Lately, in order to make a point about how the way we use the Web is changing, I’ve been saying in my presentations something along the likes of “you know, if you took this computer (pointing to my still somewhat shiny MacBookPro) and threw it in the river, it really wouldn’t mess up my life much. There’s almost nothing on here of any importance that isn’t out there on the Web somewhere.” I talk about my extensive use of Google Docs, Flickr, YouTube, Google Notebook and a host of open source software programs that are turning my computer into more of a connection device than a filing cabinet like all my old computers were. (I would miss the beautiful display, however.)
Of course, this raises some eyebrows, and I invariably get questions and comments along the lines of “How do you trust Google to keep your information secure?” or “What if you can’t get on the Web?” These invariably lead to conversations about how mobile devices and Web enabled phones are changing the landscape and how the potential reward of easy collaboration and sharing at this point at least outweigh the risk of losing files.
Between IBM’s recent announcement to build huge data centers to support “cloud computing” for its customers, Kevin Kelly’s recent Ted Talk about the next 5,000 days of the Web, and the continuing discussion on the Fast Forward blog, it’s pretty apparent that we are shifting away from our reliance on one or two devices to hold our information and that our focus is now becoming what devices give us easiest access to that information on the Web.
Few districts get the idea that if they think differently about how they create and store most of their information that there are potentially huge savings in the offing. I keep thinking about the New York City principal who told me she was required to spend $2,000 per laptop at her school because that’s what the bid contract said. Imagine what could happen there in terms of putting technology into kids’ hands with a little bit of re-envisioning right now. (And, obviously, that’s only a first step for many districts.)
Anyway, I’m curious. How much of your work is in the clouds these days? Know any districts who are starting to leverage these potentials?
(Photo: “San Francisco Clouds” by Zerega.)
Guy Trainin says
I fully expect to move more into the “clouds”. I do remember the days of working on stats with a server and not too fondly. Connectivity outside the western world is a great barrier too.
Uff! I consider myself living inside the “western world” and still the bandwidth in here prevents me from moving to the clouds 🙂
I have started with bliigo and of course I see that the future of the internet goes there.
Just yesterday I was talking to a fellow teacher who had been composing music and storing it in his pc without backing it!!! He was really sad and worried because he got a virus that destroys hard disks, so now he has to buy DVDs and burn all the information. That’s a horrible story, and I understand him a little bit because burning one DVD takes me an hour so it’s not a pleasant thing to do. We can’t wait till we have a faster bandwidth!!
Skip Zalneraitis says
Our district is taking a big step going into the cloud with PowerSchool. I use the online storage at Google and MobileMe AMAP. I woupd like to do more. I create a bit of a back up w/crucial stuff plus portableapps on an 8 gig stick.
Michele Falabella says
I have worked in a district where e-school has become a large part of the system. I was wondering if PowerSchool is similar. On e-school we can grade, take attendance, obtain student records. All of our required paperwork is in one place or on the cloud. It does save time.
Most of my stuff is online. I don’t even trust my hard drive anymore. 🙂 I’m way ahead of most of my faculty, though. They’re freaking out because we’re encouraging them to keep their email and their files on our servers rather than on their own hard drives.* They’re still tied to the idea that the hard drive is king and there’s a lack of trust of even local server solutions, much less a non-local solution like Google.
My documents are in Google. My photos are on Flickr. My writing is increasingly on my blog. My bookmarks are on del.icio.us and digg and diigo. Citations are on Citeulike. About the only thing that isn’t online is my music. I do have “hard drive” copies of everything, but I have put a fair amount of trust in these services and I think, for now, I’m right to do so.
* I’m serious about the freaking out. I have to meet with someone this week to calm them down about this.
Jim Leesch says
I have been slowly moving toward a cloud model of using computers (though I never heard that term until recently) for about 2 years now. As Google Docs gets more robust, and storage space from online sites gets cheaper and cheaper, I expect to be almost entirely mobile within the next year or two (with music being one of the large remaining obstacles to eliminating home storage).
I am puzzled by some of my colleagues (I’m a teacher) concerns about security of documents. What sort of classified information are they working with? I can understand why my wife’s corporation does not use such resources – they have legitimate concerns for industrial espionage, but teachers?
