Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Alejandro Castán Salinas, IT instructor, Institut Pedralbes, Spain.
Institut Pedralbes is one of eight public schools in Barcelona that offers two-year technical vocational studies. It provides baccalaureat courses in sciences, humanities, and the arts, and specializes in providing high school students with skills in web application development, systems administration, and programming. The goal is to train professionals skilled in the latest in-demand computer technologies. The institute has 1,600 students and 140 educators.
In 2020, the institute became an Oracle Academy member and began using the Oracle Cloud Free Tier, including Compute Virtual Machines, storage, management tools, and the Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing.
Alejandro Castán Salinas is an IT educator specializing in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). In 2020 he stopped using Oracle VM Virtual Box and moved his students to the Oracle Academy Cloud Program.
Oracle Academy: What has been the effect of using Oracle Cloud?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: It has been fantastic, especially in terms of motivation through direct access to the cloud, remote assessment for teachers, and better preparing students for cloud computing jobs.
Before the pandemic and our switch to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), we were using Oracle’s Virtual Box as a platform for simulating the network infrastructure. But now we have the real thing!
Oracle Academy: Can you elaborate?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: Gladly. It’s as if the students were already in a company running a cloud environment. Previously they have surfed the web and consumed applications. Now, through Oracle Academy cloud accounts, we equip them with real web servers and email servers 100% on the internet and with their own domain names. Virtual Box simulation was previously kept private on a hard drive but the OCI virtual machines are in the cloud, allowing students to stand up and manage their own public servers. They love it.
More than that, they now have responsibility. It’s no longer theory; they create real web applications. And that means these services have to work, and must be available. It means they get to manage vital elements such as backup, firewall and secure tunnels for browsing over an encrypted connection.
Suddenly they’re in the driver’s seat.
Oracle Academy: Has that given them a confidence boost?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: A huge boost! Having access to the full functionality of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure has been a real motivator. At first, they are amazed to be in charge of pieces of the web that they previously consumed only as users. Then the amazement turns to excitement. They are impatient to implement in their server the concepts we teach in the class, proud to be running their own servers, to have their own websites that could potentially be visited from anywhere in the world.
Some of these 17- and 18-year-olds lacked confidence because they were underachievers in certain mandatory subjects. Today they are building ecommerce applications and provisioning flesh and blood customers, no matter that they may be family and acquaintances. They are managing servers in the cloud, providing services, controlling access. All of this obliges them to be responsible, efficient, professional. They put more effort into their work. They get access to the infrastructure they will use when they get hired.
Oracle Academy: Brilliant! Has Oracle Cloud changed how you teach?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: Oracle Cloud has changed not only the learning dynamic but teaching too. As educators, we no longer are limited to the school timetable or classroom for assessing, grading, and advising. And with Oracle Cloud, we don’t have to download, install, or maintain software or databases.
Being able to access the resources at any time from any place was essential in these two years of the pandemic, especially when in mid-March 2020 everyone was confined to their homes. And ever since, it’s been tele-teaching for health reasons.
Today we explore together the Oracle Autonomous Database, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Compute VM, and other essential building blocks. We teachers are on a learning curve too!
Oracle Academy: What kind of tasks do you assign students?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: My students work as a group and also in pairs. An example would be getting students to configure several virtual private networks into a multi-site wide area network for secure connectivity. And in pairs, I have them carry out pen testing, whereby each tries to penetrate the other’s cloud application or network by identifying vulnerabilities. This also motivates them, because ethical hacking is part of companies’ defense strategy against ransomware and malicious attack.
Access to cloud servers has facilitated teamwork, because the virtual machines are on the internet, and all members of the group can access them at once to administer and make changes.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure makes it easy to conduct hands-on exercises that used to be difficult to carry out. Recently a group of students learned how to implement network load balancing to distribute traffic between several servers. They were up and running in Oracle Cloud in a matter of minutes. I’ve also been teaching them firewall practices with Oracle Cloud Infrastucture Web Application Firewall (OCI WAF) for protecting applications from malicious traffic; they are galvanized.
Oracle Academy: What careers do your graduates pursue?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: Our curriculum using Oracle Cloud covers a broad range of skills for which there is strong demand in Spain. We teach hardware, operating systems administration, network administration, server administration, programming, web development, security, database management, cybersecurity, and more.
Students do a four-month internship during the course, in companies with which we have close relationships. These organizations are pleased to find that their interns already know the basics of managing servers and resources in the cloud. Cloud computing leads to great opportunities for systems administrators, web developers, programmers, and other disciplines.
What is certain today is that without cloud computing knowledge, young people will have difficulty finding work in the IT sector.
Oracle Academy: How many others in the institute teach with Oracle Cloud?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: We all need to better understand cloud, get to grips with containers and so on. We get together, discuss and share experiences. Currently I have downloaded the materials for teaching myself “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations - Instructor Resources.”
I am also a member of a Telegram group of 500 IT teachers in Cataluña, and another similar group of over 1,000 teachers nationwide. Same thing: we talk about our challenges, share teaching materials and help each other. I often use the forum to transmit the advantages of Oracle Academy membership, with free Oracle Cloud Infrastructure resources.
Oracle Academy: What are your plans going forward?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: I think the possibilities offered to us by Oracle Cloud for teaching are infinite, and we still are discovering and learning new features that we can incorporate to enhance student learning.
My colleagues and I are working towards the goal of unifying cloud teaching into one platform. I teach networking, programming and systems administration. Others teach relational database and SQL, containers, microservices, or hyperdimensional computing. The challenge is to integrate all these disciplines into one instance with Oracle Compute Cloud Service. Then we will have a more structured set of teaching resources to offer our students and it will benefit the whole institute.
Oracle Academy: And outside of teaching, what activities do you enjoy?
Alejandro Castán Salinas: My hobbies are mountaineering, reading, traveling, and I never stop learning about computers and math. I have twin boys age seven, and one of them wants to scale Everest with me. I don’t travel a lot these days, but I have had wonderful trips to Morocco, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, India, Bali, the Middle East and half of Europe. I’m hoping to pick this up again soon.
Thank you, Alejandro Castán Salinas, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.