The purpose of using reference databases is to provide students and teachers with authoritative resources for research and informational purposes. Databases offer students and teachers nonfiction resources from magazine, newspapers, and reference books, such as encyclopedias. They also offer multimedia (images and videos) and primary source documents.
Through Novel NY (http://novelnewyork.org and http://nycdoe.libguides.com/novelny) every NYC School Library System member is eligible to apply for the free databases offered by the state libraries. These databases are at no additional cost to school libraries. Libraries have the option to purchase, if budget allows, additional databases. Many databases are NYSTL approved, so libraries can purchase these databases with NYSTL software money. Principal approval is required. Database access: http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/LibraryServices/EducatorResources/EducationalResources/default.htm
Primarily, Librarians should be rolling out databases through their library program. As students come in as a class to conduct research for assignments, librarians should try to conduct lessons on website reliability and the benefits of using websites. Passwords should be provided and a brief demonstration on navigating databases.
Librarians should consider creating a webpage linking the school’s databases for easy access and creating pre-printed password sheets to have on hand as students and teachers come through the library to conduct research. Use icons and widgets provided by the database companies to promote the database and to create fewer barriers for users.
It is imperative to have hands-on workshop for teachers to demonstrate the databases that are offered and how to use them. Librarians should show how the databases support common core and provide many nonfiction texts to use with students.
Passwords should not be posted online for any Internet user to stumble on. Passwords should only be distributed in-house.
Librarians should consider creating a webpage linking the school’s databases for easy access and creating pre-printed password sheets to have on hand as students and teachers come through the library to conduct research.
Databases vs. Search Engines
Demonstrating the benefits of database searching vs. search engine searching is imperative in persuading teachers and students the benefits of using a database.
Promote library databases through parent workshops or PA meetings.
From: University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/compare1.html#db)
Cost is the biggest barrier for libraries looking to purchase additional databases. Libraries should consider cost per student. Often the cost per student is cheaper than a book, especially reference books.
Another limitation is the proper education of using databases. Students and even teachers feel that databases are complicated to use, but with proper education librarians can demonstrate the ease of use as well as the benefits of using databases.
Google has a program, Google Apps for Education, where schools can sign up to give their students and faculty customized gmail e-mail addresses and access to education apps such a Google Drive.
Google Drive is a web-based application that allows you to create and store text documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and drawings. In addition to creating and storing these documents Google Drive give you the ability to share these documents with a group either as read-only or with the ability to edit the documents.
Forms can be created to distribute forms, polls, etc. using group lists.
Google Apps for Education Deployment Guide (Created by Google):
Google Drive is as secure as the individual user’s password. It’s important for users to remember that the documents are stored on Google’s servers so if something is really important the document should be backed up elsewhere.
Schools must set up accounts directly with Google, but if a teacher wanted to use this with students they could have students create Gmail accounts, which would give students access to Google Drive. By creating a class group, the teacher can control which documents are shared and which documents can be edited within the group.
32 Ways to Use Google Apps in Classrooms and Schools (created by Google):
Dropbox for storage, MS Office Suite for document creation.
Since this is a web-based tool, the creation apps can be buggy, depending on the Internet connection. The apps aren’t currently as robust as the MS Office program but for basic documents, presentations, etc. these apps work and they are being improved. It’s also important to remember that when a student graduates or a faculty member leaves, if you delete their account, you also lose any of the work they created and shared.
Cloud Computing is defined by the storage of files that are accessed from a remote location and the accessing of applications that are also provided from a remote location via server as opposed to being installed on a local computer. Sometimes, such as with dropbox, the files are stored in both the cloud and a local computer, and are sync’d via a local computer to the “cloud” to maintain consistency in new files and file changes.
It is used to provide coherent access to files and programs over a range of operating systems and devices.
There are typically no installation considerations with cloud computing. However, access can be limited by the availability of an internet connection and sometimes the speed of that connection. Older computers can also have problems processing the data stream and sometimes older browsers will lack compatibility with these services. Access can also be limited by other programs such as Flash and Java which may become out of date and need to be updated for access to be restored. Internet filters may also inhibit access at some locations.
Cloud computing services while convenient, should not be considered secure. Even companies with the best internet security can become susceptible to hacking and your information in the cloud is consequently impacted by that possibility. It is good for storing information needed in various places that aren’t personal and could be used for the purposes of cyber crime such as identity theft. Similarly, applications that are streamed through the cloud could potentially be intercepted so even if a file will be saved locally, remember that you are in fact working on someone else’s computer, which is a security risk.
There are numerous examples of places with high internet security being targeted for successful attacks.
Rolling out Cloud Computing requires some Professional Development for staff members on the strengths and weaknesses of whatever cloud system is being used. Staff members’ concerns should be noted and attempt to be addressed. Students, then need to be engaged and educated in the security and personal information issues inherent to the cloud and develop solid policies on username and password usage, evaluating whether a service is reliable, and, what information should be passed onto or through that service. Parents should be aware that their child may have access to such services if they have concerns about their student’s personal information and/or the type of materials they may have access to, that they may share, or, receive. If possible, alternatives can be offered, and if there aren’t alternatives, explanations as to why use of that service is critical to their education. If parents still object after those explanations, then, that child may need to be excluded based on the policies of your school regarding student technology usage and students’ rights.
In the case of situations such as classroom management software and locally implemented cloud solutions, there should be a limited amount of administrators that have access to the students data, and, who regulate who needs access to which pieces of data.
Community buy-in for use of a particular service is critical. If teachers don’t understand or subscribe to the ideas of a service or deem it unsafe, then, it will have minimal if any impact on student achievement.
Education on the benefits of having consistent access to files and programs across devices is a boon to students and necessary for a generation that may face having to use full personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and other technologies not yet developed that will require them to have access to their information and programs.
Students need to be educated on how to be “smart” about cloud usage, how to develop and retain a strong password, and, what information can and that which should not be transmitted across an internet connection.
Communities need to be educated on how student access to cloud computing will help them across classes, and, how sharing student data across a “secure” (as secure as one gets) cloud. Also, it should be demonstrated how students can benefit by the coordination of services for a child with shared information and also help develop targeted interventions based on the most recent information available.
Cloud Computing on an internal network with non-personal information can help everyone in a school be more productive. Student work can be transmitted instantly. Grades can be done “in the cloud” as well as attendance which can help target students’ individual needs and help teachers coordinate responses as well as providing consistent places where students can store their work and share it.
If a teacher is managing student data, then, even in a secure solution, there should be an established policy as to how that students information is shared in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is critical to be aware of in dealing with student information.
For the storage aspect of Cloud Computing, there are alternatives in the form of USB drives which while portable to keep a child’s files with them, are susceptible to loss or theft.
Some programs can be installed and used locally (such as word processing programs over a cloud solution such as Google Docs).
Some programs there may be no alternative to offer a student and such issues should be considered by the staff and/or teacher that is considering adopting such a solution.
The limitations are those imposed by the deemed potential for a security risk and who is controlling the cloud service being used to distribute access to applications or file storage and what information is being stored there.
There are also hardware and software limitations especially in the realm of browsers which may require up-dated browsers and/or “plug-ins” for certain cloud systems to be able to function. The ability to update and maintain these is critical to adopting access to a program – especially an application.
Depending on the cloud system being used, there may also be limitations based on internet availability and that access to a service may be disrupted either through failed/slow internet access, inadequate hardware/software, or at the service provider’s end.
Finally, the ability for students to access a program may also be dependent on their ability to navigate a computer. Cloud solutions aimed at involving students should be age appropriate and proper supplemental technology usage skills education is available for students that lack the abilities to adequately use a computer.