Case Study - Operating a school 100% in the cloud

(scroll to the bottom for a TL;DR summary)

Schools often talk of making a move completely to the cloud: Getting rid of servers and desktop software and relying purely on a router and an internet connection to deliver all technology for the school. In practice few actually do it for a multitude of reasons including reliance on legacy software and school management that is resistant to change. One of the only schools I know who has pulled this off is Concordia School in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Myself and the AppsEvents team (including co-organizers +James Sayer +Sarah Woods and +Rowland Baker and +Lee Webster )  had the pleasure to hang out with +David Elliott  the Tech Director (he's also a teacher and wears many other hats) during our two Google summits at Concordia and I have to say David is one of the most inspiring educators we all have met.

I've been pushing David for a case study to share here and finally he's relented. I'm also thinking of recording a podcast interview with David to get more in depth about how they made the move and some of the 'techy' aspects', so if you would be interested to hear this please post in the comments and we'll set it up.

Now let me pass it over to David to explain more:

Concordia International School Hanoi is a small (250)  but growing school which operates totally in the cloud. We began our work a few years ago with 3 principles in mind. 1.) A robust wifi infrastructure 2:) 1:1 program for grades 6-12 and 1:2 in elementary 3.) Developing a Blended Learning curriculum.

All we have are access points going through a switch to the internet. All admin databases are hosted. The SIS (Focus) is in Dallas, the library(Follett) is in Chicago, the web site is in Denver, the Curriculum Management System (Atlas Rubicon) in Portland and Google is everywhere. The only separate database we maintain is our financial system due to Vietnamese legal requirements. Online Quickbooks, which we use for budgeting,  would work well but is not allowed. Educational systems from Pearson and HMH are less robust, but sites like youtube, Khan Academy, IXL, Spelling City, etc, etc. are fine. Last year we had several weeks where the global cable was cut between Vietnam and Hong Kong. Our internet provider did rerouting to keep us going, but it was very slow at home. Schools are 24/7 users of internet. Home speeds are important as well as school speeds. Wifi bandwidth is the major cost of a cloud-based infrastructure. We have no dedicated IT staff and no servers. IT emergency support is outsourced to the vendors.

Over the years the system has developed, but follows the same 3 principles. The wifi infrastructure is now 802.11ac. It is a dramatic change and I recommend it to everyone. It requires faster switches (1 GB min) but all in all, not that expensive. We are constructing our permanent campus this year and will install this same infrastructure at the new location.

We decided to go with a BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) program 3 years ago. This means any computer from any company or operating system can be used, but it must have a keyboard. It can't be a tablet or a phone. My only push is for all-day battery power. Dad's 3 year old hand-me-down just doesn't work in schools. Families buy what they want and we support families using what they are comfortable with or can afford. This means that in a classroom you might have a Samsung ultrabook, a MacAir and a Chromebook next to each other. Students and families care for all repairs and OS issues. Teachers are not involved with the machines, although students help each other and I consult regularly. This is our third year of this policy and I've haven't had one complaint from students or families. Our policy is really just a few pages long.  I help out trouble shooting and have some old machines as emergency loans, but I only need a few for 100 kids and all faculty. When they login to a loaner, all their tabs and data instantly are available. They don't miss a step.

Last year we extended this policy to faculty as well. Annually each faculty member receives  a stipend towards technology which over three years would be enough to purchase a professional computer. The Macs are still favorites but we have various versions of Macs as well as PCs. Multimedia publishing is the only reason we don't recommend Chromebooks for faculty. The online programs are still quirky and slow.

All the above in only possible if you assume Google Apps for Education is your major software infrastructure. We do not require any software to be purchased.  Google Classroom is used extensively by our upper grade teachers.

Our admin continues to find new and efficient ways to manage the school using Google Apps. All meetings, docs, timelines, calendars, even our accreditation files are done using Google Apps. Google forms gather all sorts of information from students, faculty and families.  Collaboration is everywhere. It is a challenge to organize the folders and permissions to manage the tension between access, collaboration and privacy. We are not there yet, but have made significant progress.  We have created "position" accounts (i.e. principal) so that changing administrative  staff and employees can be done with all data intact. Paper documents are limited.

