Education and the Cloud

June 18, 2009

Part 1 – Using Cloud & Virtualization Technologies for Education -or- how Education and the Cloud met, married and had smarter kids!

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to use some seed money in a Race to the Top to see what innovative States can come up with in regards to best ideas, concepts, implementations and results.   Good idea… kind of like prototyping and trialing then picking the best.

From my view there are many things that can be addressed in education.   Technology being just one of several approaches to the overall issues related to improving K-12 education.

I recently heard a short comment that made an impression.

In 1909 if you had gone into a classroom in a large city school you would have seen kids seated at desks with pencils and paper.

At the front of the classroom would be a teacher sitting facing the children with the teacher’s pencil and paper on her desk.

Of course books would be on the desks and a blackboard with chalk on the front wall.

Fast forward 100 years to 2009.

How much has that picture really changed ?

Ok… there may be some classrooms at some schools that have some “newer” technologies

  1. a projector ? some
  2. <lets skip a few era’s of technology here>?
  3. computer on every desk ? more rare than common
  4. networked servers/computers — rarer than #3
  5. maintained network computers – rarer than #4 and #5
  6. #5 & #6 maintained by someone other than the Librarian and Librarian assistant ???

Well you get the idea and if you work at or for a school you know the picture.

Click here to see some “Race to the Top” Slides

Geez where to start?

I am fairly certain that Cloud and Virtualization technologies are going to play major roles in some of the successes.

But what kind of Cloud ?   Private, Public .. hybrid and whats the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for each of those paths.


  • the State or the LEA owns/manages/pays for a Data Center and support staff, electricity equipment, heat/air, safety, insurance


  • Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace, Google owns the infrastructure, etc but you may still be the “operator”


  • Private Data Center augmented by compute or storage resource provided by a Public cloud provider

Well lets make it more muddled?

Should you go with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Cloud provider like Amazon.

or Amazon as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) yes… it does exist via 3rd party developers that are offering many services ranging from Db2, Oracle, Mail, WebServers, Video servers etc.

What about using Google as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) where you write or rewrite you own applications using Java/PHP and then host them on Google.

or possibly Google as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud provider (think gMail, Google Docs).

I don’t think there necessarily has to be one choice… or one Cloud Service…  after all it is the Internet.

To get started I think one of the first things that should be done is getting all the schools in all the LEAs on a level starting platform.   Why?

Some schools have

  • old Desktops
  • new Desktops
  • old laptops
  • new laptops
  • thin client (re using something like citrix)
  • maybe netbooks

The above computers may vary

  • CPU’s ranging from Pentium to Dual Core Intel to AMD to Atom processors
  • Memory ranges from 512Meg to 4 Meg
  • Hard disks (if they have them) 40G – 100 G

Network connectivity ability from

  • 10Mbps to 100Mbps ethernet
  • Wireless B, G or maybe N

For the most part those computers run Windows -but- that can mean anything from Windows 95 to  Windows 98, Windows 2000, XP  or Vista

Sorry Mac and Linux users … gotta focus here to make a point.  We’ll get to you later.

To level the starting platform you can’t just tell people to junk everything… and for the most part there isn’t a reason to if you think of clever solutions.

That’s enough to start the conversation… I’ll add more later but wanted to get my ramblings on this topic started.

Brian Mullan



  1. Good points. Definitely one of those areas the benefits from leaders being up to date with today’s advances and possibilities. The rest is left to creativity and willingness to change.

    My son (raising high schooler) has been using google’s options for his school work. No more space for accidental losses of work. Work is available from home, school, even a friend’s home when collaborating.

    Enjoyed you blog entry…on to the next one.

    Comment by Carlos G. — August 6, 2011 @ 7:48 am

  2. Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect
    against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on.

    Any recommendations?

    Comment by — April 6, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    • Sorry.. but could you be more specific about what your question is asking? There have been more than a few blogs that I’ve posted here and I am not sure which you are asking about and what particular topic?

      Can you add a little more info to your question and I’ll try to answer.

      Comment by bmullan — April 6, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

    • Remember that all of what I described takes place only on our ubuntu system. The connectivity to the Win7 VM is all internal to that Ubuntu and does not traverse the internet.

      What I am saying is that IF your Ubuntu system is secure … so should be the Windows apps you use following this methodology.

      Hope that answers your question.


      Comment by bmullan — April 16, 2015 @ 6:18 am

  3. Hi, I do think your web site may be having web browser
    compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your
    blog in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I.E., it’s got some overlapping issues.
    I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from
    that, excellent site!

    Comment by Klick — April 2, 2014 @ 4:00 am

    • thanks… wordpress is one of the most widely used blogging systems on the web. I think any problems
      Internet Explorer might have is probably due to it still being quite a bit behind chrome, firefox safari etc
      in many areas.

      Comment by bmullan — April 5, 2014 @ 5:09 am

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