There is so much talk about cloud computing these days. It’s a direction which hugely impacts the way we store information and also access information. What does this new trend mean for education and will it easily enter the lives of educators?
Well, for some educators clouds are the way to go already. The technology has been around for some time. The first time I used cloud technology was with a browser-based program for uploading files which started as a free service and had a “huge” amount of space – 512MB. That was amazing back in 2001. Then the service became paid and I stopped using it. There have been numerous cloud-type services offered after that. And then came Google. Google docs took cloud technology to a different level. Now you could not only store and share files on a cloud. You could created them right there on that cloud and save them without any sync or without stuffing your computer hard drive with files. Besides Google, we have also seen Microsoft offering their cloud as well. Recently it was Apple that announced their iCloud to the world. All these options stirred the waters of pros and cons of cloud technology. How do we know what’s better than the rest?
|Cloud + Web(browser-based cloud technology)||Cloud + Software(desktop software syncs with the cloud – the best of both worlds – the internet part is behind the scenes)||Slogan: “Software Plus Services”(similar to Apple’s idea but MS failed to realize it the way Apple did)|
In other words, it took Microsoft a long time to figure things out while Apple kept trying to take a share in the cloud business (MobileMe, .Mac). Now we have a change of direction. As a user it is pretty much up to you to decide which option is best for you: Google’s web=based cloud; or Apple’s combination of software and web; or Microsoft’s . What would that mean for an educator? Of course you are faced with the usual concerns that any other user will have – security and privacy of information (Can anyone access or edit my files?), ease of use (How easy is it to incorporate cloud technology into my teaching and my students’ learning?), reliability and accessibility (Will I be able to access everything easily from anywhere? Do I need to worry about losing files and data?), etc. These are valid concerns. However, the security and maintenance of the cloud servers is almost 100% reliable nowadays. Unless you set the permissions for someone to access and edit your files, they will not be able to do so simply because they don’t know if your files exist (unless you tell them so). The technology is quite reliable. As long as you have Internet connectivity, you’re good to go. Accessibility is becoming easier and most providers of cloud technology have different access options – smart phones, laptops, web browsers, etc.
Cloud technology is starting to make its way into education and its use is gaining speed. However, few educators understand cloud technology and how to use it effectively in their work. Here’s a few of the benefits of using clouds for education:
- Enhanced collaboration and team work
- Instructor involvement as a contributor to students’ projects and work
- The technology is cheaper (most times free for end-users)
- Exchange of content between educators and between educators and students
- Great opportunity for backup which happens instantly and automatically
- You access your data and tools any time from anywhere and any device
- It’s reliable as cloud systems have virtually indestructible security and run practically with no interruption
In other words, although some campuses are slow to embrace Web 2.0 and cloud technology, education will be hugely impacted by the development of the latter. The truth is, once you start using clouds, you won’t be able to come back on the ground – transferring data and creating data on a cloud is so easy that there is no need for special preparation. It’s a matter of diving into it.
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