Blended Learning Curriculum remains a challenge. It is easy to say that everything we teach is available right now, online, and for free. Yet the curation, organization and presentation of curriculum is a massive endeavor usually accomplished in the past by textbook publishers and creative teachers. Our school uses extensive online resources, but is at the beginning of the journey towards the ideal personalized learning pathway envisaged by Blended Learning proponents. We would like students to become independent learners, but still achieve skill levels with recognized standards of education. i.e. Common Core. Having tried various options, I see the importance of face-to-face learning even if most of the material and projects are digital. We talk about teachers as mentors and coaches, but what does that mean academically? This is an important area that would benefit from global conversation and collaboration. I'm wondering how Google could help catalyze this process?

One of our goals at Concordia is replicability. Everything we do should be affordable and doable at schools anywhere in the world. I'm glad to share our experiences with those wanting to continue this journey.


  • Concordia is an international school in Hanoi, Vietnam with 250 students
  • Google Apps is the core system for all staff and students:
    • Chrome browser strongly recommended for all students
    • Gmail for email
    • All documents and files are stored in Google Drive
    • Google Classroom is the LMS for upper school but isn't 'top down, i.e. individual teachers choose to use it
    • All meetings, docs, timelines, calendars, even accreditation files are done using Google Apps. Google forms gather all sorts of information from students, faculty and families
  • BYOL program for students. Students tech support each other. Few loaners for emergencies
  • Chromebook carts, mainly used for grades K-5
  • Staff have own laptop and receive a stipend to purchase
  • Wifi infrastructure is 802.11ac (important)
  • No dedicated IT staff and no servers. IT emergency support is outsourced to the vendors
  • Other web based systems used are:
    • SIS (Focus)
    • Library (Follett)
    • Curriculum Management System (Atlas Rubicon)
    • QuickBooks (budgeting)
    • OpenDNs (set to 'moderate') for web filtering
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Google is a Model for Student Privacy and Security

by +Allison Mollica

January 1, 2016 a new law in New Hampshire (NH-HB520) will take affect concerning student online personal information. This is great news for all of us concerned about the distribution and sale of student information. Unfortunately, there are 'agencies' who are misinforming school administrators about this legislation in regards to using Google Apps for Education.

I have had a few colleagues contact me asking if they 'have to' discontinue their use Google Apps for Education. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Fact #1: NH-HB520 does not reference Google Apps for Education AT ALL. See the final version and use CTRL+F to search for the word Google. It is not there.

Fact #2: The law prohibits the 'operator' (aka provider of services) to use, sell, or disclose student information and generating targeted advertisements. Google Apps for Education is the poster child for privacy and security. Google Apps for Education has very strict policies governing the use of student information. See below and refer to for complete information.

"We don’t sell your Google Apps for Education data to third parties and we do not share personal information placed in our systems with third parties, except in the few exceptional circumstances described in your Google Apps agreement and our Privacy Policy, such as when you ask us to share it or when we are required to do so by law.

For full details, please refer to your Google Apps agreement and the "Information Sharing" section of our Privacy Policy.

There are no ads in Google Apps for Education services..." In fact, K12 Google Apps for Education users do not see ads when they use Google Search and are signed into their Apps for Education accounts."

Fact #3: Google has signed the Student Privacy Pledge which is endorsed by President Obama.

There is a lot more to the law and a lot more to Google Privacy and Security disclosures so certainly one could psycho analyze every detail to see if they can find a flaw.

However, the motives and credibility of anyone who intimates, that as a result of this new law, school districts should discontinue the use of Google Apps for Education should be questioned. (I won't mention the strong presence of MS lobbyists in Concord...)

Google Apps for Education has had a tremendous impact on how students learn, communicate, collaborate and engage in their learning journey. After working in technology in education for almost 20 years I can say that there is not one single product or solution that has had a more positive affect on student and teacher engagement, productivity, communication and information literacy than what Google Apps for Education has done. There are literally hundreds of thousands of teachers online every day sharing and helping each other be innovative in their approaches to working with students and being 'better' because of it.

