Breakthrough: Lars Lindstrom with his IPad ReadCloud product.
Imagine a classroom without the thud of heavy textbooks hitting the desk, where students and teachers can share notes inside a digital book, collaborating in a secure network.
Classrooms in the cloud have begun their march towards a digital education revolution that has seen connected computers replace pen and paper as the learning tool of choice.
The Australian-developed ReadCloud platform delivers digital books via an iPad app, enabling students to access and annotate on up to 100,000 ebooks from 30 publishers across up to six devices, such as a school laptop, home computer, tablet and smartphone.
ReadCloud's founder, Lars Lindstrom, says the feedback from the first school to implement the system, PLC Sydney, goes beyond the 30 per cent cost savings on textbooks. The overwhelming response from the 350 students in years 7 and 8 who no longer cart around physical books has been that it's a huge weight off their backs.
''The kids say the best part about [ReadCloud] is a '100-gram backpack'. They love that they can just bring their iPad around and do their homework, that they've got just one login and password, and everything is there,'' Mr Lindstrom says.
The other benefit to education is that ReadCloud is gated and controlled: a protected environment where Adobe identification allows publishers to track the use of ebooks for digital rights management.
The supervised program also lets teachers upload select clips from sites such as YouTube, allowing access to websites that many schools currently block.
Mr Lindstrom says his ''app is white-listed. If you go into an Oxford University Press book and click on a hyperlink, it would normally be blocked by the firewall. But we force it through to our server first and then back through a tunnel into the school.''
In Melbourne, ReadCloud trials begin in term 3 at Carey Baptist Grammar, Wesley College and Camberwell Girls Grammar, with up to 40 more schools expected to join them live by year end.
Software giant Adobe, which produces Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, is moving its tools to the web via a subscription licensing service, doing away with the traditional purchase of software via boxed CDs.
Wayne Weisse, Adobe's education business manager for Asia Pacific, says the switch to a $24.95-a-month subscription model is being driven by a desire to connect students in a virtual setting.
''The concept of the Creative Cloud is wanting to bring the community together in the one place. Institutions, who need to manage large numbers of computers, can download the software, package it, deploy it, manage it and update it,'' Mr Weisse says.
It might argued that subscription-based software also keeps users captive, and may reduce the incentive to create new features. But Mr Weisse says the service in the cloud will deliver enhanced updates backed up by ''how to'' training support for time-poor teachers.
Jim Davidson, chairman of the Digital IT Committee of the Photography Studies College in Melbourne, says running digital Mac labs on an Apple network for Photoshop and Adobe's Creative Cloud has allowed the 40-year teaching institution to move to the cutting edge.
''Last year we had students purchase their own CS6 and we were teaching CS5.5, which was a nightmare for us,'' he says
Mr Davidson says when CS6 launched in 2012 it took six months to train teachers - a workload no longer necessary since moving to Creative Cloud.
''The key shift for us is not to make a big event of every software change and have to redo the curriculum each time. We're changing our learning model to teach students to be not Photoshop experts but to be adept at choosing whatever software - to adapt to technology as it comes.''