We may soon find the key to fulfilling the long deferred dream of universal, egalitarian education. Education anytime, anywhere, with anyone, for everyone.
At the heart of this dream is Internet technology. Specifically: Mobile computing is the new “killer platform”; cloud computing services on mobile platforms, the new hot paradigm.
The Web offers us a breadth of previously unknown and unavailable realms of information and challenges us to make use of these new resources.
Sophisticated authoring tools and augmented reality technology will provide heretofore unimagined multimedia immersion. Individualization of the learning process can be achieved, remaking the education experience by settling it on the bedrock of self-interest.
The expanding frontier of mobile computing promises unbridled educational navigation of the Internet landscape and a new lens for exploring the world. At the same time, decreasing cost and increasing efficiency positions cloud computing as an alternative to significant capital investment in the large computing infrastructure formerly deemed essential by educational institutions.
This does not foreshadow the end of classroom learning. Technology is never a total solution, but a harbinger of possibilities that can expand the educational experience within and beyond the frontiers of the classroom.
Cloud computing in and of itself is just a bigger hammer. Massive computing gives you massive memory and processing power. Lots and lots of data can be processed in moments. Applications to capture and measure various of aspects of student performance will be at the heart of the new tools for education. A variety of scenarios can be produced in an interactive environment that can determine, say, a student’s learning style and adapt the presentation of information accordingly and/or suggest methods the student may employ for maximum educational effectiveness, such as memory tricks or speed reading techniques.
With cloud computing, it is no longer necessary to develop an extended plan for a large capital outlay in order to have adequate computing power in the present and the foreseeable future. Cloud resources allow processing time and information storage space to be allocated on demand. Computing resources can be accessed for ambitious projects that may have been unthinkable previously because of the scale of computing resources necessary, even if those resources are needed for a limited time or for one specific venture.
The bright new threads of cloud computing will weave an intricate tapestry of unprecedented collaboration and learning throughout our modern institutions, a tapestry linking us not only to an enormous collective of human knowledge but also to a world of possibilities, a world of ideas, a world of dreams. Academic institutions, government, industry, and philanthropic entities will be frequent bedfellows in the transformative landscape where learning, true learning, will become an integral part of our lives.
We stand at the threshold of a new age. Cloud computing, mobile technology, content tools, and financial anemia have the potential to truly deliver a revolution in learning, changing the way we experience knowledge. When there is no more money for salaries or new programs, cloud technology will be the only affordable solution promising more precise metrics of student performance.
True lifelong engagement is at our fingertips if we have the will and the desire to discover the manifold ways of knowing and to fashion more creative modes of learning.
— Russell E. Hicks Jr. is a Web administrator for the Office of Environmental Health Services for the Bureau for Public Health at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. He has a strong interest in the future of education and its technological evolution.