Since I wrote about our cloud computing service last year, I’ve been inundated with questions about it. I’ve spoken at a couple of conferences (check out my podcast at the ICS Skills conference) and showed off the system at different events. The main response I get from people is something along the lines of:
I’d love to do something like this in my school but how would I get all the staff to use it.
Before I get to answer this, I think it’s brilliant that nobody I’ve spoken to has said that they don’t feel they have the skills to develop something similar to my school cloud service. This proves to me that this cloud service is easy enough for the most technophobic members of staff to use. As I say, if you can book a flight on Ryanair, you can do anything on a computer.
In order to ensure that staff used the service, two of the biggest considerations when creating the cloud environment in my school were:
- I had to keep it really simple
- I had to give staff a reason to use it
That meant the interface had to be simple to navigate. Luckily Google apps provides templates that are excellent. The environment also had to be instantly useful to staff. As soon as the staff log on, they are presented with a screen showing events on a staff calendar and a virtual noticeboard.
These are two of the most used functions of the cloud. The other is the online Roll Book. This is the reason I have to make sure teachers use the system. Everyday teachers must take the attendance in school. I have rid classrooms of those awful archaic rollbooks and teachers fill in the attendance on a spreadsheet. (This year, we are moving to a better online rollbook system from Aladdin Schools Admin – a cloud based service, which ties in with out cloud service). Once the rollbooks are filled in online, my deputy principal physically fills in the archaic rollbook as part of her administration.
If you didn’t want to go down this route, other ways to give teachers a reason to log in would be to submit the number of boys and girls in attendance each day on a spreadsheet or to sign in and out of school each day. I found that if the majority of staff log into the system, the rest of the staff – SNAs and support teachers – will do too as they don’t want to miss what the others are seeing. I also make a deliberate effort to communicate general information on the virtual noticeboard and nowhere else.
The school secretary was also essential for this as she also only put announcements on our virtual noticeboard. If you didn’t read the noticeboard, you generally didn’t find out the news for the day. One measure of its success was when I organised a staff night out and all staff had to respond to the announcement online by posting a comment. Of the 10 members of staff, all responded within 3 days ,the first 4 within a few hours.
It took me 15 minutes to explain the system to all members of staff, even the most ICT illiterate. Once you’ve sold the system to the staff, watch out as they will start looking at ways to adapt it and make it even better. Ironically, they’ll then have to sell their new cloud-based ideas to you!