I still remember how inspired I felt after watching Sugatra Mitra’s TED speech “Build a school on the cloud”, where he presented his work and the self-organized learning solutions that are now common practice in learning institutions and forums. That speech led me to realize that we need to do more, and pushed me to participate in a parent-mentor initiative and then a mentors’ network, to help improve education delivery and induce a creative change for young talent. I don’t know how many Ministers of Education have watched the speech, but I know that more and more communities are converging on the issue of how to open up our society to more constructive learning and creativity.

One of these initiatives is a European one, School on the Cloud, which started a year ago with the aim of connecting schools and academics, mentors and public forums. At their first meeting, I was happy to share my views on how the ICT industry can support their goals. To explain myself, I’ve used a quote from the book “Art of Silence” that symbolically explains what happens in a classroom: “…they are not aware what they can accomplish, afraid of experimentation, while they mystify knowledge …becoming unsure, insecure, always ready to leave in the middle…” Technology solutions can “save” classes creatively, pulling children out of the expected routine. They can provide audio-visual content, adding inexpensive “teachers” (experts, mentors), and lead children into digital research projects that will expand their understanding of the world.

Societies don’t pay teachers to teach about a book in a curriculum, but to create open-minded citizens

We need quality content, e-learning materials, smart tests and discussion threads all on the Cloud. Then we need teachers who act as facilitators and coaches for the dialog, as well as good developers to get this content up (from a documentary on health issues, up to a game-like test). Sadly, I know developer teams and start-ups working to scale up their content and business ideas, but they can’t even get a meeting with education authorities to even discuss their solutions.

Some might ask if we need the “School on the Cloud”? Is it just hype? In the Networked Society, broadband access and connectivity will be a starting point for new, innovative ways of cooperating and socializing. Our children and their schools are in urgent need of understanding freedom, modernization of training methods, empowerment, experiencing the world and new opportunities.

Societies don’t pay teachers to teach about a book in a curriculum, but to create open-minded citizens. Societies need to regain student interest and enrich the knowledge system with ICT tools, content and discussions, which is easier to remember, which improves search competence, which turns the focus to real-life trends and culture. Learning on the Cloud means less paper, more sustainability, lower operational costs, more secure access from class or home, more equal opportunities in remote areas, less prejudice and ignorance, more courage to ask, more confidence in knowledge.

ICT will help us build schools for the future, which will explore revolutionary ideas of sustainability, environmental and social protection, in order to build a new generation of creative people and entrepreneurs

ICT will help us build schools for the future, which will explore revolutionary ideas of sustainability, environmental and social protection, in order to build a new generation of creative people and entrepreneurs. We need an ecosystem for learning – to fully exploit our creative potential – in which government, universities, teachers, businesses and researchers work together to “load” content and fundamentally address the needs of our society. I only see opportunities for national ministers of education to commission developers, UX/UI designers and academic teams to unite, create the right content, and then scale it up with the communication operators’ access systems. The role of the teacher remains important, as a guardian to push critical thinking, and turn the problem of information volume to a game focusing on perception and thought.

With the “School on the Cloud”, our dreams can become reality. As technology transforms our society, those responsible for learning and education systems will face overwhelming pressure to adapt and transform the established concept of learning, even the nature of knowledge itself. Not to mention the implications for the life-long learning needs of our society, from supporting unemployed people to change competence, up to certifying professionals in new domains that they do business with. We need only to set our dreams free and let them fly…

Note: This post first appeared on the Networked Society Blog, 17 August 2015