Let’s move our school “into the clouds”, because our students are already there. It would seem that a digital school is a school where there are many computers. Some even use calculators like: number of students per computer. But the educational environment is even more important than equipment, especially for the student and teacher.
Therefore, the most important thing is to create a coherent “edus system” in which the educational process takes place. A digital school is primarily an environment that provides access to educational content and services, to multimedia and platforms available in the digital cloud.
For everyone, from any place and at any time. The device is only a kind of interface to use these resources, independent of hardware or software architecture. This is of great importance especially in the context of the so-called BYOD trend (bring your own device).
Why do we need such a school?
We all know that today one cannot teach like 20 years ago. There are other sources of knowledge, other channels of information. We live in a digital world and it is time to start teaching digitally. Let’s move our school “into the clouds”, because our students are already there! But it is important to do it wisely and responsibly. Nothing by force.
New technologies are supposed to give us new opportunities, not just adapt the old ones. Many teachers have already fallen into a trap where technology has only perpetuated the old methods of passing on knowledge, while the activity of students has fallen to a minimum. Meanwhile, technology at school has no substitute – it is supposed to efficiently support the educational process at every level and in every area. The best is one that is transparent, reliable and always at hand.
In order to effectively implement new technologies in schools, teachers should consider how they can help them in their daily work. How can they improve their working methods? How can they use them in lessons and projects to make lessons interesting, provoke activity and stimulate creativity?
It is also worthwhile to involve students and parents in discussions on this topic. It is worthwhile to get to know their expectations and preferences, talk about what an interesting lesson with the use of technology can look like, how the teacher should get involved and what we expect from students and what duties they should take on.
The concept of a digital school is based on four main pillars: infrastructure, services, education and management. For many schools, infrastructure, equipment purchase and maintenance seems to be the most important problem. The school should provide educational services such as digital museums, video conferences, libraries and repositories, e-books and educational resources, educational platforms, access to e-journal, etc.
Today, the distribution of content, software and service delivery takes place over the Internet, so schools should have a stable and fast broadband connection. When organizing the infrastructure, even if it is not yet technically possible, we should plan data transmission at 100 mbps, and even at 1 gbps. Such parameters are able to provide us with a fibre-optic link.
The school should also be provided with the highest quality professional wireless network, which will enable the use of devices and access to educational services in every classroom. Due to the fact that on a small area such as a classroom has to work efficiently several dozen devices, and behind the wall next to it, the network should be built only of highly efficient equipment. Household equipment is not suitable for school.
Network, teachers, training
We should start building the network with a project. It is best to ask for help from specialists who will measure the thickness of walls, propagation, place access points and other intermediary devices, determine their number and range, and then put everything on the building plans. You will then receive a well-designed system with clearly marked range and signal strength of the network. Having such a network we will be mobile, ready to carry out the tasks of a digital school and ensure high comfort of work.
Another condition for success is the support of the teaching staff. Even the best idea for a digital school without the acceptance of teachers has no chance of success. If we want to work with students using new technologies, we should first reach the teachers. Today, a computer, iPad or tablet is the basic tool of a teacher’s work. Such a tool, which is a part of the educational system, should be given to the school.
In this situation the technological competence of the teacher is of great importance. Therefore, it is very important to organize a series of “tailor-made” training courses, which will allow to apply the skills gained here and now, teach to solve specific problems and tasks – for example, using the electronic journal, subject team workspace, internal communication system, reporting system, preparation of own didactic materials, etc.
Often, well-organized training and daily work with the use of technology selects several leaders who can share their knowledge and experience. Then this process, skillfully reinforced by the mechanisms of internal improvement, becomes a self-perpetuating educational machine.
Time for mobile technologies.
The era of classic computer labs equipped with noisy and energy-intensive machines is over. While they will still work well in computer science lessons, they will not be an optimal working tool on other subjects. Today, mobility in teaching is really important. Mobility that allows access to educational services from any place and at any time. This is ensured by tablets.
In school it is worth to use tablets, because:
- are lightweight and long battery life (approx. 10 hours of uninterrupted work), they can be stored in the school bag. They can be an electronic desk, backpack or schoolbag;
- are very comfortable and handy, their dimensions resemble a 60-card notebook;
- are very simple to use, do not require any additional accessories and are intuitive to use – they use natural human gestures;
- are mobile, you can take them anywhere, they are perfect for both the student bench and the trip;
- can be connected to them a whole range of devices – from microscopes to specialized detectors and measuring devices, allowing for analysis experiments and statistics;
- are modern and easy to manage.
The large number of applications that shape the student’s creativity makes tablets a universal tool for both consuming and creating content. Their seamless operation on the web makes them a perfect interface for educational services. A tablet can be a musical instrument, a film studio, a presentation tool and an extended notebook at the same time.
Digital school is a modern school. The use of new technologies in it should be something very natural, because that is what it is in everyday life. We live in a technology-assisted environment, so let’s let technology help us gain knowledge, develop skills and attitudes. Let’s let it make the school even better.