What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing refers to expandable, on-demand services and tools that are served to the user via the Internet from specialized data centers and consume almost no local processing or storage resources. Cloud computing resources support collaboration, file storage, virtualization, and access to computing cycles, and the number of available applications that rely on cloud technologies has grown to the point that few education institutions do not make some use of the cloud, whether as a matter of policy or not. Over the past few years, cloud computing has been firmly established as an efficient way for businesses to protect data, develop applications, deliver software and online platforms, and to collaborate. Education institutions are deploying similar cloud-based strategies to boost collaboration, productivity, and mobility in teaching and learning.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Google Apps for Education (GAFE) alone may have made Cloud Computing yesterday's news for many if not most schools, so this topic might need to be retired soon. As many of you know, though, Google stuff...even GMail...is not available in China without a VPN. At our school, we're giving up on this situation ever changing, so we're considering Zoho (https://www.zoho.com/) as an alternative. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Many schools and education Ministries across the world are using Office365 to offer cloud-based email, productivity applications and collaboration tools. For instance, in Finland, every single municipality offers O365 to school students. Increasing numbers of schools are also setting up social network environments using Yammer, one of the components of O365 to be able to offer a more student-friendly collaboration experience. - alexa.joyce alexa.joyce Apr 7, 2016 The same in Croatia - teachers have free access to Office 365. - arjana.blazic arjana.blazic Apr 20, 2016
  • The demand for access to the Internet keeps increasing, using the cloud provides the services that are accessible 365/24/7 for students and staff. The cost of bandwidth keeps decreasing but the demand for different educational resources keeps increasing while education budgets keep decreasing in school districts. Using cloud provides these services at a cheaper cost because there is no need to maintain systems or to have the correct environment to run these systems. Also, human resources can then be re-focused on other needs of the district. Most districts cannot afford to have salaried staff members that have the technical expertise to run these major systems therefore if these services are in the cloud, the technical expert is in the cloud also. Cloud-based resources also provides for the Disaster Recovery Plan of the school district. - spaul6414 spaul6414 Apr 30, 2016Sandra Paul

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Classroom management should be mentioned, I think. Google Classroom is developing quickly for GAFE users. No Zoho equivalent per se, but Project might come close. The plan right now is just to use the Zoho website and wiki tools to approximate Classroom functionality. Everything else is there: Docs, Sheets, etc. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Many adaptive and personalized learning systems are also cloud-based. Analyzing student interaction and big data relating to education is also increasingly shifting to the cloud. For instance Tacoma School District in the US is using Azure Machine Learning and analytics tools to be able to identify students at risk of dropping out, and test the effectiveness of drop out prevention measures.
  • Extending the life of devices also plays into using the cloud. There is no need to have extensive local resources for a device to work. All is needed is access to the Internet. - spaul6414 spaul6414 Apr 30, 2016Sandra Paul

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • We have all the usual reasons for wanting to use a suite of tools similar to GAFE: paperwork reduction, standardized tools, etc. But one of our biggest motivations is intellectual property preservation. Right now we have teachers using a variety of websites, wikis, etc. When a teacher leaves, all of this work tends to get lost in cyberspace. We want everyone working on the same platform to solve this problem. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • Another key issue relates to data protection and identity management. Having a cloud-based identity management approach (with SSO) like O365 ID or Azure ID means you can more effectively manage permissions to students and teachers to use a suite of apps and content which have been licensed by a school, school district or country. This means that student and teacher data is more secure, and isn't scattered across multiple apps and systems with different logins and passwords. The upshot particularly for younger students is that learning is less disrupted by forgotten passwords and logins as they always use the same identity - a major barrier that teachers cite for using online tools with younger students. Cloud-based tools also take away the extra work required for the school in terms of managing infrastructure, meaning their ICT experts can focus on ICT-based pedagogy rather than IT maintenance. - alexa.joyce alexa.joyce Apr 7, 2016 Agree. The amount of data from these systems is enormous and therefore the need to protect students and staff from data-mining is important. I disagree with the Single Sign-On as being more secure because as more services, such as Google, open their API for students to use with other vendor services, it can led to more hacking and DDoS for school districts especially during critical times such as state testing. - spaul6414 spaul6414 Apr 30, 2016Sandra Paul

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • As mentioned, we hope to be the pilot hub for Project Zoho soon. If it works out, our entire foundation...and sister foundation...will be adopting it too. Zoho, traditionally for business, has certainly recognized the importance of the education market: https://www.zoho.com/projects/education-project-management.html But as for how many schools are using it, or considering it? I don't know. Schools in China alone would make for a great market!
    - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 4, 2016
  • All Microsoft Showcase Schools are using O365 and other cloud-based MS solutions: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/school-leaders/showcase-schools/default.aspx - alexa.joyce alexa.joyce Apr 7, 2016
  • We are still in the beginning stages of this in the district, but the plan is to have a hybrid model. Some services will be all in the cloud while others will on a private cloud that is run by the district. - spaul6414 spaul6414 Apr 30, 2016Sandra Paul

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