About three or four years ago, we (East Dubuque School District) became a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school. At the time we were still using Microsoft Office 2003 and Adobe Creative Suite CS. We had made the decision that we would no longer buy upgrades and manually install them on each computer in our school. We wanted to save time and money, both very good reasons for turning to cloud computing.
Google Apps for Education has been a boon for us. Many, but not all, teachers in our small district use Google Drive in their classrooms. And why not? Collaboration and sharing of documents, presentations, spreadsheets, drawings, and more makes the class material accessible 24-7, 365 to anyone, anywhere with a computer and internet access. Most of our students can access Google Drive from home or with a smart phone. We never pay for any upgrades, nor do we need to install software on every computer in the district. In addition, all students have a school email, which I find to be an "electronic paper trail" to foster accountability on the part of the student. "I didn't know" or "I lost it" are no longer acceptable excuses when using GAFE and other cloud applications. The assignment can't be left in the student's locker or eaten by the dog.
Of course, students are resourceful, and have invented new excuses:
"The internet was down."
"My mom needed the computer."
"The power was out."
"My computer died."
"The dog ate my computer."
All-in-all, my experience with cloud computing in the classroom has been a positive one. I use more applications than just those available through Google Drive. In my desktop publishing class, the only native software we use is Gimp (free Photoshop alternative) and Cyberlink PowerDirector, because serious video editing online just isn't available...yet.
So besides all the Google Drive applications, I make use of the following free cloud, browser-based applications in my desktop publishing and/or English classes. I'm sure this won't be a comprehensive list, for I am sure to forget some.
- LucidPress for print media page design. (I once used a fantastic suite of creative software called Aviary, but the company decided to go in another direction.) I've tried a few others such as Fat Paint, and Just2Easy, but they were clunky and undependable. I actually began using LucidCharts for page layout and it worked great! Then Lucid came out with LucidPress, and my dreams of a good online page layout program came true.
- Pixlr for image editing (before we switched to Gimp)
- Prezi for presentations (also Google Presentations). I've also used SlideShare
- PowToon for animated videos (I teach my students how to make an explainer video.)
- Weebly for web design. It has a great, free education version.
- Glogster for interactive digital posters
- Voki for creating talking avatars
- Biteslide for creating "slide books"
I could go on and on. Visit my Linkedin profile for more ideas, or see my Cloud Computing and Web 2.0 Tools site. I haven't updated it in awhile, but it has some great resources.