Cloud Computing

Costs, Collaboration, and the Digital Divide

Amy Atkinson, Alison Fenlon, Nicolle Rivera

This paper explores the merits of cloud computing within a public school community and how educators might best harness the power of this emerging technology for the benefit of our colleagues and students.

The model’s most obvious benefit is its capacity for cost-reduction. With storage and applications — and their automated updates — living on the cloud rather than on individual computers, software licensing, computer storage capability, and maintenance/support decrease notably, translating into reduced costs. Printing costs — printers, toner, paper — also potentially dwindle with electronic submission of documents that can, in turn, be graded electronically.

Furthermore, cloud computing allows for increased communication among and between teachers and students. The nature of the cloud allows review, edits, and assessment to transpire fairly seamlessly, enabling group projects and giving of feedback to occur in real time. This also allows collaboration across geographic distances, so students unable to get together with their peers in person can still have a virtual meeting and sharing of information.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the consideration of cloud computing in light of the digital divide. While this mode of information-sharing certainly presents challenges when we consider students who may not have computers at home, this model also ensures that students need only Internet connectivity to access cloud contents. They can then work without worry of having to be on a particular machine with a particular piece of software; rather, they can jump on any computer with Internet access — including workstations in the classroom or on netbooks provided by the school — to proceed with their assignments. Students who perhaps do not know where they will find themselves the next day can still move forward with assignments.

These benefits coupled with the question of — and intense need for — equitable access among students, how can we, as educators, bring out the best in cloud computing and use it to bring out the best in our students? This paper both establishes the merits of the system as well as how we might navigate the digital divide to make sure such a system serves all students and teachers, allowing quality education to emerge alongside this technology.

Follow the links on the right side of this page for more information about implementing cloud technologies in public schools, the costs associated with it, and a discussion of cloud computing and the digital divide.

Additionally, find a comprehensive list of resources used throughout this paper here.

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