My only remaining concern is highlighted by the difficulty that twitter.com has experienced recently. If Google or these other “cloud” repositories goes down, I have no recourse. They have made no promises to me about my data, and my documents have left my control. This is a concern which causes me to keep local backups of everything, thus negating some of the benefits of moving my data “off-site.”
I recently got a MacBook Air to really test the idea of not doing anything locally — I have not (and will not) installed Office or Photoshop. When I get attachments that are .doc, I instantly upload it to Google Docs and work from there. I’ve been trying to write about it and share thoughts as well. I have been in this environment for about a month now and I am not willing to go back. I’d like to follow others who are living in the cloud and exploring new ways of thinking about it. The idea that the cloud is a safer environment is tough for people to grasp. Once you live there for a while it is really hard to go back.
Dave Waltman says
Our school, Webster Central School District is deciding this week on whether to adopt Google Apps for Educators. This has been my initiative for the school this summer…hopefully approval will be forthcoming. Initially, they only wanted to adopt for 12th graders. I pushed for 9-12. We’ll see what happens.
This May the data of about 6 million Chileans were posted online (I was in that list and Bachelet’s daughter too). More information here:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/12/chile
Recent investigations have discovered that there was no hacker… I suspect that Google can keep our information more secure than the Chilean government does.
I’ve already seen work in the clouds referred to as Web 3.0.
Robert Rowe says
I’ve been using Google Docs (and all the apps, actually) for over 2 years. While I still use OpenOffice occasionally, “the cloud” is my first choice. When I started relying on multiple computers, I also switched to Delicious and Flickr for my bookmarks and photos (photos are backed up on my harddrive as well, though).
I haven’t had a hard time with confidentiality in my district, but they’re Google Apps and other “cloudware” sites are very closely monitored by our tech admins (Google Docs was still filtered for the first part of the school year.)
Paul Bogush says
I am literally in the middle of an email to my tech head trying to convince him to allow me to use google docs next year. Up hill battle…
Gary Stager says
You miss the point if you believe that the primary use of computers is to store your words, sound or pictures. I am excited about the use of computers in education because they provide an intellectual laboratory for messing about with powerful ideas. Computers are also a vehicle for self-expression. The computer allows learners to construct knowledge in domains and ways impossible otherwise.
Using the technology for public speaking and blogging represents a tiny fraction of what computers can add to human development.
With all due respect, perhaps your computing needs are more modest than those of others. That’s fine, but hardly a blueprint to be copied without careful thought.
On a practical level, I just learned that I may have lost 10 years worth of professional writing because I trusted it to a company that is having difficulty maintaining servers. There is no reason to trust the cloud, unless our output is backed-up on multiple clouds. Google could disappear or change mission as quickly as they emerged.
Will Richardson says
“You miss the point if you believe that the primary use of computers is to store your words, sound or pictures.”
Um…where did I say that?
Won’t you agree, however, that the Web is facilitating a lot of the constructivist potential that only the computer box itself used to hold? i.e. Scratch?
Genuinely sorry about your writing. Maybe I should have been more clear about backing stuff up.
Will Richardson says
CCome to think of it, maybe Scratch isn’t the best example… But there is no doubt that we can construct more online these days and that will continue.
Kent Manning says
I have 3 external hard drives attached to my Mac Mini. Two for work [250 gig and 160 gig] and one for home 400 gig. I’m still importing HDV video from tape for home movies.
The reason for so much space – – video artifacts. They are huge. I keep them in uncompressed format [but should really learn how to compress some day].
I have the video clips all categorized by subject and topic for use in various classrooms in our district.
I use MobileMe and our district’s servers to store a lot of documents, but when it comes to video, I need to have it handy when I need it to show a group of teachers and students.
I don’t have too much video on-line. And if I do need to have a collection of video ready for folks to view, I’ll ftp the few clips to our district servers, whip up a quick page in Dreamweaver or Rapidweaver or the Gallery in MobileMe and then send it out to the folks who need it.
So for me cloud storage is great for smaller file documents but for video of decent resolution and quality, I store it on hard drives – – for now…
Our district has not yet embraced the cloud.
