Cloud-based system eases access for students
Deerfield High School Instructional Technology Director Maureen Miller (right) works with physical education teacher Krista Settles at the school. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
“It’s the four C’s now, not the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic. You now have creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.” -Maureen Miller
Updated: November 29, 2012 3:26PM
DEERFIELD — Flash drives are becoming a thing of the past at Deerfield High School. That’s because classroom instruction is streaming to Internet, cloud-based systems, allowing students and teachers to upload assignments and documents and access them from anywhere with an Internet connection – including classrooms.
To bring Deerfield High School into this new technology age, Township High School District 113 brought Maureen Miller on board. Miller, a veteran teacher with an extensive background in educational technology, is the district’s first-ever director of instructional technology.
Miller said the district took a good, hard look at the students coming up from Deerfield Public Schools District 109, and noticed a technology “void.”
“This position was created to keep kids using technology as they get to high school,” Miller said. “They are already doing it (technology) in their elementary and middle schools.”
In doing so, Miller said the school has transitioned to a Google-based cloud system, enabling instruction and student/teacher interaction from virtually anywhere.
“One of the new initiatives this year is Google Apps for education,” Miller said. “It’s basically taking a Microsoft Office suite and it’s in the cloud in Google.”
In a nutshell, both teachers and students can access assignments, projects and grades from anywhere through a website, without worrying about a file not opening from a flash drive.
Miller said another benefit to the Google Apps cloud system is “extending the walls of learning.” Once students upload their assignments to their cloud account, the teacher can access it and attach comments to the assignment. In doing so, Miller said, the students don’t have to wait several days now for a teacher to proofread or grade a paper assignment.
“They (students) can be in touch with you (teacher) constantly,” Miller said.
Posting assignments online, Miller said, also gives students an “authentic audience,” meaning that parents and other classmates can see their work as well.
“You can have different levels of permission, as to who can see it,” Miller said. “But when you have an authentic audience for students, they’re more driven to produce better quality.”
But, with any change, come challenges. One of which is gathering all the teachers at once to learn and discuss new technology. The other, is the overall perception of technology and learning.
“It’s viewed a lot of times as an add-on, which when you’re first starting with it, it is,” Miller said. “But the idea is to work smarter, not harder, and technology really does that for you.”
Miller said she has established a set of goals to achieve before the end of this school year.
“I want to see two-way communication going on between students, teachers and parents in using technology,” Miller said. “I’d also like every teacher to have a web presence that is interactive.”
District 113 director of technology Ron Kasbohm said Miller has become a “valuable resource.”
“While it is important for us to provide new technology for our students, it is also essential that teachers know how to integrate it successfully into their classrooms,” Kasbohm said. “Maureen Miller is working with students and teachers to do both.”