What is the Cloud and Why Should Teachers Care?

used by permission wikicommons.org
The other day I was talking with someone at school about sharing photos from an Ipad and I mentioned "the cloud" and they stopped me.
"Hold on a minute, what is 'The Cloud?'"
I realized that this was a great question and one I had assumed everyone knew the answer to, but why would they?

The short answer I gave was that 'The Cloud' is a metaphor for remote storage that you can access from anywhere that you have an internet connection.  Once you SEND a file to the cloud you can SHARE it with others either privately or publicly.

SEND and SHARE what is the difference? 

Most of us have sent a file to someone via email.  Typically word files,  small PDF's, and small pictures work well with emailing.  When we send a file over email upload or attach a copy of the file to the email and then we send it.  While this works for smaller files large files are often now allowed by the mailservers.  I started using youtube to send colleagues links to videos instead of emailing the video directly because often the mail system would not allow me to send the large video file.

In this case YouTube works as a type of very public cloud storage for videos.  As a user I upload my content to an account I own in the cloud and then I share the content with someone else by sending them an address that lets them view, download, or collaborate on the file.  Files stored on Copy.com, Dropbox.com, Box.com, or in Evernote or Google Drive all get their own URL, or internet address.  This means if you want to email a video to 24 pairs of parents for your class you can just send them all the link.  You can also post the URL as a link on your class web page or blog.

What is free, what isn't and why it matters

Each of the sites above gives away some frethe files e space and hopes your needs are such you will buy more space.  Copy, Box, Dropbox, and Drive are files storage stites that spacialize in file storage and sharing.  They each allow you to create password guarded access to you files and they are require the person signing in to have an account with the site.  Each site also allows you to share a link openly requiring no password, and thus allowing anyone with or without a site membership to view and in many cases download.
Shared with Me in DRIVE

Free account usage
Dropbox -2GB
Copy -15GB
Drive -15GB
Just doing photos? Flickr gives you 1TB of free storage

Sharing versus Collaborating 

The greatest reason for getting your work in the cloud is collaboration.  I love Google drive for the awesome power it has to create shared documents.  When I click on the "Shared with me" tab in drive I can see all the documents others have started and shared with me.  At the top of the list is Jeff Bradbury, it seems like doing the Tech Educator podcast has really taught me a great deal about using Google drive as a collaborative platform.

This summer I had the students at Dawson College Bound working in shared docs and it was amazing.  Evernote also allows for co-editing of documents as part of their $45 per year premium service.

So in short :

The cloud is remote online storage.
You should care because it allows you to share big files, like videos to large numbers of people quieckly without actually sending the file to people.

As a bonus, some cloud storage systems like Google drive have built in tools for collaboration, and collaboration is a powerful life skill.