Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

Summary: As we talk more about thin clients, netbooks, social networking and other devices in Ed Tech that really lend themselves to cloud-based computing, I have to ask myself, could I live in the Cloud? In the ideal little technically-savvy, netbook-driven world I'm concocting in my head, I'm certainly expecting the students (and preferably the teachers) I serve do the majority of their work in the cloud.

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TOPICS: Mobility, CXO, Hardware
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As we talk more about thin clients, netbooks, social networking and other devices in Ed Tech that really lend themselves to cloud-based computing, I have to ask myself, could I live in the Cloud? In the ideal little technically-savvy, netbook-driven world I'm concocting in my head, I'm certainly expecting the students (and preferably the teachers) I serve do the majority of their work in the cloud. If I can't eat my own dog food, so to speak, then something is remiss.

Not that I think "cloud computing," as the buzz word of the week, is equivalent to dog food. On the contrary, I think that it has extraordinary potential and can solve some serious problems relating to hardware costs, maintenance, and communication/collaboration models in educational technology. It just isn't the way most of us tend to work.

We create our Word documents (or OpenOffice Writer documents), our spreadsheets, and our presentations on a computer, store it on a hard drive or a USB pen drive, and call it a day. Too often, adventurous or collaborative means emailing the document to colleagues, friends, or students. This isn't a terrible model, but it doesn't promote sharing. I'm not talking about everybody getting to use the toys in the sandbox, but rather the sort of working together that sums up "21st Century Skills."

It also doesn't promote longevity of the things we produce. Hard drives die, files get lost, thumb drives get run through the washing machine (my wife really hates it when I leave them in my pockets). We switch jobs, get hit by buses, or otherwise move on. Documents that live somewhere in the ether, though, can live on.

Finally, the Word-document-on-a-hard-drive model doesn't promote the sort of openness and transparency appropriate for educators. Especially in public education, we shouldn't have anything to hide (except for confidential student information). Working in the cloud, or simply making sure that deliverables are available in an online forum, enables that mentality of collaboration that is so important for students and teachers. Why should a teacher with a good idea in a school only have that idea benefit their classroom? And why should students simply turn in essays when everyone in the class can benefit from their thoughts and mutual constructive criticism?

At least that's the theory, right? So here's my goal for the week. Office suites are off limits, my email client won't get opened, Google Docs and WikiSpaces will be my home away from home, and I'll see just where I come up short when I don't use any applications outside the browser on my various computers. What else do I need to do to make sure that I can access and work on what I need, anytime, anywhere? I'll find out and give you an update at the end of the week. If it goes well, then I'm going to feel a lot better about promoting the purchases of cheap, durable netbooks with cheap, durable, small flash drives.

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Hardware

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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24 comments
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  • Flash drives aren't durable

    You'd better stick with the old-fashioned hard disks. Flash drives wear out quickly, especially the cheap MLC kind (used in the Acer Aspire One 110).

    Plus the current flash drives are extremely slow in performance, especially in *writing* data. Not good if you want to be able to restore quickly an image of a clean installation.

    Good luck in the cloud! :-)
    pjotr123
  • Google Chrome...

    ...allows you save web apps like Google Docs to your desktop and run them as Desktop apps just in a browser window without back/forward buttons etc, so you all the screen real estate is available for the app, but its still running from the net.

    Is this allowed in your week in the Cloud?

    I think this could help promote Web Apps as they will run like Desktop Apps without the need to switch between tabs. Also as each Chrome tab is a seperate process if Chroms falls over you won't lose your work (unless its the app that falls over)...
    DevJonny
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Keen to see how you get on. GoogleDocs doesn't work; we know that already (limit of file size is too low, collaborators can't access documents without setting up new accounts under the guidance of specialists). But I work in a multi-site organization cursed by Lotus Notes, so I'm keen to see if collaboration is possible in the way that Notes and GoogleDocs promise but don't deliver.
    Patrick Neylan
    • Can you clarify

      What you mean by this:
      "collaborators can't access documents without setting up new accounts under the guidance of specialists"?

      Interested to understand what problems you are having.

      Thanks
      thelivo
      • It's difficult

        Some of my coworkers were really confused about setting up a Google account with their own e-mails and it thwarted my attempt to share some documents via. GDocs.

        On another topic ... A WEEK? Are you kidding me? That's enough time to just put off any work that you don't need to do during the period. It won't tell you anything.

        I did the same experiment in November, but it was THIRTY DAYS, and I didn't hit some of my real problems until the third week. A single is not enough.

        Chris, take a look at my (almost) daily account of thirty days in the browser: http://theosisdead.blogspot.com
        daengbo
        • GoogleDocs doesn't work anyway

          It's a nice idea, and I'd like to see how you get on because this could signal my escape from the nightmare of Lotus Notes.

          Sadly, Google Docs just doesn't work yet. Even those with Google mail accounts find it difficult, and those without find it impossible.

          So far, The Cloud suffers from the "double-half downgrade" common to most computer technology: the average Joe can only make it do half of what it promises to do, and only for half the time.
          Patrick Neylan
          • It doesn't?

