Driven by a need to find more cost-effective ways to use technology in the classroom, many school districts turn to cloud computing tools. In addition to the lower cost, cloud computing opens the door for new teaching strategies and better student engagement.
The success of cloud computing tools in the classroom hinges on students who grew up with technology and are completely at ease putting it to use. Immersed in cloud-based technology in their personal lives, they quickly adapt to its use in the classroom.
Some education and training are required for teachers who may not be as familiar with the potential for cloud-based solutions. Fresno Pacific University has made cloud technology the focus of its professional development course, Cloud Computing for Educators.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing offers an efficient and cost-effective way to use technology. Over the past decade, businesses and individuals increasingly use cloud-based solutions for their computing needs. Schools now have joined this trend.
In the past, institutions used a local network with desktop computers connected to it. They stored all data on their own computer hardware. Everything operated within a closed system. Cloud-based computing has changed that.
With cloud computing technology, schools can store data via the internet with servers provided by a third party, such as Amazon Web Services. This eliminates the need for school districts to maintain large physical data centers and servers. Instead, they rely on the technology services of a third party, including computing power, databases, analytics programs, automated routine processes and storage.
Importantly, they only pay for services as needed rather than finance the development and maintenance of their own network. Schools also don’t need to pay as much for hardware or, in some cases, even textbooks for a class.
It’s a financial win for school systems. Fortunately, it also provides teachers access to powerful cloud computing tools, giving them more flexibility in engaging students.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
In the past, teachers had to convince school officials to buy software (or purchase it themselves) and load it into the local system for use in the classroom. Cloud computing offers them more flexibility.
With a reliable internet connection, teachers can access educational resources and upload content from wherever they are while using the device of their choice. The same is true for students when they want to access course materials online. Other examples of the many advantages of using cloud-based computing in the classroom include the following:
Virtual classrooms. Teachers can create virtual classrooms using third-party platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and BlueJean.
Secure data. By storing information on remote, secure databases offered by third parties, schools and teachers eliminate the risk of losing data through a system crash on the local servers.
Speed of innovation. Teachers can quickly update or change lesson plans based on what is and isn't working with students using cloud computing tools. They also can modify content as new tools become available.
Collaboration. Cloud-based tools allow teachers to set up virtual spaces where students can collaborate from any location using their favorite device.
Automation. Cloud computing also offers software systems to handle many of the routine tasks handled by school administration and teachers, freeing up time for more creative endeavors.
Ways to Use Cloud Computing in the Classroom
Every year, teachers discover more ways to put cloud computing tools to work. They have become an integral part of the modern classroom, especially with students comfortable receiving and synthesizing information received through technology.
Ideas for how to put cloud-computing to work include:
- Live lectures in situations where not all students can be in the classroom at once.
- Recorded lectures for students to listen to and take notes on at their convenience.
- Uploaded documents and links to resources for students.
- Online textbooks.
- Posting grades.
- Virtual tours to distant places.
- Creating online quizzes.
- Chat rooms and discussion boards where students can meet and collaborate (such as Google Hangouts).
- Creating dashboards to track student progress.
- Portfolio services.
- Conduct meetings with parents.
FPU’s Cloud Computing for Educators Course
The potential of cloud computing tools in the classroom is so enormous that many teachers have committed to learning about the technology as part of their professional development. Recognizing the importance of this topic, Fresno Pacific has made its Cloud Computing for Educators class one that teachers can apply toward earning a Classroom Technology Integration Certificate.
Teachers who take the course master many tasks using free cloud-based services, including word processing, creating presentations, spreadsheets, portfolios, images and video, and web documents.
The course emphasizes projects based on typical class assignments that will engage students through technology. Participants also learn programs that help teachers and administrators automate daily duties.
The goal is to educate teachers on the many uses of cloud computing tools and the many ways they can make their jobs easier and better organized. It’s beneficial for teachers but increasingly necessary as technology becomes more fully integrated into the classroom.