Cloud Computing

Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less

The emergence of very large “data farms” — specialized data centers that host thousands of servers — has created a surplus of computing resources that has come to be called the cloud. Growing out of research in grid computing, cloud computing transforms once-expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, cheap commodity. Development platforms layered onto the cloud infrastructure enable thin-client, web-based applications for image editing, word processing, social networking, and media creation. Many of us use the cloud, or cloud-based applications, without even being aware of it. Advances in computer science to ensure redundancy and protection from natural disasters have led to data being shared across many different hosting facilities. Improved infrastructure has made the cloud robust and reliable; as usage grows, the cloud is fundamentally changing our notions of computing and communication.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • Cloud-based applications can provide students and teachers with free or low-cost alternatives to expensive, proprietary productivity tools.
  • Cloud computing is being used in schools to provide virtual computers to students and staff without requiring each person to own the latest laptop or desktop machine.
  • Services like Flickr, YouTube, and Blogger, as well as a host of other browser-based applications, comprise a set of increasingly powerful cloud-based tools for almost any task a user might need to do.

In Practice

For Further Reading

Cloud Migrations Trigger Organizational Challenges
(Vanessa Alvarez,, 9 February 2010.) This article discusses how cloud computing can work if organizations are well structured in advance to take advantage of its affordances.

Google Goes to the Cloud for New Idea in PC System
(Walter S. Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2010.) Technology writer Walter Mossberg presents his thoughts on the new cloud-based Google OS Chrome and how it will be used with Google’s experimental laptop, the Cr-48.

Strike Up the Band: Over 10 Million Have Gone Google with Apps for Education
(Miriam Schneider, Official Google Enterprise Blog, 14 October 2010.) In the four years since Google Apps for Education was launched, over 10 million students now use the cloud-based productivity suite. Now, K12 schools are incorporating the software into their curriculum for students to use.