            Why does GoogleDocs not work yet?
            Corsulian
          • Worked fine for me

            The Utah Colleges Exit Poll committee used Google Docs to produce a number of collaborative documents from the different divisions. We bought a domain for a $1, set up Google Apps (took one tech guy [me] to do that), gave everybody an account and...boom. We took off. We had four or five people all working on the same document at the same time and the professors could easily access the documents to check on progress. I'd say it was a great success.
            p0figster
          • The challenge is getting my coworkers used to cloud computing

            When I share a doc or spreadsheet with a coworker, and ask them several days later to find it, they invariably go to their Outlook inbox. It's a tough habit to break: sending files back and forth and filling up inboxes.
            ebayfield
  • Possible

    Content providers and producers will continue to need desktop or laptops with lots of hard drive space and applications, but I think education is NOT uniquely positioned for cloud and net computing. Basic home users could benefit from the simplicity of this computing model.

    Our business is trying out a new web based accounting service from a group that left MYOB a few years back. There are some other key application categories that need killer apps brought to the cloud. If this transition can happen fairly quickly and with a reliability that is necessary for people to feel comfortable, maybe cloud computing has a bright future ahead.
    lundp@...
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Referring to the "confidential student information" example you mention, the cloud can actually work much better for securing that information as well. Student records are much better protected when they are accessed/manipulated through a secure server at the institution, and *never* stored on local media.
    david.ward
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    If Google Docs doesn't do it, there are more alternatives to explore ... Zoho, for instance? Some of the web-based desktop alternatives?

    I, too, am interested to learn how you avoid the hard-drive or a thumb-drive -- I keep finding I need them to move stuff from one web-based platform to another.
    tmdowling@...
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Cloud computing for students and educators is the ideal
    way to support collaboration and making access to
    applications completely free and equal. It would be a
    wonderful thing to promote solely in the education
    environment but there is still a number of students and
    educators who do not have access to fast and reliable
    broadband services. Until these problems are "fairly"
    overcome, then there will always be the reservations.
    Instead of the ubiquitous response of "the dog ate my
    homework", we'll get, "I was unable to access the Internet,
    due to my overpriced and unreliable ISP".
    wmparry
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Christopher, after going thru a 4 year long divorce having my kid on Tuesdays and Thursdays going to grandma's house to do homework on a slow PC and homework and school books being left in the back seat of my car, etc??????, and all of the things that go along with that life style, I adopted cloud computing long before it was called cloud computing. The ability for my kid to be able to get to school and pull down her work from the net if she left it at home (or in my car) saved the day more than once.


    Based on the tough life I have had to live during that 4 year period, I developed a solution for everyone and am rolling it out within the next 60 days. Christopher, for you, I am providing a session to my cloud based solution (I will e-mail you the credentials). Today the cloud based solution is in private beta and does not have all of the bells and whistles, but these things will follow in short order and meet your requirements of true cloud computing.

    If any of the other readers want to get a feel for the future of cloud computing, go to www.tvwgroup.net (Web Site under development) and sign up for your own beta cloud computing session. I think it will address all of the points brought out in this article (http://www.tvwgroup.net/Beta_Test.html).

    In closing, I work with a group that holds computer competitions for H.S. students (bdpa) and the question became how to handle the data and USB sticks was the short term answer. This solution is no where near the best solution when you can compute in the clouds with the solution that I offer.

    Have fun in the clouds everybody I have been there and I love it.
    stewman@...
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    I have lived in Gmail and Google Docs since 2004. I have used 21% of my 7283 MB storage. My students - 15 at the small private school where I teach - all use Gmail and Google Docs. When we work on long papers, I have them share the document with me. I insert comments, and they make the corrections. Sometimes they are online at the same time in the evening so we use Google Docs as a chat room at the bottom of their document. I create study guides, assign questions, and they share their answers on a shared Google Doc.
    henrythill
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    I've been using Docs for the past year at the
    university that I teach at. t love, students love it,
    and coworkers love it. The only thing I don't use it
    for is docs containing student private information, up
    here in Canada we are afraid of the Patriot Act.
    http://googlescloud.blospot.com
    P.S. I haven't used a USB drive in 8 months
    Shuelin
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Do it and let us know! I'm interested.
    Vahidm
  • Absolutely you can

    I practically do all my work there now. I'm a firm
    believer in Web 2.0 and the apps available from Google
    Docs to Zoho (my favorite online office suite) to
    Picnik and hundreds of others make it easy and
    convenient. I agree that once you start working the
    cloud, operating systems and computers become
    insignificant...it's all about the browser and the
    speed of the connection.
    rick@...
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    The question is why any one would want to. By any other name it is still SAS and remote storage. I want, not trust neither.

    Yes, doing it your self takes more work and usually a bit more money, but putting your collective storage and apps in one remote location, administered by others opens a whole new can of worms when it comes to privacy from others such as hackers and big brother included.
    rdhalsteatzd
  • RE: Can I live in the Cloud for a week?

    Our company has been in the "cloud" for a few months now with a new application that we've purchased. Cloud computing is certainly a new way of doing business, but the transparency that it fosters is amazing. There is much more collaboration going on, and a lot less complaining about being out of the loop. If it's in the cloud everyone has access to it and no one can plead ignorance.

    Get into the cloud. It's the wave of the future.
    SeanaM762