There is an ongoing discussion around what the benefits of cloud computing for education and professional development potentially are.
John Pearce has developed a useful PBWorks resource site that looks at various cloud solutions, that may help you explore some of the benefits for you...and your learners.
Zoho and Google Docs are very similar, but Zoho has more functionality. Google Apps, however, are set up more for education. Etherpad was taken over by Google. The source code from Etherpad is going to be shared however. It is a superb synchronous tool for brainstorming or writing policy (and similar docs) collaboratively. Contributions are colour-coded and names are related to colours. It has a 'timeslider' function that enables the re-visiting of the whole experience. A lot of the functionality is similar to Mindmeister, but in document form as opposed to mindmaps. There is a paid option for a tool called Primary Pad which gives a 6 month free trial where you can set up your own pads. Edmodo is microblogging for education. As a teacher you can set up groups, and a code is generated that students use to work together.
The terms and conditions around some of the applications need to be considered if you are interested in implementing cloud based solutions. For example, if a school sets up something like Google Apps, the account is tied to the school, which means that the work is not going to be portable for students. Also, at the end of the year, usually servers are re-set so students lose their work - somewhat against the ethos of cloud computing!
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