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Digital cloud simplifies routine classroom work

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Ahhh clouds. I have fond memories of lying in the lawn looking up at the clouds and finding all kinds of interesting shapes. But for this conversation, I'm not referring to clouds in the sky, but rather to the digital "cloud" where infinite amounts of data from around the globe are stored. Some of you have probably heard of the "cloud" and even use it daily, but many aren't aware of what it can do for them.According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is the use of computing resources which are available in a remote location and accessible over a network (typically the Internet). In education, the cloud has become an important tool for learning and teaching. Schools use the cloud to store presentations, videos, documents, pictures, grades, test data, student records, mail, contacts, calendars, notes, lists, passwords, books and so much more. The numerous services can be overwhelming but with a little understanding you can leverage the cloud in your daily routines to make things a little bit easier.When I started looking at cloud applications on my devices, it amazed me what types of things I rely on that are stored in the cloud: Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft 365, iCloud, iTunes, Amazon.com, Netflix, CloudSafe, Acrobat.com, iTunesU, Moodle, and more.There are several main benefits to storing your data in the cloud: Backing up files for disaster recovery, accessing more storage space than your devices alone will allow, allowing others to view/edit/share files and allowing access to files when you don't have your devices (public computers, friends houses, etc)So you are probably wondering, "What is the downside?" It's not all ice cream and chocolate sauce. In the world of cloud computing you need a reliable Internet connection for the uploading, downloading, and collaborative editing of any documents. Another point of weakness for any cloud service is your password. Passwords NEED to be at least eight to 15 characters long containing a variety of character types and no real words. Something like GxT)87VYo_13dT would be a great example, but difficult to remember. There are many applications available to manage these the numerous passwords you may have. Once you benefit from cloud services in your own life, ask your own kids how they are using these types of services in their classroom. You might be amazed at just how often our students use cloud computing in their education and their daily lives. Cloud computing has the potential to transform classrooms into paperless learning environments allowing for personalized, differentiated, anytime, collaborative learning for our students.Ron Brown is director of instructional technology and assessment at the Wenatchee School District. He can be found on Twitter @brownron on the web at http://prodev.wsd.wednet.edu on email at brown.ron@gmail.com.

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