‘Webinars’ and web conferences have long been an important tool for business. Webinars are often employed to good use here at Trustmarque, and are especially advantageous in enabling communication across offices in separate locations. Another collaborative tool, Microsoft’s Lync, can help those working remotely to communicate with colleagues instantly. The Microsoft Surface Hub, to be launched later this year, promises to be a powerful, larger-than-life tool to enhance such collaborative projects.
Although school budgets are unlikely to stretch to the Hub, the Cloud and other advances are still making big changes to the ways we can learn and interact at any level, at home, in the office, and even in school and education – no matter what device is used.
A recent article by Jane Wakefield, technology correspondent for BBC News, covered the new concept of ‘flipped classrooms’. As an alternative to the forward facing rows of desks of old, the layout is opened up to allow for pupils working at varying paces. Instructions for study will be delivered online with the help of resources stored in the Cloud, and then time in school will be used to work on projects with teachers present as a guide.
“The teachers facilitate, rather than standing in front of the children telling them what to do, and the children just come in and get on with what they are doing,” says Mohammed Telbany, head of IT at Sudbury Primary School in Suffolk. The movement also improves the social aspect of learning and encourages team work.
The fact that the Cloud can facilitate learning with minimal intervention or assistance could be particularly invaluable in developing countries. It can now be a reality for retired professionals or teachers from the UK, known affectionately as ‘cloud grannies’, to teach classes of children across the globe via Skype.
The School in the Cloud Project, which kicked off this month, is pioneering in its cloud-based approach to learning, teaching and connecting different cultures. Partners include Microsoft, TED and Newcastle University. The concept began with ‘hole-in-the-wall’ style learning experiments in Delhi in 1999, initiated by Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, and snowballed from there.
The future looks bright for similar projects, such as My Resource Cloud and Bright Cloud Resources. Whether or not the latest technology is to hand, all this is available with an internet connection such as WiFi or 3G. The idea of having schools in the Cloud is not far from being realised.
The revolutionary result? With the help of cloud empowerment, education can now truly become accessible to all.