School on the Cloud transforms learning (and classes)


School on the Cloud transforms learning and schools. Our dreams for our kids’ growth and development can fly high. I’ve written this blog post in 2015, and today here’s an update. The School on the Cloud is European schools’ initiative, is connecting Education to the Cloud for Digital Citizenship. 

It dicsusses and promotes ideas how we can use Cloud as a value-added component in Education delivery. The community stakeholders are evaluating future scenarios and resources for Education on the Cloud. Why isn’t repicated fast in our countries, for our kids?

School on the Cloud transforms learning

I was long impressed and still remember how inspired I felt after watching Sugatra Mitra’s TED 2013 speech “Build a school on the cloud”, where he presented his work and the self-organized learning solutions that are now common practice in learning institutions and forums.

Sugata Mitra made his bold TED Prize wish: “Help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other — using resources and mentoring from the cloud.”

That speech led me to realize that we need to do more and pushed me to participate in a parent-mentor initiative and then a mentors’ network, to help improve education delivery and induce a creative change for young talent.

I don’t know how many Ministers of Education have watched this speech, but I know that more and more communities are converging on the issue of how to open up our society to more constructive creativity.

The School on the Cloud

One of these initiatives is a European one, School on the Cloud, which started some years ago with the aim of connecting schools and academics, mentors and public forums.

At their first meeting in Athens, I was happy to share my views on how the ICT industry can support their goals.  I’ve used a quote from the book “Art of Silence” that symbolically explains what happens in a classroom: “…they are not aware what they can accomplish, afraid of experimentation, while they mystify knowledge …becoming unsure, insecure, always ready to leave in the middle…

Technology solutions can “save” classes creatively, pulling children out of their routine. They can provide audio-visual content, adding inexpensive “teachers” (experts, mentors), and lead children into digital research projects that will expand their understanding of the world.

Societies don’t pay teachers to “run” a curriculum, but to create open-minded citizens

We need quality content, e-learning materials, smart tests and discussion threads all on the Cloud. Then we need teachers who act as facilitators and coaches for the dialogue, as well as good developers to get this content up (from a documentary on health issues, up to a game-like test). Sadly, I know developers and start-ups working to scale up their education solutions, but they can’t even get a meeting with education authorities to discuss.

Some might ask if we need the “School on the Cloud”? Is it just hype? In the Networked Society, broadband access and connectivity will be a starting point for new, innovative ways of cooperating and socializing. Our children and their schools are in urgent need of understanding freedom, modernization of training methods, empowerment, experiencing the world and new opportunities.

Societies don’t pay teachers to teach a curriculum, but to create open-minded citizens. Societies need to regain student interest and enrich the knowledge system with ICT tools, content and discussions, which is easier to remember, which improves search competence, which turns the focus to real-life trends and culture. Learning on the Cloud means less paper, more sustainability, lower operational costs, more secure access from class or home, more equal opportunities in remote areas, less prejudice and ignorance, more courage to ask, more confidence in knowledge.

Stimuli to discuss and share

There are tools and solutions to help raise common standards, like Study in Europe (a portal to information on studying in over 30 European countries) or HEInnovate (a free self-assessment tool for all types of higher education institutions), the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (it supports innovative projects and promotes entrepreneurial talent and new ideas), the EPALE (e-platform for Adult Learning, a community for teachers, trainers, researchers, academics, policymakers and professionals active in adult learning). EU is also promoting initiatives and benchmarks like Skills Panorama, Europass, ESCO for skills and competence, and work-based learning and qualifications in the EU.

The real-life challenge of all these platforms and initiatives is that they don’t necessarily ‘bridge’ to national realities, or that governments don’t really exploit, or make them part of their policy agenda. In other words, there’s the risk of disconnecting realities.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character; that is the goal of true education.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s build the schools of the future

ICT will help us build schools for the future, which will explore revolutionary ideas of sustainability, environmental and social protection, in order to build a new generation of creative people and entrepreneurs.

We need an ecosystem for learning – to fully exploit our creative potential – in which government, universities, teachers, businesses, and researchers work together to “load” content and fundamentally address the needs of our society.

I only see opportunities for national ministers of education to commission developers, UX/UI designers and academic teams to unite, create the right content, and then scale it up with the communication operators’ access systems.

The role of the teacher remains important, as a guardian to push critical thinking, and turn the problem of information volume to a game focusing on perception and thought.

Personalized Learning

We are already able to personalize learning more now than ever. From school choice — public, private, charter, virtual — to the options available for how a student learns, education can be tailor-made to suit each individual. Blended learning gives more responsibility to the student, as it involves less direct instruction from the teacher and more discovery-based methods of learning.

It is an example of how students can control certain elements of their learning by making decisions about things like where and at what pace they move through the material.

We progress to the Adaptive learning technology era, which collects information about student behaviour as they’re answering questions, and then subsequently uses that information to provide instant feedback in order to adjust the learning experience accordingly.

Simple device-software-UI tools can continually analyze student data in real-time and split-second decisions based on that data. How to improve a course, how to diversify discussion methods, how to coach the student at hand. Such personalization is turning education into a “choose-your-own-adventure” method of learning, capitalizing on student interest and engagement.

(update 2017): The countries that lead, use technology tools

We have to dream a bit, before implementing

Am I a dreamer? With the “School on the Cloud”, our dreams can become reality. As technology transforms our society, those responsible for learning and education systems will face overwhelming pressure to adapt and transform the established concept of learning, even the nature of knowledge itself.

Not to mention the implications for the life-long learning needs of our society, from supporting unemployed people to change competence, up to certifying professionals in new domains that they do business with.

New technology and new learning models are exciting and offer previously unthinkable possibilities to students, but they require constant IT support.

As student expectations increase, as economies ask for something new… responsiveness to those needs must increase as well. We need only to set our dreams free and let them fly…

I only wonder, will my grandkids finally live in such an improved and experiential schooling system?

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