. cost savings or service enhancement).

The systems architecture of your future is a huge pipe to the Internet. The applications you serve are web based applications, presented to students and staff on a web page, perhaps a portal. Serving of the applications should be pushed to the vendors of the products you select.

The teachers at Norwester View Public School already host web pages for their class information. It would be a simple step for them to post links to applications that they want their class to use.

The benefits of this new architecture are obvious, systems people can be more customer focused without the burden of server infrastructure, application hosting is easily centralized or outsourced, economy of scale applies like never before, virtual applications can be tailored to more discrete learning tasks and so on. A schools investment dollar is focused on terminals, some storage, and Internet access.

The challenges that the Alliance face are in developing the partnerships with the vendors of the educational products so that these products can be brought on-line in a timely manner. Additionally there are existing and proposed curriculum delivery technologies already in existence and the politics around introducing another might be tough so developing and selling your vision of the future will be another focus point. It is likely that some schools, boards, or stake holders may want to hold onto legacy applications or technology. Flexibility would need to be designed into the solution.

This is a all or nothing proposal, I haven't researched the audience or even had a detailed look about how to achieve this vision but I couldn't write a proposal about auditing their systems without a defined goal to benchmark against. Their terms of reference seemed to me to have no defined vision. They reference efficiency and stability which to me equates to maintenance of existing services only. I do not believe this to be the desired position for a resource alliance.

../ross mccubbin

 

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