Bringing education into the 21st century

This is a guest blog by Chris Hale, software product marketing manager, working for Sharp in the UK.

Today, education and teaching methods are on a transformative path. Schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions are endeavouring to keep up with digital and technological advances and what their learners – largely digital natives – demand.  A lot has changed since chalk and blackboard were the only means of communication.  Today learners expect to work from PCs, laptops and tablets daily for their lessons and research as well as for homework.  The challenge of creating and sustaining engaging learning material is faced by teachers every day; a task that is being made easier by using Interactive White Boards, up-to-date printing facilities and collaborative file sharing.  Meanwhile in the background Managed Services can streamline administrative processes and reduce costs.

Interactive whiteboards combine advanced high definition displays with multi-touch screen technology and wireless connectivity to other devices. They help to create highly stimulating lessons and present engaging visual information that brings learning to life. The immersive learning experience is more collaborative and enables teachers to create and deliver compelling interactive material to enhance understanding of the topic, optimising engagement and stimulating their students. Making the whiteboards as intuitive to use as the blackboard allows teachers to focus on their teaching, not the technology.

With increased access to digital technologies, schools are also implementing Managed Print solutions for quicker, more convenient printing from PCs, interactive whiteboards, and mobile devices. Print demand in education remains strong – with classroom handouts, test papers, homework, essays, research… a Managed Print Service (MPS) can help both save paper for the school and offer secure and convenient Printing for students.  The new digital age of education means that documents can be printed when and where they are needed but still give administrative staff clear visibility into printing usage and costs. Features such as scanning and storing can also reduce unnecessary printing.

Leeds West Academy (LWA), part of the White Rose Academy Trust, specialises in English and Performing Arts, and several LWA students have gone on to establish themselves as chart musicians or stars of the screen and stage. While preparing for its move to a new building, the Academy planned IT services requirements for its 1250 students, teachers and administrative staff, to enable them to connect instantly to the network and wirelessly access support services. LWA implemented Sharp multi-function printers, which provide a simple and secure way to print, copy, scan and share documents in colour and black and white. They are also equipped with a biometric fingerprint authentication system which quickly identifies and authenticates individual users and gives them access to their own secure print queue. IT Service Manager, Richard Shaw, said: “With students and staff able to log-on at any device within seconds to release print and scan documents, there are no delays.”

Having logged on, students and staff can use the MFPs to scan learning materials and documents to email or save them to a USB drive, saving print costs and paper.  The implementation of the MFPs has also reduced the administrative burden, for example, a simple one-touch interface supports scanning to SIMS (Schools Information Management System), enabling paper-based records to be captured and recorded digitally.

Schools like Leeds West Academy, investing in technologies to modernise processes and future-proof learning environments, are benefitting from reduced costs and administrative loads as well as more effective management of student records and governance.  More importantly, students are enjoying a more engaging, interactive and collaborative learning environment where their familiar digital technologies are now at the heart of their educational experiences.