Dell and Microsoft deliver the remote classroom

17 Dec 2009

Students in one school can now take classes with a teacher based in another school following a major proof of concept by Microsoft and Dell in two Meath schools today.

Students in St. Fintina’s Post Primary School Longwood, can now participate in a class that is being delivered in Dunshaughlin Community College.

The students in Longwood can all see, hear and interact with the teacher via a video link and are able to follow all teaching material shared from the teacher’s tablet PC.

The three students in question are taking Leaving Certificate Chemistry and travel to Dunshaughlin to do their practicals.

“Meath VEC has demonstrated its commitment to innovation over the past number of years and it is at the forefront by delivering learning through technology,” Paul Rellis, the managing director of Microsoft Ireland said. “Its reputation has earned it its place as one of only 12 mentor schools in the world under the Microsoft Innovative Schools Programme.

“Therefore, it is very fitting that Longwood is the first Windows 7 School in Ireland and home to Ireland’s first Virtual Learning Environment. Organisations of all kinds, across the public and private sector, are examining new and innovative ways to continue service delivery at the same level while taking into account economic realities.

“I think that Longwood and Meath VEC are a model, not just for schools, but for organisations everywhere, on how to leverage technology to deliver more with less.”

More variety for students

Following from the success of this pilot project, County Meath VEC will be able to provide a wider range of subjects to students in all its nine schools.

Indeed, students from several schools could have one teacher to provide instruction from one location. The solution also has the potential to deliver classes to students at home or in any location with sufficient connectivity.

It could also encompass some of the adult education classes provided by the VECs. It is also hoped to provide access to some adult evening class students from home, where disability or other reasons prevented them from going out to a school.

“At a time when resources are tight, we can leverage the technology to deliver a single class to pupils in multiple schools where they might not otherwise be able to access them,” explained Seamus Ryan, education officer, Meath VEC.

“The solution is a great demonstration of the power and potential of this technology to deliver real, tangible benefits in the educational sector. We look forward to other similar applications across Meath VEC and we firmly believe that this represents the future of education.”

All first-year pupils in St Fintina’s Post Primary School Longwood have been equipped with a Dell Latitude 2100 laptop. The entire school has also been Windows 7 enabled, making Longwood the first school in Ireland to be fully Windows 7 operational.

“This innovative solution in place with Longwood and Dunshaughlin provides a technology template for how smart education can be delivered in the future,” Dermot O’Connell, GM, Dell, noted.

“This is a viable solution that can be replicated across the country, allowing schools to share services which will give better access to schools with fewer resources. Uniquely, what has been delivered to Meath VEC is technology at the backend which can be managed by Dell, freeing up valuable resources, while enabling the entire network of schools to access state-of-the-art services.

“This is further supported by providing the students and teacher laptops and tablet PCs specifically designed for the education environment to ensure they receive the maximum benefits,” O’Connell said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years