Head in the Clouds: Why Public Schools are Embracing Cloud Computing

Head in the Clouds: Why Public Schools are Embracing Cloud Computing
Learn about the growing popularity of cloud computing in public schools and its benefits to both teachers and students.
Two factors have given way to a shift in the focus of technology in the classroom. The need to cut state and district education budgets across the country forces school administrators to find cheap, yet effective, ways to educate their students. Educators are also realizing that many students are already immersed in the technology slowly getting introduced in classes. By bringing technology into the classroom, teachers can hone in on methodology that students are familiar with, leading to more effective teaching strategies and better results.

These two factors are now ushering cloud computing into a number of classrooms across the United States, allowing teachers to use the technology for conducting lessons, performing student assessments and developing homework plans in a virtual teaching space.
Subscriptions for the cloud technology are usually less than the purchase of software to facilitate a similar environment, and students and faculty alike usually adapt to the online approach much better than grappling with software installation and implementation.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing uses the Internet for much of the functionality that has traditionally been offered by software installations. The term "cloud" refers to the Internet and is similar to the network diagrams used by both phones and computers in the past. According to the website for Smart Schools, services included in cloud computing are:
  • Google Apps
  • Google Maps
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft Windows Live
Previous technology generations placed all of their functionality into a local network to which desktops were connected. Today, the network is the Internet, and the benefits of such a switch are immense, according to the Microsoft website. Advantages to cloud computing for education include:
  • Cost – Cloud computing can usually be purchased in a subscription or on a pay-as-you-go plan. These rates are usually much lower than what you would pay to purchase software and the tools to implement it.
  • Flexibility – Cloud computing allows you to scale your infrastructure to your specific needs. You can also adjust your cloud computing scale as changing circumstances require.
  • Accessibility – Cloud computing offers public access to all pertinent products and services, without jeopardizing sensitive information.
In addition to these benefits, cloud computing brings students into the latest technological advances, preparing them more adeptly for life outside the classroom. Since many students are using similar technology at home, most adapt to the cloud computing tools relatively easy.
Ways to Incorporate Cloud Computing into the Classroom
There are numerous ways cloud computing can be used to enhance the classroom experience. Some of these ways, according to Smart School, include:
  • As a convenient teaching tool for teachers and students alike
  • To assist in the transformation from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) to Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), allowing for customization of the environment to meet the student's specific needs
  • To diminish the need to back up files on a disc or portable device, since files can now be saved to blogs or online groups
  • To provide a wealth of information that is available anytime and anywhere
  • Can be used as a personal work space for teachers, students and administrators
  • To offer larger amounts of processing power to all users
Instead of students and teachers interacting solely in the classroom, the ability for social networking greatly expands access to educators and other students alike. Now those in public schools will be able to share ideas and work together on projects – all from the comfort of home.
Schools Implementing Cloud Computing
Some schools have quickly jumped onboard the technology bandwagon to discover how Google Apps enhances the learning experience. Oregon is the first state to adopt Google Apps for Education in all of their public schools, according to a report in PCMag.com.
The state estimates the move will save their Department of Education $1.5 million each year at a time when funding is very tight. While all the school districts will have cloud computing available to them, each will make an individual decision on whether and when to implement it into classrooms.
Other school districts giving Google Apps for Education a try include Prince George County in Maryland and Maine Township High School District. New York City Intermediate School 339, located in an under-resourced community in the Bronx, is also using the technology. According to a case study published on the Google website, the principal of the school, Jason Levy, reports, "We've moved from 22% of kids being on grade level in math to 47%. Behavior has improved, attendance is higher and suspension levels have fallen."
Moving to cloud computing in education is much easier with Google Apps for Education. This trend may continue to grow, encompassing more and more schools that are interested in giving their students the best start possible.
Questions? Contact us on Facebook @publicschoolreview.
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