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wifi

How Wireless Encourages Collaborative Learning In Schools

As renowned educationalist Sir Ken Robinson once pointed out, education has traditionally been wary of technology in a way that is strangely at odds with the wider world. Children, he said, are taught from an early age not to copy each other’s ideas; yet in the workplace, this would be called teamwork, and is widely encouraged.

Thankfully, that is changing, and technology is playing a key role. Collaborative learning is not a new idea – group work has always taken place in classrooms (when students are given permission), and peer learning, which explicitly encourages pupils to learn from each other through discussion and demonstration, is a staple part of teacher training.

New Technology, New Impetus

Since the onset of wireless technology, collaborative learning has gained a new momentum. As long as they have a mobile device and a WiFi connection, students do not even have to be in the same place to share their learning. Social platforms mean they can share ideas wherever they are, conferencing technology means they can all sit in on the same virtual tutorial, and cloud productivity software means they can watch the same video and share written notes in real time.

All of this has come about in the last decade or so, thanks primarily to the simultaneous development of two technologies, wireless grids and devices which can use these grids to connect people (i.e. any mobile device with a camera, microphone and screen share facility). The deluge of software (or, if you prefer, apps) which has followed essentially enrich this basic functionality.

Initially, collaborative learning using wireless technology was something which emerged in colleges and universities, with tech-savvy students pushing their own learning on their new devices. But as young children have taken a bigger and bigger share of the mobile technology market – and have indeed become the first ‘digital natives’ – schools down to primary level have started to grasp the potential of letting children learn together through devices they intuitively understand.

Working Together

Indeed, with younger pupils, where it can be harder for teachers to let go of the instructional role, wireless technology allows a good balance to be struck between teacher-led activities and pupil-centred collaboration. Some of the ways WiFi in schools is allowing collaborative learning to flourish includes:

  • Collective note-taking: Instead of teachers leading a lesson by writing notes on a topic on a board at the front of the class, every pupil has ownership because lesson notes appear on the device in front of them. Micro-blogging sites make this interactive, so students can add their own notes or ask questions which are shared with a group or the whole class.
  • Collaborative projects: Wiki technology was created to allow any user to add their knowledge to a collective whole, simply and quickly. This is a powerful way to encourage children to share their learning towards creating a collaborative whole. It also hands over ownership of key higher-level skills such as selecting or rejecting content, and organising lay-out. This can be used to encourage collaboration in writing as much as project work, with many apps and websites offering platforms to collaborate on writing stories and books and allowing ideas to be shared in real time.
  • Social learning: More and more schools are adopting Virtual Learning Platforms, which by their very nature make learning a shared, social activity rather than something distinct to each individual. VLPs break down the barriers between school and home, as students can carry on their learning after the school day ends and discuss it together through messenger platforms. Commercial VLPs, often subject specific, come with interactive lessons and collaborative games and puzzles as standard.

The key to all of this, of course, is having a robust, scalable WiFi network which can handle high volumes of data traffic, and having the devices available. The rest is limited only by the imaginations of students, teachers and the app makers.

For more information about setting up or updating the WiFi networks in your school to meet the demands of hi-tech education, get in touch with Simpli-Fi for a no-obligation discussion about your requirements.

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wifi

Bring Your Own Device – Boosting Technology In The Classroom

Education leaders are routinely challenged to guarantee that they are delivering skills to young people that will fully prepare them for their future lives, and staying on top of digital trends is a key part of that.

In addition, technology is seen as a way to make learning itself more engaging, more interactive, more effective. Part and parcel of ensuring equality in opportunity in education is now making sure all young people have equal access to the same devices and platforms designed to bring learning to life.

This poses more than a few challenges to educators. Not least of these is resourcing. As technology proliferates, the cost of keeping equipment up to date and available to all students will take up bigger and bigger chunks of school and college budgets.

One solution is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Because education makes use of the same sort of devices most of today’s children have at home – iPads, tablets, smartphone, notebooks – it makes sense to ask parents to send their children to school with them the same way they supply a uniform or stationery.

The main attraction of this approach is obviously to reduce costs for schools. Here are four other key ways BYOD can boost the use of technology in education.

1. Keep Everyone Involved

If every student has their own device, rather than having to share, focus on the lesson will be much greater. Smart devices are intended to be interactive, so it is not just a case of pupils being able to view their own screen – having their own device means everyone can do so as well. There is obviously an issue of whether every child will own or bring a device, but supplying a handful of tablets or laptops is much cheaper for a school than supplying a classroom full.

2. Let Students Take Ownership of Learning

Connected to the internet, a smart device means students literally have a world of information at their fingertips. Instead of listening to a teacher all day, they can find things out for themselves. There is also a sense that they will feel more of a sense of ownership over their learning if they are allowed to use their own devices, the same they use to play games and talk to their friends.

3. Improve Collaboration and Project Work

One of the problems with the traditional use of exercise books in education is that it creates a focus on individual work at the expense of collaboration. But in the world of work, individuals don’t do everything themselves, and get it assessed in their own document record – they are expected to work with other people. Devices like smartphones were designed for communication, and with dozens of apps available to allow document sharing and real time shared editing, collaboration in the classroom is now more feasible and effective.

4. Shape Learning to Meet Individual Needs

Digital technology provides a wealth of multimedia approaches for communicating an idea, or indeed for recording your own notes and ideas – images, text, audio, video, interactive presentations and so on. These can be used to suit the individual learning styles of different students. Moreover, when a teacher delivers a lesson ‘live’ to a class, pupils have no choice but to keep up. With digital presentations, or even by recording lessons to play back later, children can work at their own pace.

Further information

For more information about how to use technology in your school to meet the demands of hi-tech education, get in touch with Simpli-Fi for a no-obligation discussion about your requirements.