With over 40 million Google Apps for Education users world ~ wide (public schools, private schools, higher education) and countless states/government agencies converting to Google Apps because of 'security' reasons we should be skeptical of anyone who suggests our students shouldn't be using it.

This post first appeared at Republished with permission from the original author.
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AppsEvents announce their first first 'AppsEvents Google for School Leaders' summit strand featuring 'Future Ready Schools'

We're really excited to be offering our first 'AppsEvents Google for School Leaders' summit strand featuring 'Future Ready Schools' at two summits in 2015.

The summit strand will take place as part of our regular summits and will be hosted by +Rowland Baker at our Arkansas summit in November and South Korea Summit in December. For the South Korea Summit at Chadwick International School we are especially excited as this is the first time “Future Ready Schools” information has been shared in Asia!

We ran our first 'Google for School Leaders' strand at our European Summit last month with +Rowland Baker and +John M. Mikton which was a huge success and focussed on the best practices for leaders at schools running Google Apps. We are now building on this to incorporate an expanded curriculum featuring Future Ready tools in the updated and expanded summit strand.

Two of the sessions will be dedicated to “Future Ready Schools”. Because of the relationship of AppsEvents staff and the United States Dept. of Education, permission has been granted to share the “Future Ready Schools” tools, roadmap and knowledge with leadership attendees at the Summit.

What started with Obama Administration, the “Future Ready Schools” movement now includes over 2,000 districts and 16 million students in the US. We will look at the dashboard and the powerful tools that have been developed to assist leadership in 7 areas:

1. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

2. Use of Time

3. Technology, Networks, and Hardware

4. Data and Privacy

5. Community Partnerships

6. Professional Learning

7. Budget and Resources

We will end with looking at what next steps are needed to begin the pathway towards a Future Ready School. Check out more info on our Arkansas and South Korea summit websites.
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...leave the kids alone?

by +John Mikton,

There is a belief that children nowadays are natural,"Digital Natives", and that we adults on the sidelines are "Digital Immigrants". The dexterity and comfort many children demonstrate when interacting with digital devices and social media tools generates this image of them being "naturals”. This in turn contributes to the sense of disconnect between the so called "Digital Natives" and "Digital Immigrants".

In reaction to this sense of disconnect and divide, educators often restrict access to technology, keep the screens out of the classroom, or tightly dictate the parameters of its use on their own terms. This is often done in an effort to dampen the disconnect we feel when trying to understand the students’ perspectives. Often, parents and teachers express a sense of having to "catch up" or "keep up" with children's adeptness at using digital tools and environments. There is a feeling that a race is on, and somehow as adults we have the odds stacked against us.

Children are not born digital natives, they are born digital consumers. A child's first encounter with digital devices and environments will be framed by their parent's digital use: a mom walking with the stroller whilst talking on her phone, listening to her music player, or checking a social media post; a father texting while giving his child a bath; parents watching a video on their tablet, searching on their phones as they feed their child, checking email or wall posts while their kid watches from the stroller at a restaurant. These daily routines are part of our growing fractured attention – being here but actually somewhere else. This behaviour quickly frames the context and role of the devices in our relationships, as well as their role in communication and day to day actions. Children from a very early age are the audience to our digital behaviors. Children start constructing their own understanding of digital devices and their role in response to our actions. They use this experience as a guide, most often subconsciously at a young age, and ultimately frame their own interactions based on what they have seen.

As children start interacting with the digital devices, be it on their own or with ones shared by a sibling or parent, they are in consumption mode. This consumption often becomes the source of their relationship with these digital devices and ecosystems – playing a game, watching a video, chatting, posting, and searching. Often the experience can be a solitary one, disconnected from physical reality. The device becomes a babysitter, a tool to give parents a break, or an opportunity to allow us to have a split attention.

Yes, so-called digital natives are very adept at using devices and quickly working out the tools they provide. The strategy is one of press, try, press, click, try again. They have a sandbox mentality when it comes to exploring technology. Anything is okay, as long as the child is making progress. It is this blind capacity to forge ahead, try, and try again with a fail forward philosophy that throws us off as adults. For many of us, the point of reference is a more linear approach to problem solving, working sequentially and sometimes with more hesitation than blind confidence.

