The big news Thursday, of course, was Google's outage for many of its services. Listening in on Twitter, one would have thought that we were all going to die painful fiery deaths or that several folks at Google should sacrifice themselves to similarly painful and fiery deaths. By Google's admission, this problem was caused by an internal routing error and represented a particularly "embarrassing" glitch.
Of course, this was a golden opportunity for naysayers to decry the cloud as immature, insecure, and otherwise not ready for any real mission-critical usage. Yet just the day before, SIMtone announced its partnership with the Minnesota Online High School to provide cloud-based virtual PCs via the cloud to its students.
I've talked about SIMtone before, discussing their efforts with an elementary school in Chapel Hill. This latest rollout with the Minnesota Online High School, however, really showcases the power of the technology. Essentially, all of the students enrolled in MNOHS have access, regardless of what computer or operating system they are using, to a fully-configured, Windows PC, loaded with learning software. The PC just happens to be virtual.
Students enrolled in this high school come from a variety of backgrounds across Minnesota and, for whatever reason, choose not to attend a traditional school. The school, though, can deliver the same content to every student and provide them with the same applications (including Geometer's Sketchpad and Adobe Elements) as long as they have access to broadband and a computer running Firefox or Internet Explorer.
According to their press release,
“Prior to this exciting pilot with SIMtone, it was a very cumbersome process to deliver applications and coursework to our home-based students,” said Ned Zimmerman-Bence, Executive Director of the Minnesota Online High School. “To equip our students and faculty with the required educational software, we had to ship every piece of software to each person. In addition, we found it difficult to support a variety of platforms including XP, Vista and Mac with our small technology staff. With the SIMtone Virtual PC service, we can provide our students and faculty with virtualized desktops from any computer at home or public library. Each virtual desktop is pre-loaded with course-crucial software including Microsoft Office, Geometer’s Sketchpad, Fathom and Adobe Premiere and Elements.”
The cloud is where it's at, kids. Is our reliance on Google a little bit scary? Sure, but the world didn't stop turning when our favorite cloud provider went down for a while. Computers crash and burn, servers die, Internet connections drop out. These things happen. However, to discount the cloud when companies like SIMtone (and Google, for that matter) are using it to deliver so much value in education would be like not washing your hands because a few germs might survive the soap and water.