Education is evolving at breakneck speed, propelled forward by the white heat of futuristic technologies that deliver the e-Learning experiences that we could only dream of a few years ago. Stephen O’Connell from Advantex Network Solutions, says the pace of change will only increase.
Today’s education facilities are virtually unrecognisable from the ones many of us will remember from our own school days. They’re exciting, interactive places, where wireless technologies and smart devices, and the endless possibilities that these offer, are to the fore shaping and galvanising the dynamic between pupils and teachers.
More and more of our classrooms are being wired for wireless learning success with an irresistible array of mobile devices, interactive touch-screens, fully integrated tablets, laptops and presentation boards and all-in-one superfast PCs that are available for both students and teachers to use – all connected to safe and secure superfast online services and apps powered by a new generation of enterprise grade networks.
We are living in exciting times when it comes to the pace at which technology is driving change in education. The speed at which we are moving is at times almost breath taking, fuelled by the desire and hunger of pupils who are desperately keen to embrace and engage with these new technologies in their thirst to learn and explore the virtual world around them.
Today’s pupils, and those in the future, will increasingly inhabit IT enriched environments where there’s unlimited but always safe and secure access to Wi-Fi enabled devices for all abilities and ages, navigating them through the entire school learning experience and beyond. These BYOD and other devices are at the heart of digitally interactive learning super highways that can deliver on demand almost limitless teaching resources, bringing classrooms alive while creating the stimulating, visceral landscapes to allow young minds to thrive and prosper.
And of course IT is perfect for supporting the type of blended strategies where the student can learn in part through the delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media both inside and outside of the classroom. The approach also moves education activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom where the student can watch online lectures, collaborate in global online discussions and forums, or engage in concepts in the classroom after completing research at home or using lessons to plug skills’ gaps in a supported learning environment.
However, while technology is revolutionising learning it can never replace teachers who are invested with the ability to inspire and empower young people. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the matter, and fortifies our approach at schools such as Sunderland’s Oxclose Community Academy, Durham Sixth Form Centre and Green Lane Primary School in Middlesbrough where new technologies provide the platform to build innovative strategies that bring the learning experience into a new age of digital enlightenment.
While technology is revolutionising learning it can never replace teachers who are invested with the ability to inspire and empower young people
For instance, conjure up an image of a classroom where IT isn’t about a room with 30 computers, rather it’s about a mobile learning and teaching environment where IT is an integral part of every lesson. We can see whole classes interacting with the teachers or online across the globe collaborating with a school in, for instance, South Africa, where teachers are able to assist students instantly and help improve their ability via the monitoring solutions available to them.
The solution’s not just about buying 30 iPads or Android devices. Many schools and academies have suffered from poor investment by their maintainers over the years, so it’s has to be more about the need to work from the foundations upwards, where sound advice and communication are critical to implementing major investments in IT and communications. And there’s more to investment: it’s about enhancing the ability of teachers to deliver engaging lessons that can be developed and delivered from the comfort of the home environment using interactive technologies as well enhancing the classroom environment.
The future cannot be about one specific device or technology; rather it’s about access, anywhere learning and collaboration, both locally and globally with a more social approach to teaching and learning that can occur regardless of time or place. I can see a world in which schools might only need a fast and robust internet connection – and the superfast, powerful networks to deliver this – to support a traditional cohort of students, as well as online only students who live across the country, or even the world who connect and interact through the new massive open online courses (MOOCs).
It’s always difficult to predict what the future holds, to know what the new ‘in’ device will be in say five years time. However, what we do know is that it will need the cloud. With the cloud, the world will be the classroom and with it the ability for e-Learning to virtually re-shape how young people develop and learn the skills for living in a brave new (digital) world.