In case you missed it, and more then likely you did unless you work for the school system, beginning on May 21st of this year, our state’s public school system changed their email system from an Exchange Server/Outlook system to a new, no-cost suite from Microsoft called Live@edu running off of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 (most were running 2003). The move will save the state 6.3 million over the next 4 years, and will allow the school systems to be on top with the latest in technology.
The rollout, affecting 700,000 users including students, teachers and staff, began on May 21st of this year and was officially launched on June 3rd in Frankfort. Live@edu is a cloud based full suite of email and collaborative tools based on the familiar Microsoft technologies that were previously in place. A cloud based service or cloud computing is internet-based computing, where shared resources, software and information, are provided to computers and other devices on-demand. This will allow people to have access to this new system virtually anytime, anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and a web browser; including access from mobile phones. Microsoft’s press release states: “Live@edu fosters improved productivity, better learning and skills development to help students prepare for their futures.”
The new system also boats a uniformed state wide system, where every district has access to the same technology. In what I feel is a somewhat demeaning statement regarding perception of our own state, Dr. Terry Holliday, commissioner of education for Kentucky said that “we can close the technology gap between rich and poor districts and level the playing field for students regardless of where they live”
I have found it somewhat surprising that this story wasn’t farther reaching then what it was. Considering the state’s budget woes, and papers like the Lexington Herald Leader concentrating on other branches of the state and state’s government, you would think that a 6.3 million dollar budget savings would be worthy of more coverage. Additional highlights are Microsoft boats about the speed in which they were able to migrate the state to the new cloud service; 700,000 users, 1300 schools, all over a single weekend. Considering that before, the state had around 180 on-site or on-premise servers running Exchange 2003, to now running on a cloud service, no longer relying on on-premise servers and running the more advanced and robust Exchange 2010. Microsoft has been working with the KDE on end-user training, some of which they have even posted on YouTube. Microsoft has stated on their Live@edu blog that “With Live@edu, all school districts in Kentucky have access to the same powerful Microsoft applications and Web 2.0 technologies. That means we can close the technology gap between rich and poor districts and level the playing field for students regardless of where they live,” said Dr. Terry Holliday, commissioner of education for Kentucky.” and “Historically, it would have required months and potentially years to migrate hundreds of thousands of people to a new solution,” said Chuck Austin, Office of Education Technology for the Kentucky Department of Education. “With Microsoft’s cloud technology and a collaborative focus between Microsoft and the Kentucky Department of Education on the planning aspects, we were able to dramatically reduce the implementation cycle and migrate everyone in a single weekend.”
The new system offers the ability for a much stronger collaboration and hopefully lead to a more cohesive group effort within Kentucky’s public school system. As someone surrounded with family in the school system, I’m probably more aware of the darker, dirtier, more political side to our education system then most. I feel that the public school system no longer concerns itself with the education and wellbeing of the children it houses, but of money, advancement and personal gain. It seems that as time goes on, even since I was in school, the concentration and focus goes away from the actual students and their education. Sure, the subject matter might be more advanced in the different grade levels then it was 5, 10, 15 years ago, but ultimately does it show a difference? Are they actually learning the material in a practical use method, or simply having it crammed into their young minds, only to slip away later because they have no foundation to base the education on? As a father, it worries me what education possibilities await my children as they go up through the ranks of the public school system. As a father/tech/geek I have felt that the education department as a whole has been lacking on the technological front and have found that disconcerting considering that, regardless of if you like it or not, we’re headed towards a more technological dependent society, and if we want our children to succeed in life, the school systems in which they are in, need to follow more with the times then I feel they do now. Hopefully in that regard, this is a sign that our state is looking towards the future, not only of technology, but in state wide collaboration and development, and if done with the right amount of heart, our children will no doubt benefit and flourish with this new system in place and we as a commonwealth will all benefit in time.
One can only hope