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The success of collaborative classrooms lies in the cloud

Neil Watkins, managing director at Think IT, offers his advice on using technology effectively

Posted by Hannah Oakman | February 28, 2016 | Secondary

At the recent learning technology trade show, Bett, I saw roughly thirty different providers of interactive screens, tables and whiteboards. I’m not denying that they’re great to have in the classroom, and of course they make teaching and learning more visual and engaging, but the truth is teachers aren’t always concerned with how to use them effectively. What really matters is what you’re using those tools for to improve teaching and learning. Regardless of the device, ultimately the key purpose of these technologies is to transmit useful content and this needs to be managed efficiently.

When it comes to effective classroom management, the power needs to lie with the teacher. They should have the capability to monitor all pupils’ activity simultaneously, broadcast specific content onto individual devices and shut down any users whose activity is deemed inappropriate. Cloud-based technologies are even able to extend collaboration beyond the classroom so that absent students who are off sick, or excluded for example, can still take part in a lesson at home or from another area of the school. This technology is not new to education, but historically tends to be used more by network managers to monitor and control their school’s IT from the back-office, rather than being used by classroom teachers themselves. Fortunately, this traditional set up is changing.

With the increasing use of cloud technologies, it’s extremely easy for a school to sync up multiple devices so that they work seamlessly together to achieve a truly collaborative classroom

With the increasing use of cloud technologies, it’s extremely easy for a school to sync up multiple devices so that they work seamlessly together to achieve a truly collaborative classroom. The most important part however, is not the fact that these devices work together, but that the educational content is curriculum-aligned and can be shared across multiple platforms. As long as the content remains interesting and engaging, students will want to learn and will be less likely to become disinterested and disruptive. With over 250,000 apps in the marketplace, choosing the right content can be tricky, but working with trusted providers such as The Educational App Store will simplify the process hugely. Schools can benefit from a team of education specialists to validate the highest quality apps and recommend those that match the National Curriculum.

If I could offer one piece of advice to schools, it would be to remember that technology doesn’t teach people; people teach people. It’s important to think not only about the devices you need in your school to achieve collaboration, but about how exactly they’re going to be used together and what content is needed to get the best out of the technology you’re using. It’s simply not enough to invest in 100 iPads and assume that this will improve teaching and learning. I always advise the schools I work with to consider their desired outcomes before anything else. Spend time with all staff to consider the outcomes you want for your pupils, parents, staff and governors. Next, select a managed service provider that can work closely with you to offer consultation and advice around this. While your requirements are the most important thing, they will be able to input their IT experience to ensure you get the best results.

W: think-it.org.uk

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