Laura Deisley/Deacs84 says
Know what Joyce Valenza does to store video? Uploads it to dummy Ning sites. She gets the embed codes she needs, the storage space, and with the Ning settings she gts “Privacy”. That makes video storage more palatable and less “public.” Now, if you want to hold onto some very special pieces that you don’t trust to the “cloud”…well, OK, use your own space.
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE: “dummy Ning sites” — finally, a good use for Ning!
Steve O'Connor says
My issue with cloud computing, particularly Google, is more about privacy than it is a concern over losing data. As an adult, I feel it is fine to decide whether or not to use something like Google Docs understanding that they are analyzing every move I make using their services for market purposes (Of course, let us not forget what Google has done for the Chinese government). It is another thing altogether for a teacher or school to tell their students to do so.
On another note, nobody should feel secure about their data unless it is in at least three places with at least one in another physical location.
Gary Stager says
I didn’t necessarily say that you missed the point. There was an IF in that sentence 🙂
The constructing in Scratch is done on the computer. The result is shared online. That may ultimately change to being entirely online though.
It doesn’t really matter to me where my product resides. I used to use the backup system of giving all my friends and colleagues hard copy of my stuff so I could ask people for a copy when I lost it.
I am just concerned that we limit the potential use of computers in education to one particular paradigm or person’s point of view.
I’ll be buying a new scanner and looking through the garage for hardcopy of the articles that may be irretrievable. Lots of stuff is on my hard drive somewhere too. I just didn’t need the extra time-consuming labor or embarrassment that comes from someone clicking on a dead link from my web site.
One Web 2.0 problem FOR ME is that a lot of the blog stuff I’ve written I’ve done online trusting that the system would preserve it. Alas, I was wrong.
Lanny Arvan says
I’m bifurcated. Collaborative work is done in the Cloud. Email is its own entity and that is stored on a College Exchange server, accessed on office computer, laptop via vpn, cell phone or via Browser on other computer. Then writing or other creations are stored on one computer before they are uploaded to some host for “publication.” The local archive is kept.
At this point I still prefer writing in Word than with Google docs. Those little green and blue squiggles in addition to the red ones help me in proof reading my own stuff and also I use the Thesaurus tool a lot (and then other dictionaries when that fails). Likewise, Excel still does a lot of stuff that Google Spreadsheet doesn’t, etc.
I don’t really understand why people wouldn’t do a local archive even if they work in the Cloud, but keeping multiple versions of a document locally is painful unless you have some rule that you stick to across all documents like – the last date is the one that’s published. Sometimes I edit after I publish the thing online. I don’t go back to change the local archive. I can live with that inconsistency.
My College also supports Sharepoint but it is less convenient than the Google tools, so we don’t use it much for within College collaboration.
Gary Stager says
SOME collaborative work is done in the cloud.
Lanny Arvan says
Well, I was speaking only about me. And I should clarify further. In an ongoing project, my experience is that the team members discuss which tools should be used for collaboration and in those discussions, Google docs has won. But there is quite a a bit of still relying on email attachments because the collaboration is more one shot, so there is no conversation about which tools to use.
BTW, my first name is Lanny, not Larry.
Gary Stager says
Sorry for the typo.
My company GlobalScholar and Excelsior have moved their products to web based systems. Schools no longer need to worry about keeping data safe and secure as we keep at least two copies of everything in data farms.
It’s private also as no one can view the data, not even us.
Alan Kwan says
Being an IT guy all my professional life, I just can’t accept the uncertainty of keeping my “stuff” on other people’s hardware. We can talk about Service Level Agreement, Contractual obligation, large enterprise reliability, and what have you all day. Ultimately, if something goes wrong, my “stuff” will be gone. Poof! Sorry, that’s unacceptable. I keep my own things. I keep backup of my own things. I keep a backup of a backup offsite (as in away from home in the safe deposit box at the bank). One can fail, sure. Two can fail, possible. All at the same time, not likely. As oppose to my “stuff” stored online. They don’t have to loose them for me to be in a bind. They can get hacked by someone else. Some disgruntle personnel could get grumpy (see San Francisco). Hardware can failed, so can backups. Not only that. I can loose Internet access, as can they. Their ISP can fold, so can mine. Everything from one end to the other can fail and any one single point fail can bring the whole thing tumbling down.
