We hear all the time about “the cloud” but do we really know what the cloud is and what it does?
The Cloud or “Cloud Computing” is using applications and resources that are located on a network, usually the Internet instead of on a local computer or device.
To simply explain this, think of when you purchased you last computer or laptop and you wanted to have a word processing program on it. You probably had to spend another $100+ to get Microsoft Word. The software was then installed, probably from a CD, to your computer and there it lives for you to use as long as you own the computer. This is a traditional installation to a local machine. Now imagine that you purchased that same computer and did NOT pay the extra $100 for Microsoft Word. Instead, you went on the internet, logged into your Google account and opened up Google Drive and began to create new documents, spreadsheets, forms, pictures and presentations all from the web. This is cloud computing. You are using the Google resources online to create the same content you could create using a similar locally installed program.
The Cloud can refer to programs or applications that reside on the web, and it can also refers to data storage. The Cloud can offer the ability to collaborate without having to email documents back and forth. Documents and folders can now be shared and edited in real time with others no matter where they are.
Using The Cloud in the classroom can be very powerful. Students can be working on a research project in Science class, save it to their secure Cloud storage area, continue to work on it no matter what computer they are on or where they are at (provided they have an Internet connection.) Upon completion of the assignment the students simply moves the finished document into the Science Homework Submissions folder that is shared with the teacher and viola it is submitted. No papers to lug around, just the opportunity to read and comment on the assignment. The teacher can see the progression of the assignment, as well as have an archive of the students’ work. The student now has a digital collection of their work safe on the web, accessible later for reference or just to see their growth.
The Cloud service I recommend is of course Google Apps for Education. Google apps integrate well together and are compatible with every device I have tried them on. Google Drive has plenty of storage space for students and gives them the ability to share and collaborate with others. Google Drive can create Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Pictures and Forms. Drive can also act as storage for any other digital file. (There are some limitations on file size.)
There are so many examples I could give but I really want your feedback on how you are using The Cloud in your classroom.
(Next post will be on Cloud Storage Services. – Stay tuned.)