Using the “cloud” seems to promise the ability to break free from a traditional computer, but for many people, the term feels much more, dare we say, cloudy. What is the cloud, and where does it live? When are we using it, and is it safe? People use the cloud on a daily basis without needing to understand exactly how it works, but reviewing a few simple concepts about the foundation of the technology can point to some great services and strategies to use in the classroom.

Essentially, the cloud allows information and programs that would usually be stored on an individual computer or hard drive to live outside of that computer and be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Because the data is no longer stored on local computers, it’s life without a hard drive of your own. The information is kept by a third party and can only be accessed by password-protected routes into a specific account.

The cloud can be leveraged in hundreds of different ways, from building large pieces of software to sharing photos of a family reunion, but has been particularly revolutionary in the classroom because of the flexibility and security keeping work in the cloud provides. Below are some ways to swap out old strategies with new; all in the cloud.

INSTEAD OF HANDING BACK PAPERS…

Crumpled rough drafts of lab reports, stacks of edits that aren’t incorporated into work -- there’s a lot of room for improvement in the traditional back and forth transfer of written work, between teacher and student. Cloud applications allow you to concurrently work on a student’s paper without saving and emailing, printing, or handing out anything. Companies and tools are growing everyday to help support this new building block of teaching and learning.

Give feedback in a real time and accessible way for all your students.

Give feedback in a real time and accessible way for all your students.


INSTEAD OF MEETING DAYS…

Teachers are always searching for more time, and unfortunately, collaboration and support between adults on campus can often slip through the cracks. Rather than needing to cram meetings into an already full day, departments can set up shared folders for curriculum, work together on lesson plans in real time, and keep any meeting notes publicly viewable.

Face-to-face meetings are no longer required either -- a quick Google Hangout or Skype session means that you can touch base with colleagues across the city (or just across the building!) without leaving your classroom. Time spend together is more efficient and meaningful, allowing you to cover more ground when you are able to find time in a busy schedule.


Use comments to work out details and give feedback on shared resources, no meeting room required.

Use comments to work out details and give feedback on shared resources, no meeting room required.

INSTEAD OF LECTURES…

So much wonderful, curated content exists on the web that can be shared in the cloud with students. Students can watch selected videos that can prepare them for the next day’s lesson, or you can create your own videos to help differentiate instruction for students that have fallen behind. Comment features allow students to ask (and answer each other’s!) questions, and you’ve created a classroom environment without dedicating precious instructional time.

Use online content, like the Khan Academy video above, to help students catch up or get ahead.

Use online content, like the Khan Academy video above, to help students catch up or get ahead.

INSTEAD OF CARRYING A LAPTOP…

Lesson content, assignments and presentations represent hours of work and iteration. Saving these resources in the cloud not only allows for collaboration, but keeps your work safe from all the occupational hazards of teaching. You can access your work from anywhere, anytime, meaning a lesson plan you made changes on at home will be in it’s updated state when you get to school, no laptop bag or USB stick required.

All your materials, accessible anywhere.

All your materials, accessible anywhere.

How are you using the cloud? Anything we missed? We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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