Sorry, my glass is not half full. I’ve been in the industry too long. My glass is empty.
Bill Fitzgerald says
Undoubtedly, Google Apps can offer cost savings. Other people have already spoken to other pros and cons, and a few of these conversations have veered toward privacy and data security.
But, I have yet to hear anyone mention the elephant in the room: Google is an advertising company. They collect usage records on their users. These usage records provide a compelling overview of both individual behavior, and about the behavior within specific demographics. So, the process of enrolling a district worth of kids into Google Apps essentially enrolls those students in a marketing study. This is the cost of the “free” service: student learning is used to refine advertising techniques to teens.
Google’s various privacy policies are very clear about what information they collect. It includes links clicked, page views, and content analysis; even though ads are not displayed in their educational offerings, the same data is still collected and analyzed.
If you walked into a parent meeting of a middle school student and told that parent that every pixel of a child’s online work would be scrutinized as part of an unpaid market research survey, you can imagine that most parents would react, well, negatively. Yet, when a middle school signs up for Google Apps, that is exactly what is happening.
We have options. There are several open source virtualization platforms, and these can be used to create mini-clouds. The long term needs of education would be better served by pursuing strategies that empower schools to effectively manage their data without ransoming off the privacy of learners. As adults, we can choose what we put into the clouds, and who then can access and mine our personal information. However, exposing a swath of your learning to data miners should never be made a pre-requisite to learning.
Dave Waltman says
Some interesting comments here…I guess I have more faith in Google Apps saving my stuff than most here. Does anyone know what their backup strategy is? Do they have any liability for lost documents?
The “marketing experiment” is an interesting perspective. I didn’t quite think of it that way. For me, Google Apps provides 1)Instant connectivity between students and between students/teachers. As soon as we go to Google Apps, all our students will have a similar conventional email address so all students will be able to use Docs, Calendar, GTalk, Reader, Sites, etc. in a collaborative way. 2)Access to files on any computer….there isn’t a lot time where myself or my students are on a computer that isn’t connected to the web. And for those times that I’m not connected and I want to work on a cloud document, I can save it to my computer. Every year there are a host of compatibility issues using student made disks, home vs. school computers, home vs. school programs, flash drives lost, etc.
I don’t think the brand is so important, it’s just that Google has made it so easy. The important thing is to have all our users using the same product…
Now to get teachers to use these tools in interesting, collaborative, constructivist ways. Actually, it will probably be the students showing the teachers.
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE: “Do they have any liability for lost documents?”
No. See http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/terms.html
Two relevant sections:
“13. Warranty Disclaimer. CUSTOMER UNDERSTANDS AND AGREES THAT EACH SERVICE MAY CONTAIN BUGS, DEFECTS, ERRORS AND OTHER PROBLEMS THAT COULD CAUSE SYSTEM FAILURES. CONSEQUENTLY, THE SERVICE INCLUDING ALL CONTENT, SOFTWARE (INCLUDING ANY UPDATES OR MODIFICATIONS TO THE SOFTWARE), FUNCTIONS, MATERIALS AND INFORMATION MADE AVAILABLE ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THE SERVICE, AND ANY ACCOMPANYING DOCUMENTATION ARE PROVIDED â€œAS ISâ€ AND ANY USE THEREOF SHALL BE AT CUSTOMER’S OWN RISK.”
“15. Limitation of Liability. IN NO EVENT WILL GOOGLE OR ITS LICENSORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, AND INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR INTERRUPTION OF USE OR FOR LOSS OR INACCURACY OR CORRUPTION OF DATA, LOST PROFITS, OR COSTS OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, HOWEVER CAUSED (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO USE, MISUSE, INABILITY TO USE, OR INTERRUPTED USE) AND UNDER ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CONTRACT OR TORT AND WHETHER OR NOT GOOGLE WAS OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARE OR ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE REGARDLESS OF WHETHER ANY REMEDY SET FORTH IN THIS AGREEMENT FAILS OF ITS ESSENTIAL PURPOSE; OR FOR ANY CLAIM ALLEGING INJURY RESULTING FROM ERRORS, OMISSIONS, OR OTHER INACCURACIES IN THE SERVICE OR DESTRUCTIVE PROPERTIES OF THE SERVICE.”
