School IT departments have generally been on the front foot when it comes to embracing new technologies, and teachers who also embrace the latest technologies can reap the benefits faster. The cloud has opened up their world, and technology is poised to finally deliver on its promise to transform education.
The cloud has reversed a disappointing trend for teachers. Previously, clunky hardware and failing technology meant wasted time and frustration – hindering rather than assisting them.
All that is changing as the cloud delivers a more flexible, responsive and less device-specific form of technology into the classroom, and the way information is stored, accessed, presented and assessed is transformed. Coursework can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. But it’s not just storage.
Education apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated in tracking individual student performance. In a context where there is a five or six-year difference between the most advanced and least-capable student in a classroom, distinguishing instruction is not only a worthy goal but a practical necessity. And that's where cloud-based technology can help. Connected apps and services such as Mathletics and Duolingo allow students to work at their own pace and adjust the order and difficulty of tasks in line with their progress.
With such data on students, teachers can make informed decisions about the next steps in learning.
Improving student outcomes
Exercise books and textbooks are increasingly becoming relics. Cloud-based student learning management systems such as Edumate, Moodle, Edmodo and Blackboard are now staples in most schools across Australia, the United Kingdom and United States. Their connectivity means students have access to the most up to date case studies instead of relying on textbooks, which quickly date.
Google Docs allows students greater opportunities for collaboration, as documents can be edited simultaneously by multiple authors – including the teacher. Feedback can be instant.
And perhaps the biggest impact of the cloud is on overstretched budgets. The security and maintenance of expensive infrastructure and internal servers are becoming redundant. Cloud-based storage services such as Amazon, Google and Office 365 provide huge amounts of space with the added benefit of the collective skill of world-class engineers to protect information.
Large upfront costs for software are also giving way to modest subscription fees for services that are continually improved and updated. And many are free.
The flexibility of these apps also means students no longer have to shell out big bucks for a laptop, with the ability to access many of the applications on their smartphones or tablets.
For initiative-fatigued teachers who are after a more convenient and efficient way to improve the teaching and learning cycle, the cloud might just be the technological breakthrough they need to re-engage with technology.