Cloud computing – yes or no?

clouds Image : Web weather for kids As we transition into a real technological society we constantly have to question the changes and look at the advantages and disadvantages for us all. Down the track it will be decided and resolved. In the meantime we have to discuss and debate. Right now we have our head in the clouds. We constantly come back to cloud computing. It’s hardly cool to be talking about server farm storage so cloud computing has a nice ring about it which can be quite appealing. There are things to consider, though, and they need to be considered. There are a lot of “itties” when it comes to server farm storage.

Security : The server probably won’t be in your country. Is that a problem if your files are stored there? They are on the internet. Is that a security risk to your files? Many are wondering about the safety of their files.

Compatibility : Will the cloud storage software and set up suit your own hardware and software? Will there be issues with some files not being able to be opened or stored? Will the cloud computing set up be safe to run in your environment?

Financial viability : Is it going to cost too much if you store a lot of data? Will your data then become unavailable because it is in the cloud and you cannot pay for it? Is it cost effective compared with how we store things on DVDs, hard drives, external drives, flash drives. How does it compare if you pay for cloud storage compared with what we do now? There are plenty of places which offer modest free storage. Will that be enough?

Responsibility : What happens if something goes wrong with your cloud applications? What happens if you pay for apps and you can only use them if you are online. This has been an eye opener for many. They pay to rent something which is only available online when they thought they had purchased an application they could use anywhere any time. Who is responsible for explaining that to the general public? What if your online storage isn’t functioning properly and you can’t seem to access support? This would be a real issue for classroom teachers.

Availability : Will the servers go down? What if there is an outage? What if you cannot access the internet? What if the files go missing or become corrupt? Will the storage always be there when you want it to be?

So then we come to scalability. Organisations are going to have to make bigger decisions than individuals. One of the advantages is scalability when it comes to cloud computing. You can have as much or as little storage as you wish and so accommodate storage needs without rewiring, renetworking ,repurchasing hardware, recycling, replacing. In that sense it is very attractive. The other great advantage is mobility. People can access cloud storage from anywhere and at anytime – assuming the world is perfect.

I use some cloud storage. I have written about how I came to use Dropbox and basically it is about getting files around easily and ensuring I have my must haves backed up. Our education department site has storage too but it needs to be increased to make it viable and that would be an issue for the department in terms of all the itties I have discussed. My itties are fairly easily resolved. I still back up files elsewhere and need to because no one way of storing is totally fail safe . Cloud computing has its place but for large amounts of storage we do have to consider the issues carefully.

Meanwhile, take a look at the Web Weather for Kids site where I got the picture. It’s a nice teaching site.

iPad for sysadmin

ipad It’s not just a pretty face. The iPad can work seriously and will get better at it if those with high level technical skills create better, meatier applications. ars tecnica has an excellent article from a person who uses the iPad for sysadmin and who explains clearly and well how this can be an advantage. PCWorld also has a discussion of a 30 day trial to see whether an iPad can replace a computer. Most of us by now use tablets for some activities and then use laptops and desktops for serious work. We need to keep pushing the boundaires with tablets to make themmore flexible for heavier tasks and that comes back to applications development. By making better use of tablets we can increase their educational value and by increasing their educational value we can increase their use. In terms of ease of carrying and managing they can be a good option. Classroom Aid gives you a lot help with establishing some good and inventive productivity with tablets, including the building of applications. We need to take a fresh look at tablets now we are more used to them and what they can do so we can get more power use from them.

Connect iPad2 to Whiteboard

This video shows you how to connect and iPad to a whiteboard with a VGA adapter and leads. Today I did it slightly differently with my iPad2 and was well pleased. I connected the VGA adapter to the iPad and then to the whiteboard with the purple VGA connection. I have a speaker system with my whiteboard so I connected the green jack from the speakers into the headphone/microphone socket of the iPad. It was brilliant. I could connect it up faster than my Macbook. The sound was good. The picture was big and clear. The apps I tried worked as they normally do on my iPad but it meant a whole class would be able to see and hear them. Today I didn’t have much of a chance to play around but later in the week I’ll try it with my classes. It means I can use my iPad stylus and write on the iPad if I want to.It means I can make good use of the apps I have loaded onto my iPad. It also means I can now easily show students which apps they can download onto their iPod Touches and their iPhones so we can make better use of mobile technology. The students I spoke to certainly seemed very keen to learn all about that. Tomorrow I am packing my iPod Touch as well to see how that displays on my board. If I could carry my classroom in my pocket I’d be astounded! You can also connect a whiteboard with Apple TV. That might be an avenue you’d like to explore if you are interested.

ACARA app for iPhone and iPad

I highly recommend this ACARA Australian National Curriculum app. A well thought out application for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch can do much to alleviate the stress and strain of trying to come to grips with curriculum issues as a teacher. We are preparing and delivering lessons, marking, teaching, assessing.When there are new curriculum requirements and directions it always puts on the strain into an already very busy schedule. So why not use technology to lighten the burden? I downloaded relevant shape papers from the ACARA curriculum site. They are worth having but they take time to go through. The beauty of this app is that it gets the key points across one tablet page at a time. You can get a good overview, you can take in the relevant information and you are just dealing with one small screen. At no stage do you think it’s too much. The ACARA app is put together so you can navigate through the current requirements and since it is presented in tablet form then it cannot be too dense in its approach. I found it helpful. It has made me realise that apps have their place when you want people to learn something and come to terms with it. Instead of giving them 10 or 20 A4 pages to read – give them an application which logically takes them through the key features of what you want them to know. The app makes you more aware of the structure of the national curriculum. It makes you see at a glance what the key features of each area are. In time the app can link us to examples, key papers, key resources. It can reach out for us so we can access what we need to know. I think it’s a good addition to our National Curriculum information – the more so because it is on something I have with me all the time. Currently it is on my iPod Touch but I shall download it onto my iPad too. The fact I have seen this has made me think we need to try to create some applications for our classwork and courses. It really is a straight forward way of learning information and then branching out from that.

Josefine Grimm-Blenk

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