RE: “As soon as we go to Google Apps, all our students will have a similar conventional email address so all students will be able to use Docs, Calendar, GTalk, Reader, Sites, etc. in a collaborative way.”
This type of comprehensive user experience makes an ideal terrain for data mining. One user ID can be tied to chat content, various documents (both created and read) and links followed from all these documents. Additional mining can include looking at groups of students, and student surfing behavior based on time of day. This is advertising gold, and it gives some amazingly useful information about a coveted advertising demographic.
For a cautionary tale on privacy, see http://danbri.org/words/2008/07/03/359 — this article goes over the recent Viacom suit against Google, and lays out some of the privacy implications. Imagine that a media company has detected copyright violations coming from within a district. Then, read the article linked above. Substitute “Google Apps for Education” for “youtube.” Then, imagine your district’s cost savings vaporizing faster than you can say, “I wish we had invested in our own infrastructure” as gaggles of lawyers flood your district. For extra fun, imagine the lawsuit involves students under the age of 13.
Seriously, folks. Think long term, just for a second. We don’t encourage our students to cut corners. We should have the same expectations for our critical infrastructure.
Dave Waltman says
Ok…so let’s say investing in our own infrastructure is the solution. Well, I just don’t think that is feasible for public education. I’m not sure what kind of investment it would take to offer what Google offers but I would guess that the hardware, software, and technical support would be out of line with most public school budgets. Maybe I’m wrong…if there are other products that can be maintained on a school’s own infrastructure I would love to know what they are. Furthermore, do the gains outweigh the risks? Some major universities seem to think so….University of Southern California, Arizona State University are just two major universities that have moved into this direction.
Additionally, I would be interested in your comments regarding Keven Kelly’s description of the next 5000 days of the web. Are users willing to be transparent regarding name, profile, friends, usage, etc., in order to be connected the “The One?” Again, do the gains from connectivity override our sense of privacy. Most privacy arguments in the past have been weighed against security….now it seems to be shifting to connectivity.
And can someone answer this….I recently made a telephone inquiry to my local insurance company about getting a better car insurance rate. Now, over the last 2 days I have been receiving spam regarding car insurance rates. Is this good or bad? Will I get a better offer? Is it bad that my name is out there in the insurance databases looking for car insurance and they also have my email address?
Kern Kelley says
At heart isn’t this of same tired tech debate we’ve had for so long? Convenience vs Control. (With Privacy being a subset of Control) “What if Google exposes my students to ads!” “What if they lose my stuff?” “What if the cloud goes down!” “What if, what if, …”
The farce behind this question is it’s moot for so many of our students. If you’re worried that creating a Google Account opens your students to data mining? Ask how many of your students already have MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc. http://tinyurl.com/2y29qb Ask how much personal information is on it and then double it. I’ve had teachers swear that their child didn’t use MySpace, then later when Mom was away the student showed me their MySpace page.
As educators I believe we HAVE to explain and show students how to manage these waters. If we don’t teach them at school, then where. They’ll get it at home? Doubtful.
And about the use of Google or someone else’s cloud. If you want to argue brands, I think Google is as appropriate as the others with similar privacy concerns, infrastructure, and backing up. http://tinyurl.com/yo6mcy
There’s no question that we have to be aware of what our students do online. The best analogy I can think of is driving a car. In the U.S. we don’t really concern ourselves with our kids driving until about 15 or 16. Then we send them to Drivers Education where they take written tests about rules and more importantly DRIVE A CAR. With guidance and someone sitting close with a foot hovering over the brake, but they are actually driving nonetheless.
The difference now is with the net, or kids are ‘driving’ as soon as they can wield a mouse. Without us, they’re on their own.
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE: “At heart isnâ€™t this of same tired tech debate weâ€™ve had for so long? Convenience vs Control.”
You can actually have both convenience and reasonable privacy. To pretend otherwise is just that: pretending.
