Teaching with the Cloud in a Connected Global World
Guest Blogger: Sam Bowling
What do you think of when someone says, "Oh, that file is in the cloud!" You might envision a fluffy nimbus cloud floating around your head that you can pick files out of at will. But what is the cloud really? Where do the things we put in the cloud live? How can you use the cloud as a teacher or student? We'll answer all of those questions, but first let's take a look at what people mean when they refer to the cloud.
The cloud is a fun (and useful!), moniker for a group of internet connected servers. Those servers are basically very capable computers, not unlike the one you might be using to read this post. Each server stores data, anything from pictures to your latest stab at the next great American novel, and allows you to access your data from any internet connected device. Servers can be configured to efficiently share resources between multiple users or dedicated to be accessed by just one individual. Each configuration has its benefits as well as levels of security. For example, a university may decide to deploy a dedicated private cloud setup (many servers networked to work together), because only the university's data would be stored on those servers. This gives the university more control over who has access to the server, which in turn increases data security.
Now that you know what the cloud is, how can you use it in the classroom? Cloud servers give us the potential to instantly connect and collaborate with educators and students around the world. Many universities use the cloud to host free online classes that students can watch or listen to in their free time. There are also many collaborative tools like Blackboard that help teachers foster student discussion and easily curate a list of links to recommended readings to enhance learning outside of the classroom.
Another type of online classroom that has been facilitated by the rise of cloud computing is the Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs, as they are called, offer a collaborative learning environment for students and teachers. The courses are often a series of recorded video lectures that students watch and use to complete prescribed coursework. Classroom forums allow for discussion and interaction with other students and the teacher. As we head into a more interconnected, cloud-based world, collaboration in education continues to grow.
The cloud is an amazing educational tool, but it can also make our everyday lives easier. We now have access to our email from anywhere (If you use Gmail, you are in the cloud on a daily basis!). The cloud also gives us on-demand access to books, videos and other media. Daily commutes are now filled with interesting new articles or podcasts that deliver education and entertainment in an easy-to-consume package. Anyone who uses social media is also using the cloud. Many social platforms maintain servers around the world to store and deliver users' updates and photos to their friends. The cloud is malleable and can be used in myriad ways, both as an educational tool and as an easy way to connect and share with friends.
Cloud technology has thrust our world into an exciting period of connectivity where anyone can gain exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking that would have otherwise been unavailable. The global classroom is helping educators expand their students' worldviews and bring collaborative education to the next level. Have you used the cloud to collaborate with your students or teachers? What do you think is the most important aspect of cloud-based computing? Let us know!
Sam Bowling is a Senior Infrastructure Engineer at SingleHop, LCC. SingleHop, LLC is a provider of public and private cloud services.