5 Cloud Computing and 21st Century Teaching

Peter Vaisanen


Ontario Tech University


The 21st Century has brought a new set of skills that students will need to be successful in the world: critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration. Technology can support the development of those skills and has also brought change to the way teachers and students go about delivering information and learning. The majority of students and teachers in developed nations, all have cell phones, computers and easy access to the internet at their fingertips. This chapter explores the use of technology, but more specifically the use of cloud computing, in a classroom. In the first section, the author explores the literature around cloud computing by analysing its benefits and drawbacks. Benefits will revolve around accessibility, collaboration, organization and cost, while the drawbacks will touch upon privacy, access to the internet and reliability. In the second section of the chapter, the author looks at specific cloud computing applications such as Google Classroom, Google Docs and Google Slides and how they can be implemented within a classroom. The idea behind this chapter will be to inform readers about cloud computing while also making connections between the use of cloud computing to help develop 21st Century skills.

Keywords: cloud computing, google classroom, google docs, google slides, technology, 21st century skills


Teaching and learning in the 21st Century has brought change to the way teachers and students go about their everyday lives. For example, the majority of students and teachers all have cell phones, computers and easy access to the internet at their fingertips. Whereas students and teachers traditionally never had this as an option. Students are learning differently, and teachers need to adapt on how to deliver the information.  This chapter draws upon the use of cloud computing in to a classroom to help develop 21st Century Skills. The chapter will also analyse the benefits and drawbacks that cloud computing can have when implementing it in to a classroom. Finally, it will offer recommendations of how to integrate specific applications within a classroom to help with student learning.

Background Information

The P21 Framework highlights the essential skills students need to be successful in the world today: critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills (Battelle for Kids, n.d.). In this part of the chapter, it will look at the benefits of using cloud computing and how it can facilitate a 21st Century Classroom, but also how it could impede it.

Cloud computing is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Lewis states the following:

as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction (p.8).

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Firstly, cloud computing is becoming more popular because of its easy accessibility. Students and teachers are able to access content from any phone, computer or iPad. The accessibility not only allows students and teachers to access work from anywhere, but it also extends student learning outside of the confines of the traditional four walls of the classroom. “With today’s technology, students’ learning is no longer confined within the classroom. The educational environment could be improved to allow students to access learning resources anywhere and anytime” (Changchit, 2015). Having easy access to class content allows students to learn on their own time and at their own pace which can help them critically think about the information and get a deeper understanding of it. Teachers can prepare lessons that allow students to do their own research on the internet and allow the student to be engaged outside of their classroom.

Secondly, cloud computing can improve the collaboration within students, but also between students and teachers. “Google Docs and the whole G Suite system for English classrooms is revolutionizing the way we interact with each other and create….That collaboration is key to helping kids make authentic connections with text and information” (Davis, 2017). The use of applications such as Google Docs and Google Slides can also help students get timely feedback from either a teacher or student on work that they have accomplished. As mentioned by Barkley (2007), “collaborative learning occurs when students and teachers work together to create knowledge… [i]t is pedagogy which imparts the basis that people create meaning together and that the process enriches and makes them grow” (Luna & Sequera, 2015).

Thirdly, through the use of applications such as Google Classroom (Keeler, 2015), cloud computing can help organize students and teachers and facilitates communication among a class.  Google Classroom is an online Learning Management System that can house all content of a class. The online housing system minimizes the paperwork that teachers are traditionally used to. Teachers no longer need to carry paper assignments home as they can access the information from any device. Additionally, students no longer need to worry about losing a form or assignment. “Google Classroom is versatile (blended learning, flipped classroom and exclusively online classrooms), easy to use from both a staff and student perspective and allows for collaborative work to be undertaken with ease” (Beaumont, 2018). The use of Google Classroom creates better organization for teachers and students as it allows students and teachers to organize their content within Google Classroom. It also allows for students and teachers to communicate with each other in an easy streamlined manner.

Finally, cloud computing is a cost-effective technology to implement. Al-Zoube, El-Seoud, & Wyne, (2010) state the following:

Cloud computing provides a low-cost solution to academic institutions for their researchers, faculty and students. This setup provides an additional benefit because all these browser-based applications can also be accessed through mobile devices in addition to being available to a variety of laptop and desk top computers, provided internet access is available.

Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

There are many benefits of cloud computing, but it’s also important to consider what the drawbacks are when deciding to use Cloud computing within an educational setting.

A first drawback to cloud computing is the security and privacy of student content being accessed.  “Some of the most known risks about deploying to cloud computing are data availability and a possible compromising of confidential data” (Changchit, 2015).

