cloud computing

Cloud computing for teachers

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | internet | 5 Comments

Cloud computing is becoming big business! An increasing number of organisations and individuals no longer buy and maintain their own hardware – they rather rent space on servers of service providers where software (which may also be rented) and data are stored and accessed through the internet.

What is cloud computing?

Previous posts addressed this question:

Cloud computing demystified

Cloud computing in Africa

Cloud computing

In simple terms, cloud computing is internet computing – a cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet. In this context, the cloud has nothing to do with the candy floss floating around in the sky, but the use of the term is derived from diagrams explaining the way in which the internet is used as an interface between users and service providers.

The cloud is an icon for the internet


Can teachers benefit from cloud computing?

Yes, of course! Cloud computing is not just for big business. The principles of cloud computing can be put to great use by teachers.

What is required?

You need a device – it could be a PC, a laptop, a netbook, or even one of the smaller portable devices like a cell phone, as long as the device can access the internet. You don’t even have to own a device. You can use a computer at an internet cafe, or use a computer at your school.

What about software programs?

Office applications (such as a word processor) and e-mail programmes are available on most devices; it they’re not, free opensource tools can be accessed via the internet.

Where do I store my data?

You store it on the internet. Many sites exist on the internet where you can store your data for free. For example, text files can be stored on Google – you might have heard about Google Docs. You can store photographs (loads of them) on sites such as Flickr. Even blogs can be published at no cost on websites owned by others. To keep tabs on where you’ve stored what, free storage for your catalogue is available on bookmarking sites such as Delicious and Diigo.

You don’t need any storage space of your own, although most of you will be too nervous to trust your work to an invisible cloud, and may opt for making a backup copy on a data stick – other than that, you need no device to store data! If you lose your device, no problem – your data is safe – simply find another piece of equipment to access your precious files. And when you travel, you can retrieve, store and manipulate your data even if you are on the other side of the planet.

Where’s the catch?

Aah, but don’t you need broadband for all of that (meaning a super strong, fast – and expensive – internet connection)? Non-sence! A narrow band, even a dial-up connection could do the trick. True, such connection may be slower, but you will still be able to access your data. The access requirements of an average user are not so high that you need the fastest internet access speed. (Although, I must confess, the faster, the better!) In any event, connectivity is becoming less of an issue today than it was before.

You may already be engaging in cloud computing without being aware of it. Think about it – if you are on Facebook or Twitter … where is your data stored? In the clouds, of course!

Teachers, cloud computing is for you too – an affordable, easy way to make the best of what technology offers you.

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Cloud computing demystified

Friday, April 30th, 2010 | internet | 6 Comments

For some people the concept cloud computing is as nebulous and difficult to grab hold of as a literal cloud.  But the idea is actually very simple.

Cloud computing has nothing to do with clouds in the sky.  In pictures explaining computer networks, a diagrammatic cloud is often used to depict the internet – over time a cloud became a metaphor for the internet.

The cloud represents the internet - you can access it from any part of the world

The cloud represents the internet - you can access it from any part of the world

To grasp cloud computing fully you must first understand how the internet works.  The internet is a worldwide network of computer networks.  Data is stored on servers spread across the globe – any server linked to the network of networks (the internet) can be accessed by anyone who has permission to use it.

The internet can be entered through:

your home computer

your mobile computer

your friend’s computer

a computer at your school

your cell phone (if it is web enabled).

You can store data on the internet in the same way that you can retrieve data.  Such data can be text, pictures or even video clips.  Much of the information storage space is available at no cost to you for personal use.

Cloud computing means that you no longer need to carry your information with you – it is stored in the internet cloud – all you need is an access instrument and a gateway into the internet.

If you are using Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Google Docs, e-mail and blogs you are already practicing cloud computing.

With this simplistic explanation of cloud computing you can keep your feet firmly on the ground while reaching for the clouds.

For updated information on cloud computing, click here.

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Cloud computing in Africa

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 | Computer Usage, ICT in Africa | 7 Comments

Is cloud computing viable for schools in Africa?

A previous posting explained the concept of cloud computing.  The term refers to the ability to use a very simple computing device – it could be a computer at an internet café, a low specification PC, a cell phone, or similar instrument – to draw required application programmes from the internet, and then store all data back on the internet.

In cloud computing everything, except for the device in your hands, lives in the clouds.

Could this be a solution for schools in Africa?  Simple devices; no complicated networks required; use of free programmes (even educational software); and free data storage – a real bargain for cash-strapped Africa!   In addition, you can compute whatever you like, whenever you like and wherever you are.  This sounds like heaven beyond the clouds.

But before you get excited, just pause for a moment and consider realities:

  • Internet connectivity is still not available in large parts of the continent.
  • Even cheap computing devices would be outside of the grasp of many.
  • Cloud computing is a step up from conventional computing in the paradigm hierarchy – most people on the continent can not even perform the most basic functions.  It will require considerable training efforts to get them to the point where they can come to grips with the concept of cloud computing.

These comments should not be seen as being negative – they are intended as a reality check for those who may be misguided into thinking that the lack of resources is the foremost technology problem on the continent.  Education and training are the greatest challenges.

By all means, reach for the clouds, but keep your feet firmly on the ground.

For updated information on cloud computing, click here.

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