RE: “The farce behind this question is itâ€™s moot for so many of our students. If youâ€™re worried that creating a Google Account opens your students to data mining? Ask how many of your students already have MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc.”
One key difference: students *choose* to create those accounts. They are not *required* to have one as a prerequisite for learning.
RE: “As educators I believe we HAVE to explain and show students how to manage these waters.”
Yes, absolutely. So for our first lesson, are you proposing we show them how their school-required accounts strip them of their privacy? To use your car-driving analogy, that’s comparable to showing them the brake after they’ve run off the road and crashed into the tree.
Schools are making the choice to save money at the expense of student and faculty privacy. I understand the reasons for it; budgets are tight, and these moves allow schools to preserve and re-allocate scarce resources.
We just shouldn’t pretend it’s a great idea, nor should we pretend that there aren’t alternatives.
Robert Rowe says
Well said, Kern. Every company has Terms of Service, and Privacy Policies (some are harder to find than others, but they’re there). It is our job as “customers” to be aware of what we’re entitled to, what we can expect from the company, and what happens to our “stuff”.
While 80% of my “stuff” in on the clouds (with the exception of music until I find a good solution), I also have multiple backups, and a hard-copy when necessary. I’m trusting of companies like Flickr, Google, Facebook, etc, but I’m not stupid.
Will Richardson says
Now that Docs has Google Gears, I just synch it to my hard drive on a regular basis. Still waiting for calendar and gmail synchability…
Kern Kelley says
“You can actually have both convenience and reasonable privacy. To pretend otherwise is just that: pretending”
Yes, of course you can, it’s the balance of both and how much one user accepts more risk, while another might balk. If you’re computer is online, there is some possible privacy risk period. That’s why there is no black and white answer. Ultimately the management of how much risk one is willing to take on comes back to the individual.
Now, when it comes to students and whether a system is mandating usage, we always use avatars for the students. Only the students and teacher knows which avatar links with which student. One of the benefits of this public concern for our students privacy is that they are much more aware of each others privacy (hopefully reaching beyond the classroom which is the whole idea.)
Bill, you talk about CMS alternatives, I know there are a ton out there, what do your students use?
Bill Fitzgerald says
RE: “Now, when it comes to students and whether a system is mandating usage, we always use avatars for the students. Only the students and teacher knows which avatar links with which student.”
The ability to connect a student to a name/face is an important element to consider, but it is also a very small piece of what is looked at when companies mine data. For example, when a user is logged in to their Google account, and using Google’s services, their behavior is tracked to their user ID, which is generally tied to their IP address (and this was part of what was at stake in the recent Viacom vs Google lawsuit I referenced above). So, if you read an email, the content of that email is analyzed. Then, if you create a google doc, the content of that doc is analyzed. Let’s say you click on an outgoing link from that doc, or an email. That action is stored. Then, you perform 5 searches. Those strings are stored. If you follow a link from that search, it’s stored.
Taken individually, these actions are pretty small. However, taken in aggregate, they begin to have some power and value: IP addresses can be tied to geographic locations (and arguably can be pinpointed to individuals) — so, this data can be mined to identify patterns of user behavior — people from region X who search for Y follow links to Z, except for people who read about subject A, who are more likely to follow links to B.
Marketers covet the 13-25 demographic. It’s why Facebook and Myspace have such inflated valuations. Even though the ads are limited in Google’s education editions, they still collect the data — and they say so in their terms of service/privacy policies. When a school or university uses Google apps, the resulting usage data is incredibly valuable, as it provides concrete information about the browsing habits of people within this demographic.
For some interesting info on what happens when data mining actually gets exposed to users, read up on Facebook’s Beacon debacle, or AOL’s release of search records. Fun stuff.
RE: CMS alternatives, and what we have set up — in the past year, we have set up systems for schools/learning organizations using Drupal, Mediawiki, Fedora (an open source document repository), and Moodle; when needed, we have set up targeted interoperability by using open standards. But really, this goes way beyond the CMS. Cloud computing requires virtualization, and there are several good open source virtualization platforms, including Xen, VirtualBox, and OpenVZ — Many Mac users probably know OpenVZ from Parallels, as Parallels is based on it.