This difference should not be our exit card from the need to engage with children and digital device use. We as adults have a responsibility to be active participants in the digital device journey of children, both at home and at school. We have a responsibility to choreograph concrete strategies where we become active participants and guides. This starts with us understanding and being mindful of our own use, and how digital devices are tethered to our day to day workflows. We need to consciously reflect on how our own behaviors frame the context of digital device usage for our children.

The social media and digital ecosystems we have are the environment of our age. Throughout time there have been repeated instances where new technologies come into play, and a generation gravitates to these. This divide between the current generation of users and adults is one that has occurred time and time again – with the telephone, the radio, and television, just to name a few. The process of learning and adapting to these new cognitive interactions is part of being human. We frame our use of technology on human emotions, understandings and aspirations. Our role as mentors, educators and parents is to nurture these human emotions, as well as the aspirations of our children, as active partners.

As adults, being a proactive partner in learning with a child creates a rich opportunity for both to understand the shared experience. The partnership provides language development through the conversations between the adult and child. Unpacking the context together and developing an ability for questions and comprehension is part of the process we use to construct new understanding. For adults these are precious moments. With our own development of this relationship, we scaffold a vital critical thinking experience for the child. This gives us a unique opportunity to understand the child's experience. Throughout the ages, the sharing of knowledge and experience between adult and child has been an essential part of the building blocks of relationships between different generations.

Moving kids away from a consumer model with digital devices requires guidance and inspiration. What they are doing and how is more important than what digital device they are using. As adults, we can curate these experiences and provide inspiration by modeling less of a swipe and point consumption philosophy. By doing so, we would encourage children to engage with critical thinking skills through creative content and inspire them to get excited about creative problem solving.

With our society’s nearly ubiquitous access to digital devices, why have we as adults disengaged with the changes? Is our own digital consumption numbing our ability to find inspiration? Parenting is still parenting, be it in an online or offline environment. Children are still children. It boils down to our willingness to carve out the time. The world does not need a growing population of digital devices consumers. The world we live in is hungry for critical thinkers who are engaged in creative problem solving and in leveraging digital devices and ecosystems in a way that might create a more connected society.

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My Thoughts & Reflections on Google Summit for Education by Apps Events: Bangkok, Thailand 25-27 September 2015

by +Diana Engwa

At the end of September, I attended a Google Summit for Education, by Apps Events, in Thai Chinese International School, Bangkok, Thailand. On Friday, I attended a pre-conference on how to go about being a Google Certified Educator and the different google certifications available out there. This 'bootcamp' was given by James Sayer. It was an enlightening, motivating and inspiring pre-conference that basically set the tone for the entire weekend.

Normally, the tendency is to get "info overload" by day 2 of the conference, right about after lunch. Don't get me wrong, yes, was still experiencing 'info overload' but was so eager to learn more, to keep going to one workshop after another. There were so many choices going on at the same time that I had at least 3 choices out of 6-8 and sat there just rereading the workshop descriptors, having difficulty deciding which one to attend.

Moreover, I continued to be inspired even while back at work despite having a full work weekend and arriving home at midnight the day before Monday. I found myself trying the new chrome apps & extensions, keeping my notes organised via Google Keep, creating slides about each workshop I attended, doing screenshots to illustrate what I learned, watching tutorials & Google Demo Slams on YouTube...the list goes on.

This prompted me to self reflect...what made this conference unique? Why was I so motivated to attend as much as I could and why am I still motivated to continue to learn, post conference? One thing that stood out was everything was hands on learning, whatever the presenter was doing, we had to make our own version or follow along. The presenters would not allow us to fail, they walked around, made sure we were following along with everyone else.  And because we were never left behind, we got a sense of fulfilment at having achieved a task assigned by the presenter (in essence, our teacher).  Another thing that made an impression was that the presenters touched base with their audience. They didn't merely talk "at/to" their audience, they interacted with them during their workshops, in between (snack and lunch breaks), and even post conference.

