Cloud Computing for Rural and Isolated Schools

Cloud Computing for Rural and Isolated Schools

María José Rodríguez Malmierca (CESGA, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3053-4.ch018
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Abstract

A pilot experience of cloud computing use in a small rural school network in Spain by Galicia Supercomputing Center, financed by HP Labs in 2010, gave way to a promising exploration of the use of this technology to benefit European isolated and rural schools learning and networking possibilities. This case study will describe its origin, organizations involved, settings, methodologies and technological components used, impact on students, teachers and families, as well as challenges faced and proposed solutions.
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Setting The Stage

From 1987, the Spanish educational system counts on a special kind of rural schools, named CRA (Centro Rural Agrupado - “Grouped Rural School”) where a number (3-7) of nearby small rural schools are grouped into a single school unit. This way, rural schools with just a few students (as few as 6 per school) can have a complete educational offer, as teaching staff assigned to this schools will travel to each one of them several times a day. This way, there are two types of teachers the “tutors” and the “specialists”. The former is primarily assigned to one school and attend the whole daily schedule there, and the latter are “travelling specialists” in a subject, such as: foreign languages, music, physical education, speech and language. Their daily schedule involves travelling to all the schools in the CRA for their lessons. Teaching staff meet once every week to organize activities, deal with administrative tasks, and discuss school issues. As one of the teachers said once “local roads are the corridors of a CRA”.

A Grouped Rural School covers different educational levels, from elementary school education to primary or even compulsory secondary school education in some regions (from 3 to 14 year olds). One of the common characteristics they all share is a multilevel classroom, where students from different ages and school levels learn in a shared space. This element, together to a reduced number of students, provides an inclusive and motivating learning space where younger students learn from their older peers at their own individual pace, and the eldest, reinforce their knowledge while teaching their younger peers. This is one of the most enriching features of this school model (Boix & Roser, 2011).

However, this model also has some drawbacks. The fact that teaching staff only meet once a week limits the possibility of communication among them, and collaborative work is harder to achieve when a great part of the staff is traveling every day from class to class (village to village).

Galicia is a region in the NW of Spain where this initiative started in 2010. It is one of the poorest regions of the country, traditionally associated with emigration to other regions of Spain and South America. It has a long coastline, a hilly landscape and the highest number of small rural villages in the country.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Learning Community: Community of people with a common learning goal, which interact among themselves mainly or fully through Internet resources. Common resources used are communication and group collaboration tools.

Software as Service (SaS): A modality of cloud computing where software is not locally installed, but offered as a centralized (or virtualized) service.

Virtualization: Computer term which generally refers to a structure given to a physical server which allows to host several emulated servers. These can interact independently with other devices and users, as if they were physical resources themselves.

Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE): An educational approach developed by researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra, where students, in a specific group context and with the support of Internet are able to learn by themselves.

Colegio Rural Agrupado (CRA): Grouped Rural School . A type of rural school in Spain composed of several small rural schools in different villages, but which operates as a single distributed school, sharing resources such as: staff, materials, common educational project, etc. Depending on the region, it can cover from elementary to primary or even secondary school education.

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