Steve O'Connor says
I mentioned privacy concerns earlier. Sorry, as an educator, I cannot tell a student to subscribe to anything like Google Docs. If they choose to do so that is another thing.
My Holy Grail at this point is an open source server side word processor. I have found an open source server side solution for everything else that I am looking for.
Bill Fitzgerald says
Looks like Google Apps for Enterprise didn’t work for the Dog.
Guess it’s raining in the cloud 😉
Randy Rodgers says
What a fantastic discussion! Thanks to everyone who has chimed in–it has been thought-provoking, to say the least.
The financial aspect you mentioned, Will, is a key factor in the district in which I work. Education budgets in general and technology budgets in particular in Texas are being seriously squeezed. Too often, decisions on software, storage, etc. are made based on an old idea of what constitutes a typical educational technology system. Ignorance of the available resources on the Internet is the biggest hurdle I face in my district, particularly among the administrators who make purchasing decisions. I agree with Gary that the hardware is very important, as the continuing growth in the power of the personal computer is allowing bigger, more powerful applications to run at faster and faster speeds, enabling our students to create, program, solve problems, and communicate in ways we could scarcely have imagined. However, how big is big enough? How fast is fast enough? We have laptops, for example, with hard drives capable of holding over 200 gigs, yet we forbid our students from storing their work on the computers themselves. How much money would we save if several thousand computers were purchased with half the storage space?
What I understand the least, however, is the fear of the reliability of the online tools available to our schools today. I have heard many times the question, “What happens if Google loses your documents?” or “What if your wiki site crashes?” My personal experience has proven to me, however, that such instances occur with much greater regularity with my teachers and students due to hardware issues (the blue screen of death) and a failure to backup important data or products. Web providers in general have a complex fail-safe system in place, particularly the more established ones, and while I still archive much of my online work offline, I don’t lose a moment’s sleep worrying about the work being lost by the hosts I’ve chosen. I’ve yet to have a single student or teacher blogger lose their work, even stored exclusively at a host site (I’m sure I’ll get my first panicked email tomorrow, now that I’ve said that.).
Bill Fitzgerald says
I swear, this is my last comment in this thread. I promise.
But the coincidence is just too tempting to pass up (for me, anyways) — as this conversation is unfolding, we have a firsthand account of what happens when your cloud crashes: you wait and receive form emails, while your data remains out of reach.
As of this writing, Google’s “Enterprise” service has been failing this particular user for 12 hours and counting: http://cogdogblog.com/2008/08/06/google-cloud-shits/
And with that said, these types of outages are part of working with technology. They happen on systems at all levels. But the myth that the cloud will magically fix/erase system downtime needs some serious examination, cuz it just ain’t so.
John Larkin says
Kent makes a good point. Cloud computing serves one well with respect to text, spreadsheets and smaller image and media files. I have four external hard drives that backup my hi res inages and raw video. Cloud computing is not ready for that yet as far as my needs are concerned. Still limited to a ‘broadband’ connection of 1.2mbs.
Yet, I think it is only a matter of time before the terms ‘storage’ and ‘mbps access speed’ will no longer be part of the vernacular. Storage and access speeds will not be an issue. It will no longer be a case of cloud computing. It will simply be an extension of our lives. A place out there somwehere that looks after our daily stuff.
Kern Kelley says
I don’t think that Will or anyone’s arguing that cloud computing is a cure-all. It has, however, become as pervasive and important a tool as single machine based computing. (What’s the term for the opposite of cloud computing?) There are undoubtedly problems to be ironed out with privacy and reliability, but so what. We’ll get there. ( http://tinyurl.com/6alzd )
This is no different than any new technology. But I think the difference this time is that our students are immersed in it, usually with little or no guidance. They have cell phones, webkinz and yes, Google Accounts. That wasn’t true with cars or televisions. This is more than a questions of tech specs and how many gigs my server will hold, but what our kids are already putting out there and how we can teach them how to do it safely.
I have been freed from using one particular computer by online opensource tools. The IT teases me that I have 20 computers and he has only 5. The big difference is that I rarely need to save anything to any computer for keeps and he saves everything he does to a computer. I would prefer you did not throw my laptop in a river only because I can ill afford another, not because I would lose anything – it’s all on the web…………