Cloud computing as bridge

OK, maybe I subconsciously am obsessed with bridges right now, I have no idea, but I thought the idea of m-learning as a bridge is helpful in discussing the value of cloud computing.

Cloud computing, basically, means that data of whatever form is relevant to one’s needs is stored not locally on a hard drive or a school/district/company server, but “in the cloud”, which basically means it’s stored on the internet.

The more pieces of data are stored and the more people that have internet access to that data, the more “bridges” that it builds from individual users to that data.

One implication of this is that more and more people around the world can have access to high quality education which may not be available locally. This is especially helpful for students in developing areas, rural areas, or students who have other physical barriers to quality instruction.

Another implication is the degree of collaboration it allows. A mere 6 years ago when I was working on my undergrad degree, doing a group project involved either endless emails back and forth, with each revision being a new array of emails that had to be sent out to all group members or the whole group could cram themselves in someone’s dorm or bedroom and look over the shoulder of the typist as the other group members debated and dictated what to write. My blood pressure rises just thinking about it. Contrast that with, for instance, the ease of using Google docs, which allows users to have a document stored online, allowing others to collaborate on it freely and easily. In this sense, we see “the cloud” serving as a bridge not between instructor and learner but between learners. The fact that this collaboration isn’t happening on a local network but a global one means that collaboration can now be global. In thinking about that, I’m reminded of Spencer Kagan’s work on cooperative learning structures. One of his structures, “jigsaw”, stands out. In a “jigsaw”, different members of a group each become experts on a different aspect of curricular content. Then, the group reconvenes and each member teaches their newfound area of expertise to the other members (to avoid getting sued, here’s a link to Kagan’s website). Imagine how dynamic an activity like that could be with students collaborating across continents!

-Another way that cloud computing (and one could argue ICT’s in general) change learning is that as more and more information is stored online, then a debate arises as to whether it’s more important for students to learn that information which is readily available elsewhere or if it’s more important to learn how to find that information. In other words, if that “bridge” exists to that information, does that information need to be memorized (“stored locally”).

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