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Cloud Computing Tools for Education

Teachers can no longer successfully lead a classroom, or handle the administrative duties of teaching, without using digital tools. Cloud computing tools for education are among the most important and practical tools they can use for either reason.

While only about a decade old, cloud computing programs have become central to people’s professional and personal lives. They include many services that people use online, from sending email and editing documents to watching movies and television and listening to music.

Cloud computing allows people to store and access files and digital tools via the Internet, rather than taking up space on their computer hard drive. Schools have increasingly turned to cloud computing to trim costs. Also, because students are immersed every day in digital tools, educators can get more effective results by using a medium that students understand.

Fresno Pacific University designed its Cloud Computing for Educators course to give teachers the skills they need to take advantage of the wealth of free cloud computing tools available. Teachers in the online course can “test drive” many different Internet tools for word processing, presentation, spreadsheets, portfolio creation and management, images and video.

Kevin Scritchfield, who teaches the Cloud Computing for Educators course, said the course allows educators to develop necessary skills for the modern classroom.

“In today's world, a teacher’s knowledge of cloud computing is becoming more and more essential to the everyday tasks of their job—both in terms of the day-to-day administration of their duties and in the teaching of their curriculum,” said Scritchfield, who holds a master’s degree in teaching and a bachelor’s degree in math.

A Class Designed for Educators

The Fresno Pacific Cloud Computing for Educators is one of many courses from the university that offers teachers the chance to expand their knowledge while earning professional credit (the cloud computing course offers 3 PD units).

The Fresno Pacific course focuses on giving teachers the skills they need to create cloud computing lesson plans immediately in their classrooms. Unlike a weekend workshop, teachers don’t just sit and listen. The course gives them in-depth, hands-on training.

Examples of cloud computing tools teachers use in the classroom include Google Docs, Skype and free online video service Animoto.

Learning From Mentors

Like many of his peers at Fresno Pacific, Scritchfield has experience in teaching and instructional design. He’s also presented at national and state conferences. He’s an expert in digital classroom technology and teaches on the subject at the graduate school level.

He said the course provides educators training not just for the classroom, but also for record-keeping and informational services. “Creating content, finding curriculum resources, building learning activities, all the way up to the actual teaching of their content lessons can all be done (and saved) within the cloud,” Scritchfield said.

“Students need to understand how cloud tools work to learn the way the world works and interacts outside of their classroom, so why shouldn’t it be part of the classroom itself?”

In the course, teachers learn how to communicate with students within the world of technology as well as instruct their students on how to use cloud tools to benefit their own workflow.

Specific Lessons From the Class

Students in the Cloud Computing for Educators course create a cloud-based portfolio of the resources within the course, which gives them an example for their own students in creating digital portfolios.

Other specific areas where educators will learn how to work with cloud computing include the following:

  • Participating in a multi-user, collaborative document creation process and sharing their created documents with the instructor of the course
  • Creating multiple examples of presentations using cloud-based tools that can easily be shared with their students
  • Using cloud storage services, bookmarking reference sites and learning to share files and calendars across the web
  • Experiencing how to learn more about their craft and connect with teachers from all over the globe to share lesson activities, teaching tools and classroom resources
  • Creating multiple types of videos intended to act as instructional devices for students as well as tools that they can use themselves for class projects
  • Learning shortcut options for creating class content and tracking student assignment submissions in a much easier format
  • Creating a culminating activity to incorporate all the above into specific lesson plans for their own students while all along the way adding each of these hands-on activities into that original portfolio

Teachers also get example lesson plans in the course. One, designed for eighth-grade students, involves teaching the Pythagorean theorem. The plan includes YouTube videos, Google Docs, Google Slides, Socrative and creating an animated video using Animaker or Moovly. Students learn to understand the Pythagorean theorem and how to use it to find the distance between two points and the length of the missing side of a triangle.

Other lesson plans include using hyphens correctly and animal adaptation.

One teacher who took the class said she used what she learned to create a presentation that included screencasting, Animoto, Prezi and Livebinders. “Several of my colleagues want to learn these for themselves. I offered them both my help and the link to sign up for the course on FPU,” the teacher wrote. “I feel like I’ll be able to build up my repertoire of lessons to the point where I’ll just be the facilitator as the students learn for themselves.”

The Cloud Computing for Educators course focuses on providing educators the tools they need to make them more organized and proficient at using innovative cloud computing tools for education. They also learn how to make their lesson plans more engaging for today’s digitally oriented generation of students.