Lately, in order to make a point about how the way we use the Web is changing, I’ve been saying in my presentations something along the likes of “you know, if you took this computer (pointing to my still somewhat shiny MacBookPro) and threw it in the river, it really wouldn’t mess up my life much. There’s almost nothing on here of any importance that isn’t out there on the Web somewhere.” I talk about my extensive use of Google Docs, Flickr, YouTube, Google Notebook and a host of open source software programs that are turning my computer into more of a connection device than a filing cabinet like all my old computers were. (I would miss the beautiful display, however.)

Of course, this raises some eyebrows, and I invariably get questions and comments along the lines of “How do you trust Google to keep your information secure?” or “What if you can’t get on the Web?” These invariably lead to conversations about how mobile devices and Web enabled phones are changing the landscape and how the potential reward of easy collaboration and sharing at this point at least outweigh the risk of losing files.

Between IBM’s recent announcement to build huge data centers to support “cloud computing” for its customers, Kevin Kelly’s recent Ted Talk about the next 5,000 days of the Web, and the continuing discussion on the Fast Forward blog, it’s pretty apparent that we are shifting away from our reliance on one or two devices to hold our information and that our focus is now becoming what devices give us easiest access to that information on the Web.

Few districts get the idea that if they think differently about how they create and store most of their information that there are potentially huge savings in the offing. I keep thinking about the New York City principal who told me she was required to spend $2,000 per laptop at her school because that’s what the bid contract said. Imagine what could happen there in terms of putting technology into kids’ hands with a little bit of re-envisioning right now. (And, obviously, that’s only a first step for many districts.)

Anyway, I’m curious. How much of your work is in the clouds these days? Know any districts who are starting to leverage these potentials?

(Photo: “San Francisco Clouds” by Zerega.)