The power of the network in education

A modern communications and networking infrastructure can benefit all involved in teaching and learning, as Jane McCallion discovers...

When listing the critical infrastructure needed to run an educational establishment ''modern networking infrastructure' may not come out top. And, yet, thanks to the way classes are delivered and information is transmitted, it has never been more critical.

Modern classroom strategies like flipped or blended learning and the use of multimedia streaming in lessons, along with the use of web portals for administrative tasks, are very much linked to schools having a reliable, secure network.

In universities, inter-institutional collaboration, as well as communication between tutors and students and within the student body, are all being enriched by advances in communications and networking technology.

Connecting the 21st Century classroom

The classroom of the 21st Century will look dramatically different to the classroom of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Thanks to the introduction of technology like Interactive Whiteboards into the classroom, streaming from the web is becoming part of children's every day classroom experience.

This could be something as simple as playing a YouTube video, or it could be more interactive, like exploring data visualisations delivered by the likes of the BBC and the national broadsheets.

It could also include content from dedicated educational materials providers, such as Espresso Education and EducationCity.

Peer-to-peer videoconferencing could also be used to give pupils access to specialists and spokes people from authors to zoologists from all over the country or even the world.

This makes it easier for third parties to carry out educational outreach across many geographies, allowing them to be many places at one time without having to leave their original location.

However, these techniques and technologies are, bluntly, useless without a network that can back them up.

Schools' access to decent broadband infrastructure is now almost as vital as their access to electricity.

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