A second drawback is the need for users to have access to high-speed internet. “Cloud computing depends on the availability of high-speed internet access and reliability of the cloud. Without it, students cannot access their files or applications” Saini & Kaur (2017). Although implementing cloud computing applications might be inexpensive, ensuring high speed internet access to all students across a school might have its different challenges.

A final drawback that can affect the implementation of cloud computing is its reliability.  Students and teachers might expect the ease of access to information anywhere, anytime, but in reality, it might not be the case.  “Reliable cloud computing technologies mean minimal down time. No vender will guarantee 100% reliability” (Tan & Kim, 2011).


In the previous section, the chapter discussed Cloud computing applications that can provide great benefits. Those applications were Google Classroom, Google Docs and Google Slides. This section will offer recommendations of how to integrate those specific applications within a classroom to help with student learning.

Google Classroom is an excellent platform for teachers and students to stay organized.  “Google worked with educators across the country to create Classroom: a streamlined, easy-to-use tool that helps teachers manage coursework. With Classroom, educators can create classes, distribute assignments, grade and send feedback, and see everything in one place.” (Classroom: manage teaching and learning)

Teachers can also use applications such as Google Docs or Google Slides to facilitate collaborative work.  With Google Docs and Google Slides, students and teachers can create and edit documents in their browser, with no software required, and its content is saved automatically. “Multiple people can work at the same time, and every change is saved automatically” (G Suite How it Works). Google Docs is a good resource to help with the planning and writing of assignments. Google Slides is good for collaborating and facilitating presentations. These two applications work well together when preparing and executing a presentation with multiple people.

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

Not only is cloud computing inexpensive to implement, but it also allows students and teachers to access information from anywhere at any time, while saving the information automatically. Cloud computing also showed that it can contribute to the development of 21st Century skills such as collaboration and communication. Many applications are now available to facilitate and store teachers’ and students’ work such as Google Classroom, Google Docs and Google Slides. As long as educators are aware and address the potential drawbacks around privacy, connectivity and reliability then the educators should be able to minimize the risks involved and students will have a positive and engaging experience. The literature seems to suggest that the benefits of cloud computing outweigh the drawbacks and therefore educators may want to consider implementing the cloud within their context. Cloud computing is “here to stay” (Lewis, 2017).  However, before educators implement it, they may want to consider the following questions. Cloud computing is still a new technology and further research could be done on the subject especially around the implementation of applications into classrooms.  When educators are considering implementing the cloud into their context they may also want to think about the learning curve of the technology for students and teachers. Is the technology hard to use for students? Is it hard for teachers to utilize? Is it taking up too much time in class? Educators may also want to consider how relevant or meaningful the technology is for the students? As well, they may want to consider why they are implementing the technology, is it to “check a box” or are the students and teachers benefiting from the use of it? The following questions may help guide teachers when thinking about implementing cloud computing and or new technology within the classroom.


Al-Zoube, M., El-Seoud, S. A., & Wyne, M. F. (2010). Cloud computing based e-learning system. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 8(2), 58.

Battelle for Kids. (n.d.). [Web page]. Retrieved from http://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21

Beaumont, K., (2018). Google Classroom: An online learning environment to support blended learning. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 11(2). https://dx.doi.org/10.21100/compass.v11i2.837

Changchit, C., (2015). Cloud Computing: Should it be Integrated into the Curriculum? International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 11(2).  Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A416501416/AONE?u=ko_acd_uoo&sid=AONE&xid=504430e2

Classroom: manage teaching and learning. (n.d.). [Software application]. Retrieved from https://edu.google.com/products/classroom/

Davis, M. R. (2017). Google Docs Fuels Shift to Collaborative Classroom Writing. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/06/14/google-docs-fuels-shift-to-collaborative-classroom.html

G Suite How it Works. (n.d.). [Web page]. Retrieved from https://gsuite.google.com/features/

Keeler, A. (2015, May 11). 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. [Web log post]. Teacher Tech. Retrieved from http://www.alicekeeler.com/teachertech/2015/05/11/50-things-you-can-do-with-google-classroom/

Lewis, G. A. (2017). Cloud Computing. Computer, 50 (5), 8-9. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1109/MC.2017.141

Luna, W., & Sequera, J. L. C. (2015). Collaboration in the Cloud for Online Learning Environments: An Experience Applied to Laboratories. Creative Education, 06(13), 1435–1445. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2015.613144

Tan, X., & Kim, Y. (2011). Cloud Computing for Education: A Case of Using Google Docs in MBA Group Projects. 2011 International Conference on Business Computing and Global Informatization, 641–644. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1109/BCGIn.2011.169

Saini, L., & Kaur, H. (2017). Role of cloud computing in education system. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science, 8(4). Retrieved from http://www.ijarcs.info/index.php/Ijarcs/article/view/3766



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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2019 by Peter Vaisanen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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