Flipping education on its head with the cloud

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At my son’s elementary school, every student is exposed to these technologies to use for their daily studies:

• iPad
• Apple TV
• Skype

I have no hesitation in saying this is a win-win for students and parents. Education and technology are a great fit for many reasons. One is today’s young people are native to the world of the Internet and devices. This is what they’re interested in and engaged in. Yet it’s safe to say the education field, in general, is not keeping up in any uniform way with technology and how kids are using it.

Back at my son’s school, for example, the elementary grade teachers link the students’ iPads with Apple TV to improve and energize the way classroom discussions happen. The teachers also use Skype to host real-time virtual guest presenters. Teachers, for instance, invite book authors from around the world to interact with students. They Skype in specialists, such as in math or the sciences, to provide students with a much more enhanced classroom experience. In addition, the school uses Moodle to unite and transmit online the constant information and data flow between students, teachers and parents.

Along this line, I came across a recent article in Southwest Airline’s Spirit magazine, titled “Flipped Out,” by Jennifer Miller. The article covers a nascent trend of secondary school classroom pedagogy wherein the teacher inverts or “flips” homework and classroom instruction. In other words, flipped classrooms allow students at home to use devices and laptops to view videos and related content of classroom lecture instruction while classic homework activity (e.g., working solo on math or chemistry problems) is done collaboratively in class.

Under this method, the expectation is kids will pay more attention to the instruction via video and then more effectively apply their knowledge in the classroom through collaborative problem-solving.

As a lay person to the field of teaching, I’m not ready to endorse the concept of the flipped classroom. Yet as a trained technologist and advocate for the power of technology to improve the way we do things, I’m always interested in seeing how technology is pushing new boundaries in teaching and learning.

Simply put, the way we use technology today is changing old patterns, processes and procedures in our lives. And it’s not just a factor of improved access to fast Internet, but also how we’re deploying cloud computing technology to transform the way people collaborate, share ideas and save time.

At Motifworks, we’re helping develop and design education-focused mobile apps to help young people succeed. One app, called Ola Mundo, is crafted for children with autism and speech delay to enable them to engage in enjoyable learning and communication with others. Built for the iPad, Ola Mundo provides an easy-to-use illustrated symbol language and child-friendly layout to empower children with special communications needs.

When it comes to education and technology, my own sense is we should let students join more in the effort to find new ways to spark learning and growth. Using computer services via the cloud, we’ve developed better ways to organize and administer our adult lives, whether it’s banking, business administration, travel, health care, government services – you name it. So, why not listen more to our students and fully extend the power of technology to fuel their learning and academic success?

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