With the blackboard relegated to the educational dump of history, and a plethora of technological devices being used across schools and colleges far and wide, the educational sector is continuing to increase its investment in technology related to learning. According to Ian Burns, Director at Inspired Technology, the implementation of digital technologies in education can be a minefield due to the rapid pace of change which is why it’s key to find a trustworthy and capable IT partner to handle your requirements so your staff can focus on the job at hand, teaching.
With children so adept at digital technology it is a given that innovative audio visual and IT solutions are a must for modern educational facilities. Experience has shown that by harnessing and embracing technology – computers, smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, social media platforms and networks, software applications and the internet – it can be used to the great benefit of teachers and learners alike. But what about the benefits?
For a start technology gives students immediate access to an abundance of up-to date quality information and source material which leads to learning at much quicker rates than before. With a wealth of credible and resourceful websites, the internet teaches valuable research skills and provides students with a variety of knowledge which isn’t limited to just one person’s opinion. Teachers are also able to share their ideas and resources online across the globe in order to provide their students with the best and enhance their learning
Is the PC dead?
The willingness to embrace change is key to the successful implementation of IT technology. Take the iPad, a device which offers a number of unique features that provide a wealth of possibilities in teaching and learning and is fast becoming the king of classroom technology. Instant and simple to use, students have the internet, a camera, a notebook, a sound recorder and a range of tools at their fingertips. And when you combine this with the sheer number of educational apps released every month, the classroom possibilities are endless.
Schools can save money by combining books, diaries, writing implements and word processors all in one media tablet. Students can take control of their own learning while the touch screen interface allows students to engage more interactively. It can also be easily tailor made to each student and integrated with existing IT systems.
The classroom has seen everything from the blackboard to the whiteboard to the overhead projector but the next big board at the front of the classroom is likely to be a large multi-touch LCD screen. Capable of detecting multiple touch inputs from many students at the same time, this new giant smart board allows an infinite combination of images, sounds and videos and a greater amount of interactivity.
With prices dropping over the last few years, the 3D printer has potential to be the must have item in the classroom and open up new possibilities for learning activities. From a biology class, where students can study cross sections of parts of the body to a history class which can print artefacts for closer examination, the 3D printer gives students the power and confidence to enter into the unknown.
The 3D printer is a particularly useful tool in engineering and architecture related courses. Having the opportunity to hold, touch and feel their designs is an important advantage for any design student. Many teachers also believe that 3D printers can help students build critical thinking and develop spatial reasoning capabilities.
Whatever happens with any new IT device that comes along for the classroom it will need the cloud. A cloud based system not only increases the benefits offered by tablets but it also offers potential cost savings. By working in the cloud, teachers can set, collect and mark homework online while their students will have instant access to marks, comments and work via a computer, smartphone or tablet. Files can be stored and created in the cloud while program software and data can be stored on remote servers.
When using Google Apps for example, both students and teachers can work on documents together in the cloud making it easy to collaborate productively. They can be either in the same room or in different countries.
“Cloud services are a more cost effective option for schools and colleges,” says Ian Burns. “Moving software and data to the cloud will allow them to spread out IT costs as licensing costs for on-demand software is considerably less than the larger costs for upfront licenses which have to be downloaded to each device.”
With cloud based applications and programmes accessible online, it’s vital that schools and other educational institutions futureproof their IT infrastructure the best they can. Connectivity must be fast and reliable because if their network is slow and things are not working properly students and teachers will not want to use the devices. Make the sure the infrastructure is there before the devices.
Another new IT development in education is the flipped-classroom where the typical classroom learning and homework are reversed. Students gain control of the learning process by watching video lectures outside of class to learn content online, and then do their homework in class with the guidance of teachers in person. This approach helps to engage students outside of the classroom as well as in it. The online classroom can incorporate visual presentations such as graphs, videos or photos but with all these online tools and video streaming, they must be optimised for interactivity.
With the 21st century student so accustomed to the web and social media for the information and interaction, a flipped classroom will allow students to pace their own learning according to their needs and break down instruction into shorter 10 minute bites of learning.
With schools and colleges relying on their internet and broadband services for their day-to-day operations and activities, it’s imperative that they adopt robust cyber security procedures to protect their IT infrastructure from a growing array of risks and dangers. These threats can include inadvertently downloading malware which takes over one or more computers, the unauthorised downloading of video and music files which can seriously affect the performance of a network, students visiting illegal and inappropriate websites and perhaps one of the most serious security issues – children inadvertently giving out their personal information online.
“Ultimately, security is not about blocking children from using new technologies, it’s about ensuring your IT infrastructure is safe but not restrictive,” commented Ian Burns.
While children need to be educated on the importance of security and why rules are in place, schools and colleges must create clear security guidelines and ensure their security systems are up to date. They need to set strict web filters and password systems, monitor web and Instant Messaging use and determine what platforms are and aren’t acceptable.
A partner at hand
In the ever-evolving world of IT, the cost and time implications of having a staff member who can look after your IT infrastructure has meant that schools and colleges are turning to experienced technologists who can provide bespoke solutions which ultimately improve teachers and learning. Placing your IT infrastructure and applications with a reputable IT solutions and services provider has become more a necessity than a convenience.
The role of technology in schools and colleges is ever changing but if used correctly it will transform the lives of both teachers and their students. Technology integration is here to stay so it’s imperative that educational institutions reap the benefits.