Paying for “Free” Cloud Services

Like many, I have to admit that I’m often attracted to “free” cloud services, programs, and software. Who wouldn’t want to save money where they can – especially when the service offered seems virtually the same as what others are paying their hard earned money for. Well, like everything in this world, there always seems to be a trade-off, doesn’t there?

The Journal’s 12/4/12 article The Price of Free Cloud Resources, highlights the positives and negatives of free cloud resources. There are so many cloud-based resources that either are entirely free, or are free but offer a less-robust version of a for-fee resource. Either way, free resources are tempting, both to the average user as well as to libraries, media centers, and schools. Who wouldn’t want to save money where they can, especially now, when many budgets are so dramatically reduced? Additionally, many cloud-based resources are cutting-edge, new, exciting, and flexible! It’s hard not to be attracted and drawn to that.

But with free, comes a catch… For cloud-based resources the catch or the “payment” for the service is often privacy and personal data. According to Jim Siegl, Chair of the Consortium of School Networking, “Data is the most common (yet invisible) fee extracted from users by companies that make search engines, e-mail, and other cloud computing resources accessible to schools.” As schools (or individuals) enter into agreements with a cloud-based resource, they may be required to sign and agree to a contract. It is crucial that the person reading and signing that contract understands the language and the agreement they’re entering into — and what it means to their school and their students (or patrons in the case of a library). However, because cloud computing is fairly new, Siegl believes that federal regulations are about twelve years behind in responding to cloud computing and related privacy concerns. privacy2So what are schools and individuals to do? Read! And read carefully! Understand what you’re reading, ask questions if need be. Research it! (This could be a natural fit for librarians….). In schools and at libraries, individuals responsible for technology services need to carefully analyze the agreements they’re entering into. Additionally, technology specialists (or those that sign the agreements) should consider providing opportunities to inform other parties at their school or library about the privacy issues, and about the data that is being collected. For students, it’s important to remind them that what they do on the internet is not private. And that everything they do leaves a digital footprint, and can be tracked back to them.

Additionally, it’s important to know that even some for-fee resources gather data… Again, contracts must be carefully reviewed and privacy should always be of utmost concern. There will always be trade-offs, but we have to be certain the trade-off is truly worth it, and that the cloud-based service meets our basic privacy requirements (whatever they may be depending upon your library, your school, or your personal wishes).

Interested in reading more on this important topic? Checkout the following links to get started…

Cyber Security for the Digital District from the Consortium for School Networking: Tools and Resources

Privacy Technical Assistance Center: Frequently Asked Questions – Cloud Computing

Scholastic Article: Demystifying Cloud

WebJunction MN Webinars

Check out the WebJunction Events Calendar to see the list of new, free webinars that are available to the full Minitex library community. The calendar also provides access to archived versions of recent webinars.

Several upcoming webinars available to the full library community are:wj_logo

Outreach Programs in Rural Communities: Simple Steps for Surprising Results
Thursday, Dec. 6, 1 p.m. Central

What Would Walt Do?: Quality Customer Service for Libraries
Wednesday, Dec. 12, noon Central

The Impact of an Ice Cream Sundae
Tuesday, Jan. 15, 1 p.m. Central

Creating a Culture of Innovation in your Library and Community
Wednesday, Jan. 23, noon Central

Teen Research Skills on the Internet

Question Mark

So, what do you think, has the Internet harmed students’ research skills?

A new survey of teachers by the Pew Internet & American Life Project  finds that many       educators believe the Internet has shortened students’ attention spans and weakened students’   research skills. I am not so sure about those two statements, but I was fascinated by some of the findings that mirror what our Bridging Information Literacy Across Libraries group discussed this year. A few stats from this blog post include:

  • “While 77 percent of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project instructors agree that the Internet and available search tools have had a “mostly positive” effect on student research, 87 percent say the same tools can easily distract students and contribute to shorter attention spans
  • Even more disconcerting, 64 percent of respondents say modern digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.
  • The news is not all bad. Of those teachers surveyed, 99 percent say that the Internet provides access to a wider range of sources and information; while 65 percent agree that the web has helped students become self-sufficient researchers

You will have to read the full blog post to get an answer to the six-million-dollar question: Has the Internet conditioned students to expect too much too fast?

Last of all, as you read this post ask yourself why librarians are digging deep to understand what their role is going to be in the future! It seems crystal clear that we will be needed more than ever!

Read the full blog post at  EdTech magazine (12/2012)

If you want to go straight to the source, the overview and  full results of the  Pew Internet survey about How Teens Do Research in the Digital World is located at

My Report on the EduTech Smackdown Open Mic Night with Joyce Valenza

In one of last week’s blog posts we highlighted EduTech’s Smackdown Open Mic Night with Dr. Joyce Valenza, which took place Monday (December 3rd) at 7:00 PM. Though there were maybe other places I would’ve rather been at 7:00 PM on a Monday :), I have to say I turned out to be very glad to have attended this online (Blackboard Collaborate) event. It was a great OpenMic_SimonScott_TLCafe12experience all around! The “open mic” approach was really quite fun, quick, and refreshing. Attendees that wanted to share a resource with the virtual audience had been asked in advance to create a slide and embed it in the larger slideshow so that they’d have a “spot” in the line-up of presenters. As the night progressed, one-by-one each slide appeared on the screen and the mic was turned over to the presenter.

The host of the evening was Dr. Joyce Valenza, along with a few other (big name) moderators. Throughout the hour-long open mic webinar scads of helpful tools, apps, and other resources were shared. I literally have four notebook pages full of tools/resources with helpful ideas and suggestions for how to effectively utilize them. I anticipate that I may be sharing some of these resources/tools/apps in upcoming blog posts, but know that they ranged from holocaust survivor story websites, to apps like Reflection, to storytelling sites/apps, to poster making resources. Really, the whole gamut was covered here! It was an energizing experience, and I definitely plan to attend similar events in the future.

Lucky for you if you missed it… There is an archived version of the webinar now available! If you participated as well, we definitely want to hear from you! Please share (in the comments area) the ideas and resources you found the most useful!

Apply today for MILE 2013!

From MILE 2013:

The Minnesota Library Association’s Institute for Leadership Excellence (MILE) will help you discover the leader within yourself and give you tools to learn how to lead effectively today—even if your current position isn’t one of leadership.Leadership

During this four-day conference, selected participants will spend their days in an intimate conference setting with 24 other emerging library leaders from across the state. They will learn about using improvisational humor and creative idea generation to foster creative approaches to problem solving and strategic planning, discover their personal strengths, and learn to lead no matter what their current library position may be. Participants will also become involved in an ongoing mentoring relationship.

Applications for participation will be accepted through Friday, January 11, 2013. Accepted participants will be notified in February.

Learn more and apply today at

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