It should come as no surprise that we live in a highly interconnected world. Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate with someone who lives five thousand miles away. We can receive goods from distant countries in a matter of days. If we operate a website, we can use services such as ip address geolocation to determine exactly where all our visitors are coming from. And whenever a big story hits the news, people around the world will know about it almost instantly.
Our sense of interconnectedness is only heightened by the relatively recent introduction of cloud computing, which allows users to store, share, and access data through internet-based services. If you just finished writing a document and your editor is half a world away, for example, he can start proofreading it as soon as you press “Save.” Cloud computing has already made a big splash among businesses and personal users. It has also – just as surely but slightly more slowly – made its way into educations systems as well.
As an educational tool, cloud computing certainly has its benefits. The technology offers a streamlined services that can be accessed from anywhere by students, teachers, and administrators. Teachers can put syllabi, homework assignments, and grades online for easy student use, which then translates into convenient progress report creation and data accounting for system administrators. Furthermore, classes can now go paperless and students can easily make up for sections that they’ve missed. Instead of papers, binders, and folders, all you now need is an internet connection.
But these arguments for cloud computing do not fully take into account the realities of modern education. Even in a world where everything is digital and viewable on a screen, few teachers and students are going to be content viewing papers and assignments in that manner. Consequently, instead of the teacher being responsible for printing assignments and the students for printing their essays, each party will have to constantly be printing the work of the other. Since teachers are known to assign more documents and more pages when everything is digital, this actually translates into more paper wasted on the part of the students.
Furthermore, a school that uses a cloud computing service attempts to create standardization across a wide spectrum of disciplines and upon a range of different teachers. Some teachers will feel compelled to adapt, and will change their teaching methods as a response. Others will hold out and not use the cloud, with the ramification that administrators still need to follow a traditional system for collecting attendance and figuring out grades. Such a two-tier system can only result in confusion.
Cloud computing certainly has its strengths and benefits, both in the workplace and in the classroom. But administrators should still think carefully before making the switch and then regretting the consequences.
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