Apple users may not be familiar with SkyDrive at all; but Microsoft and Google have been in competition for a while now trying to control the cloud computing experience with SkyDrive being Microsoft’s offering, and Google Drive being, well, Google’s. As a PC user, I am not up to speed on what Apple is doing on this front, but last I checked iCloud was not as much of a peer-peer collaborative environment as SkyDrive and Google Drive are attempting to be. In any case, cloud computing has opened up tremendous new possibilities for teachers, both in the areas of collaborative learning and teacher development of web based materials. So, let’s try and sort out these two major players in the game.
Both SkyDrive and Google Drive have downloadable folders for file sharing which can be placed right in your explorer window (that’s like Mac’s Finder), and fit in seamlessly with your typical PC environment. Both can be used on multiple devices to share files with yourself on multiple platforms, Android, Mac OS, and Windows. Both can be accessed from web browsers on any device. Both use the same login password you would use for your e-mail and are directly tied to your e-mail (G-mail or Hot-mail/Outlook/Microsoft account). Both offer web app versions of popular software such as word/document and excel/spreadsheet. However, there are some major differences.
SkyDrive is part of Microsoft’s Office 365 company overhaul. Microsoft has quickly shifted towards the new trend in cloud based computing and has made their newest office suite entirely subscription based. They have gone through great effort to make their cloud computing interface as user friendly as possible by optimizing their application for touch screen use and providing simple uncluttered interfaces. They even offer free web app versions of many of their most popular office programs. And, if any of you have ever been to their website, you know they really, really care what we think about the design aspect of their ‘new look’.
Google, on the other hand, has spent more effort on making their applications run smoothly on their only platform, the web, and developing their collaborative community of programmers. Google also seems to think that everyone has a minor in computer science, making some of the functions of their application out of reach for many users such as script design and application modification.
SkyDrive has the OneNote web app, which is like an instant web site for private, group, or public use and ties in with their OneNote PC program—possibly the greatest all-in-one organizer Microsoft has ever made. And since the OneNote Web App has been out for a few months now it might just possibly be working smoothly.
Google Drive has Google docs, which is good for collaborative word processing and sharing. And, Google sites, which is good for collaborative web building and sharing. And, Google spreadsheets, which is good for collaborative number crunching and database sharing.
Both the SkyDrive excel web app and the Google Drive spreadsheet web app can be used to make on-line quizzes and surveys which tally results into a spreadsheet. I find the fact that SkyDrive’s web apps sync perfectly with their PC versions of their software available in Office 365 to make the SkyDrive/Office 365 experience infinitely more powerful in the area of back end data processing; but, Google Drive’s spreadsheet works better as a web app than SkyDrive’s—probably because Google is only focusing on the web experience.
So, which is better for use in the classroom? Again, that depends. I prefer to use Google’s spreadsheet to make surveys, because it is easier to use and offers more options. But, I like SkyDrive for making on-line quizzes because I can open the results on my PC to do all of my number crunching.
SkyDrive’s OneNote Web App is great for collaborative note-taking and brainstorming, or for providing teacher notes to students on-line, but loading time for web based viewing is painfully slow, and at times the software can malfunction resulting in loss of data (as of May, 2013).
Basically, I use SkyDrive when I will be doing most of the work on PC; and I use Google Docs when the work will mostly be done in a real-time collaborative environment and I want a light, fast and reliable web interface.
Whichever format you prefer, I think the exciting thing is the possibility for collaborative learning using real time interfacing. How about collaborative writing assignments? Collaborative database creation? Collaborative note taking? Or even a student generated collaborative web site? The possibilities for collaborative learning have grown exponentially with the advent of cloud computing. I am really interested to hear other teachers/users opinions and ideas on this topic. What ideas do you have for collaborative learning using cloud technology?