In this particular article, the author, J.K. Waters, highlights two middle schools that have recently made the transition to cloud computing. The first school, the Minnesota Online High School (MNOHS), uses a learning management system to connect its teachers and over 300+ students to online classes. Prior its switch to cloud computing, MNOHS relied on CD software distribution. Distribution required a lot of the school’s time and money, encompassing massive detailed inventories and having staff available for maintenance, training and troubleshooting problems. MNOHS launched a pilot program with Simtone, a provider of cloud-computer services, to test-drive cloud computing last spring.
What is cloud computing?
According to Waters, the basic idea behind cloud computing is that all components of an IT infrastructure, data storage and software are located on off-site servers maintained by outside providers, and which can be accessed by users through a web browser. With cloud computing, users can access a virtual desktop containing all of their programs, applications and data, anywhere, anytime, through any web-enabled device. Other characteristics of cloud computing include its scalability (using more or less space), flexibility, and ease of access for everyone with Internet and electronic devices with web-browser functions.
For educators and technology specialists, it means that school computer systems are easier to maintain because there are no time-consuming inventories, no errors or problems to troubleshoot, and no regular maintenance schedules. It has proven to be a great relief, especially in light of budget cuts, to many school districts and individual schools, like Greenport and MNOHS.
Reflections on Cloud Computing
Personally I think cloud computing is a great innovative way to help shift students and colleagues from traditional paper classrooms to paperless classrooms. This year I have begun to experiment with various Web 2.0 tools and cloud-apps to try out paperless strategies in both my personal and professional lives. With the help of Google Apps and various other tools, I am amazed at the effect cloud computing has on me in just a few short months. Cloud computing has helped me centralize most of my data, cut down on paper use and physical storage devices, and streamline my work flows. An additional perk is the ease of collaboration between classmates and colleagues. If cloud computing had such a drastic effect on my own environment, I can only imagine the great sigh of relief from technology specialists whose school districts have made the move to cloud computing.
Making the move to cloud computing, however, takes time and adjustment. Not many individuals feel comfortable with the idea of putting their data out there. When I started to move my content from my desktop to the cloud, I was very wary. I worried about privacy, security, and the possibility of losing everything if the cloud was to somehow crash and dissipate. The obscurity of cloud computing also brings up many trust issues, and requires users to give up a certain degree of control. It does seem risky, but users should have realistic expectations when trying out new technologies. Education and safe online practices are great ways to balance out that risk.
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