Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

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Why you should store all your files on the cloud!

Monday, April 25, 2011

When I sent my daughters off to college, I installed DropBox on their computers, setup a folder that is backed up to the cloud and told them to make sure they save all of their files to that folder.  What a great way to backup their files without them having to do a daily backup. Lost laptop- No Problem. Hard drive crashes- No Problem.

With Google Docs, Dropbox,,  SugarSync, Skydrive, and the Amazon Cloud... you can automatically backup your files, share files and even play music on your Android Phone all at my favorite cost... FREE.  In this article I will give you a short synopsis of each service and let you decide what services will fit your needs.  I will also share a great tool I just installed that adds a drive to your computer that shows up as a local drive, but is really storing files online.  (Yes, a drive that is in the cloud.)

DropBox:  I will share my favorite app first. You get 2 gigs of free online storage, software that installs on your computer and auto syncs your files, phone apps, web access, iPad apps, and more. This program is awesome and easy to use.  Install it from here, and you get an extra 250 meg too:

Google Docs: You can store 1 gig of non-Google docs, and unlimited Google Doc files. If you are not using Google Docs and all of the other Google tools, you are just missing out period.  Sign up for a Google account, right after you setup your DropBox account. They give you more free space (5 gig) but do not offer the free syncing that some of the other service do.  But hey... 5 Gig free and they do offer phone, iPad, and other apps.

SugarSync: Similar to DropBox, with a lot of the same features. You get 5 Gig Fee!  Sign-up here:

SkyDrive: This is a free 25 gig online storage area by Microsoft.  You do need a Microsoft Live ID to sign up for this free service.  Combine this with the the program (described below) and you have a 25 gig on-line flash drive connected to your computer at all times.

Amazon Cloud Drive: Another 5 gig of free space. They have a great Cloud music player for your Android mobile device that allows you to easily play your music you store on this cloud storage. Combine it with the program and you can easily drag and drop files to this service.  (Amazon's web site does not have a great interface for managing this. So use to do it!)  The Android phone app fro playing music is awesome. Cloud Desktop:  This program adds a drive letter to your computer that really maps that drive letter to your SkyDrive, Amazon Clud Drive and more. Easily drag and drop files just like you would to a flash drive.  The free version will do about anything you need, but the pro version adds some nice bells and whistles if you want to part with a few greenbacks.

Most of these online storage services offer the ability to share folders to the public along with other great features. Using the above sites and tools, you can easily backup over 40 gig of files and automate many of your backups and tasks using these free services.  The one's listed above are established companies, that should be around for the long haul.

Now is the time to use the cloud for you and your students!

Schools will have to offer WiFi, cellular, and more... if you want to keep up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes, the cloud is coming to education, (The cloud is another whole story!) and we must offer the tools and access for students, teachers and parents to access that cloud in order to do their jobs in the future.  The question "Why can my kid get better WiFi access at a Burger King than at his school?" is a valid one.  Why can they??

From the Web I find:

On April 1, 2011 Project Tomorrow released the report “The New 3 E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered – How Today’s Students are Leveraging Emerging Technologies for Learning” at a Congressional Briefing held in Washington, DC.

The project surveyed almost 300,000 students (along with 43,000 parents, 35,000 teachers, 2000 librarians and 3500 administrators) from over 6500 private and public schools last fall about how they're using - and how they want to be using - technology for learning.

Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow CEO, discussed selected student and parent national findings from the Speak Up 2010 report and moderated a panel discussion with students and parents who shared their insights and experiences.

Key findings:

• 67 percent of parents said they would purchase a mobile device for their child to use for schoolwork if the school allowed it, and 61 percent said they liked the idea of students using mobile devices to access online textbooks.

• 53 percent of middle and high school students reported that the inability to use cell phones, smart phones or MP3 players was the largest obstacle when using technology in school. Additionally, 71 percent of high school students and 62 percent of middle school students said that the number one way schools could make it easier to use technology would be to allow greater access to the digital content and resources that Internet firewalls and school filters blocked.

• Parents are increasingly supportive of online textbooks. Two-thirds of parents view online textbooks as a good investment to enhance student achievement compared to 21 percent in 2008. However, E-textbooks are still a relatively novel concept in the classroom. Slightly over one-third of high school students report they are currently using an online textbook or other online curriculum as part of their regular schoolwork.

• Nearly 30 percent of high school students have experienced some type of online learning.


Parents are willing to purchase technologies, if the service is available

What are the implications for schools? 
We must be willing to adapt with the technologies as well as the needs of our students, staff and patrons. At my school district we currently embrace cell phones, and are in the process of deploying a next-generation WiFi deployment that will allow that access for students and staff.  What are your thoughts??? What is your school doing??