Let's take this scenario back to our classrooms.  Take this time to reflect on how we teach our students. Are we merely teaching the curriculum? Are we assessing/grading with our calculators or with our hearts? What are your true teaching objectives? To merely teach at your students or to guide them, give them a tip or two along the way but let them take full control of their learning?  Do we want all of our students to succeed, support them and most importantly not allow them to fail, just like my #googlegurus from the summit did for us? Or are your students mere numbers and percentages? This brings me back to a PTC with a parent whose 3 kids I have handled. She asked me "did you ever imagine way back in 3rd grade that my sons will accomplish what they have now in Upper School and Middle School?" She went on further to say, "so for my daughter who is now in 3rd grade and is 'below reading level', I will just say, 'relax', they will get there, in their own time."  As teachers, we are there to support and believe in each and everyone of our students, we will all reach our 'a-ha' moment. We are not teaching PHD in the lower school, so for now, let's focus on the key things we must consider to keep our students engaged, motivated, and eager to learn more even after the bell rings?

I will be doing a series of 'take aways' from the summit in the form of a 'how to'. Check out my first take away...

*I would like to thank my #googlegurus from the Summit who inspired and motivated me to keep on learning, go after those certifications...don't let the traditional thinking of others get to you...make a difference and it starts with ME.  A big heartfelt thanks to James Sayer, Lee Webster, Sean Thompson, Wesley Przybylski, Davis Apas, Kru Noyneung whose presentations just rocked.  Honored to have connected with you all!

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Bangkok Google in Education Summit 2015 Reflections

I guess education conferences are like buses - you wait ages for one, and then two come along at once, hence my second blog post in a row that is a conference report!

Delegates settling in before my presentation.

Last weekend saw the 4th annual Bangkok Google in Education Summit, organised by the team at Apps Events. It was held at the Thai Chinese International School in Bangkok. The main meeting takes place over two days, although there is a pre-summit course for people who are taking one of the various educator certifications offered by Google. There was an additional session, towards the of the event, by my colleague James Sayer, and Davis Apas, which explored these various certifications, including Google Certified Educator, Innovator, and Trainer.

It was my second time at this event, but my first as a presenter. My talk - 'Becoming a connected educator' - was by coincidence very timely, since when I submitted the topic I was unaware that October is Connected Educator month! My presentation began with an overview of what constitutes a connected educator, followed by a look at how blogging and Twitter can be useful tools for getting connected as an educator, and finished with reflections on my own journey towards becoming a connected educator and how this has been beneficial for my practice.

In my experience these events are generally less formal than more traditional academic conferences, and there was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Each day kicked off with a keynote speech, which on the first day was a brief overview of some emerging trends in education, such as Genius Hour and Solve X in Ed. The following day the keynote looked at the increasing importance of cloud-based computing, and noted that the top ten strategic technology trends in 2015 are related to cloud technology.

Lee Webster's Solve X in Ed 'Moonshot' - Get rid of final exams.
Following the keynote speech each day there were various parallel sessions lasting an hour each, differentiated by skill and experience levels, about various aspects of educational technology. Although the focus was on Google apps and tools, it was not exclusively so, and lots of different tricks and tips could be picked up over the course of the weekend. For example I heard about a few different apps that I am going to try out, including Plickers, a tool for collecting real-time formative assessment, and Zaption, a tool that can be used to turn videos into self-study lessons.

Another tool that was demonstrated, and which I've known about for a while but not yet tried, was Flubaroo, which can again be used for rapid formative assessment. It has some additional new features, including an option for grading text-based questions as well as multiple choice questions, and is something I hope to try out next semester. The first day ended with a demo-slam, where delegates were invited to share what they learned that day in two minutes, with prizes available for the winning demo-slams.

On the second day there was a useful talk around the use of Google forms for student peer to peer feedback. This is something I will definitely use, and is something I see as being a useful way for students to peer assess each others' presentations, for example. The other really great tool, presented by Lee Webster, was Google's My Maps. This is essentially a lightweight GIS package, which is extremely user-friendly and easy to use. I would highly recommend any teachers that incorporate any kind of relatively simple mapping activities to check this tool out. I plan to use it as an addition to the urban biodiversity project I have my students do.

All in all, these Google in Education events are a great way to hear about new tools, new ways to incorporate them into teaching, and to meet like-minded educators in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. 

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