By Doug Johnson
Computing in the Clouds
Is there a storm looming on your school’s budgetary horizon? Cloud computing may offer a silver lining.
T eachers and administrators for grades K– 12, pay attention: The program I used to write this
article and the place I stored it may be
just as important as the content you’ll
read in it.
Why would you care how I handle
my files? Because following my example may save you time and money.
Consider these facts:
• I wrote this article without the aid
of word processing software loaded
on my computer.
• I used several computers in several
locations to write this article without using a flashdrive to move the
• I shared this article with the editors
of L&L without attaching it to an
• I saved my electronic draft in a
place where I will have access to
the content, even if my laptop is
lost, the external hard drive where
I keep my backups fails, and the
new version of Microsoft Office
refuses to open my file format.
• And I am doing all of these things
at no cost.
How did I do it? I used the cloud.
Chances are, you have too. Have you
ever used a Web-based e-mail program?
How about an online photo-editing
tool? Or maybe you’ve been invited
to collaborate on a wiki or on Google
Docs, a set of online productivity tools
that allows the creation of documents,
spreadsheets, presentations, and surveys. All of these use cloud computing.
For schools, this may be very
good news, and not a moment
too soon. Cloud computing, you see,
has the potential to offer
staff and students better
services at a lower cost
than the technology deployment
models they’re using now. And
saving money and improving ef-ficiencies are two areas where schools
can use all the help they can get.
The term cloud computing originated
from the cloud metaphor and graphic
that often represent the Internet on
network diagrams, because cloud
computing relies on applications and
file storage that reside on a network—
either a local-area network, a district
intranet, or the Internet itself.
This offers several real advantages.
Because the files and the programs
are all stored elsewhere, your local
computer doesn’t have to hold much
on its hard drive, so it can run faster
or be smaller. And you can work on
any project, anywhere, no matter what
computer you’re using. If you’re
on a computer with Internet
access—whether it is on your
desk at school, on your lap
at home, in any computer
lab or coffee shop in the world, or
at Grandpa’s house—you can work
without worrying about transporting
files on flashdrives, keeping track of
the latest version of a document, or
having the right software to open a
file. You can easily share and collaboratively edit your files with others in
a cloud-based application, such as a
wiki or Google Docs, as well.
Unlike most software that resides
on computer hard drives, Web-based
applications that perform a wide array
of productivity tasks are free. These
tools may not be as comprehensive as
Office or Adobe Photoshop, but they
often have surprisingly full feature
sets and are compatible with standard