All right stop, collaborate and listen….
“Young becoming hostages to handheld devices,” screamed a headline across several media outlets earlier this week.
Clearly the media at large view this as a very bad thing. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking the same, however, what if we could take this idea and turn it into a positive? What if we embraced the idea that kids and young adults will be permanently tethered to some sort of device – perhaps then this difficulty could become an opportunity?
What if we could use mobiles, tablets, phablets and laptops as a kind of educational Trojan horse?
From the outset Microsoft has been clear that SharePoint allows education professionals to create, deliver and manage content from any device, anywhere, anytime. And while this may just be about shifting product into a youthful and therefore potentially lucrative market, it is also the case that SharePoint has some pretty handy applications for educating people.
At its core SharePoint is a collaboration platform, which is the Holy Grail teachers, lecturers and professors seek.
At its most basic it’s a content management tool – it shares content. Something we could all have done with when we missed that Monday morning lecture, although I’m not sure the two eager beavers who turned up for the spiel would have been willing sharers.
SP is a collection of many different products and technologies all wrapped up and given a singular title: MS explains SP as having six key areas: sites, communities, content, search, insights and composites.
SP makes websites, so schools and universities don’t need special programmers, lecturers don’t need to be web designers, you don’t need HTML and anyone can edit, change and contribute to these websites.
You can create a module on your desktop, Dave makes an update on his laptop after a meeting with the head of department, and every student in the sixth form can access on their mobile later that day.
It’s easy for academic staff to develop captivating multimedia presentations and high-quality, interactive course materials, which they can store in a content management system with workflows making it easier to track and manage eLearning.
There are some pretty obvious elements to SP that are immediately applicable to making the classroom more dynamic than previously, be that university, sixth form or a distance learning organisation such as the Open University.
As I said, at its heart SP is a collaboration tool so you can share files, applications and desktops with others to collaborate in real-time, across the classroom or around the world, making it easier to link up the best teachers with the best students or the worst, depending on who needs the help.
SP can equip students and academic staff with tools for vibrant, engaging learning. Academic staff have powerful tools to provide meaningful, contextual help and feedback right in the video, podcast or presentation they are assessing. They can deliver their classes as podcasts and video conferences, extending learning beyond the institution.
That’s a lot of stuff, which is why search is an important ingredient of SP’s taste – it’s got a smart search engine built into it so it’ll be difficult to lose things even after not sleeping for two days because you were ‘cramming’ for an exam.
Managing IT across your educational institution doesn’t have to be challenging.
SP and Azure allows operational efficiency, to provide smart management capabilities that will streamline your IT, making it more efficient and secure.
Student and staff email, desktop applications and secure access to your networked resources can all be managed centrally via the cloud, enabling you to quickly update their computers with new software and security patches.
Security can be controlled at the application and device level, protecting students online with continually scanning for viruses and malware.
At a higher capability level SP could also provide university research teams with smart tools for team collaboration, analysis, development and professional authoring, plus the computing power for data mining, complex numerical calculations and computation.
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