The Cloud, Big Data and Education workshop moderated by DIGITALEUROPE Director General John Higgins on 10 March, presented the case for expanding the scope of ICT in education.
Konstantin D. A. Scheller
Innovation in Education, EIT & MSCA, DG Education & Culture
Vice President, Cloud & Education, EMEA – NVIDIA
Director, Education Policy, Teaching & Learning
Director General at DIGITALEUROPE
The Communication on ‘Opening up Education’ addressed learning environments, Open Education resources, connectivity and information. Two years on with this ambitious plan, results are hard to quantify but a lot is happening, as testified by examples in Slovenia, Estonia, Denmark or Finland.The only certainty is that spreading hardware into schools won’t do the trick. Arguably a teacher with no ICT skills allocated a classroom filled with PCs is less effective than a colleague well versed in ICT sent to a classroom with no PC. Proper training is of the essence.
The emergence of cloud and big data begs the question of trust: users should know what happens to their data. Better yet, they should be in control of their data: a right to have your academic glitches forgotten was suggested as worth pondering.
The increasingly sophisticated GPUs that power entertainment games work wonders in educational media. Combined with cloud technology, they offer high-performance platforms on which to run ‘School as a Service’, a portfolio of easy-to-access (Any Time Any Where on Any Device – ATAWAD) resources that makes learning a matter of creating knowledge as much as acquiring it. Educloud (seehttp://www.cloudwatchhub.eu/Educloud) provides a good sample of how such platforms invite teachers and students to be part of a new learning experience, one which is teacher- and learner-centric. Teachers actually prepare, monitor and analyse the tasks at hand in ways they find extremely helpful. Furthermore, these tools being accessible anywhere at all times bridge the gap between ICT-replete home environments and usually less well equipped schools.
Ideally ‘Opening up Education’ should be implemented through a combination of bottom-up initiatives originating in teachers and top-down approaches structured by ministries. Occasionally radical, the former breed may bring about impressive results: in a particular area of Birmingham, a mix of flipped education and blended, personalized learning turned participating schools from lacklustre to outstanding performers. Coupled with trust-building measures, demonstrable impact is the most effective lever to start the virtuous circle of ICT-enabled education. Indeed, governments ‘get it’ more easily once they realize that digital technology enables them to scale up the performance while scaling down resources. Cloud- and BYOD-based approaches are sure ways to cut cost. Still, some school systems shy away from investing in a technology often associated with fast obsolescence and subsequent need for more investment.
In education as well as in other fields, the digital disruption’s benefits look obvious to some – including heavy users of social media and of ICT-enhanced creativity – harder to grasp by others – starting with all those who feel that their modus operandi is under threat. Anyway EU institutions are keen to make the most of innovative ways to learn better.