Connected Classroom Technology and Essentials for K-12 School Districts
Connected classrooms are part of a rapid trend to leverage technology to bring learning into a more national and global sphere. Instead of interacting only with their peers sitting next to them, connect classroom technology enables students to reach out to their peers around the country or world, broadening their access to both people and information.
Connected classroom technology can also help customize the learning experience for each student, making lessons more effective. According to some estimates, up to 90 percent of school districts access personalized learning through technology1, and many more are taking significant steps to modernize their schools with additional connected classroom technology.
But connected classroom technology is a broad arena and most school districts have already implemented the fundamentals, including purchasing laptops and tablets. Those fundamentals are just the start. For K-12 school districts to keep up with technology and enable a fully modern, effective environment, they need to augment the fundamentals with key technology advancements and essentials including Artificial Intelligence, updated communication tools, and high-speed networks tailored for educational institutions.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence in the educational field (AIEd for short) isn’t new. AIEd first came into being over 30 years ago to help teach basic skills and has evolved to more sophisticated tools that help students master subjects like calculus2. You can now find AI built into educational tools in many different forms, including augmented reality and deep learning, to help teach different skills and personalize the learning experience.
Typically, school districts don’t deal firsthand with AI, but use AI tools that are built into connected classroom technology, such as educational games, that students access on computers and tablets. Depending on the algorithm, AI can spot a child’s weaknesses, sense when something excites students, and create lesson plans and assignments that addresses the weaknesses and build on the strengths.
In the past, communication between students, teachers, parents, and school district officials was limited. Many K-12 school districts relied on letters sent home to parents through students, official report cards, and periodic PTO meetings to provide important updates.
Connected classroom technology is changing those standards, allowing for more frequent, easily-accessible updates. Student messaging is increasing collaboration between classes and different schools, while online portals are connecting parents with the schools themselves.
Online portals, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular because they help parents better connect with their child’s education. Online parent portals can display school announcements, emails from teachers, or updates on assignments that allow parents to be more involved in their child’s classes and workload.
High-Speed Fiber Networks
Network connectivity enables all other connected classroom technologies. In 2016, the State Education Directors Association (SETDA) set school network standards at 10Gbps per 1000 users for internal WAN connections. Those standards incorporate the needs of students, teachers, and other educational facilitators who are working with connected classroom technology. Unfortunately, many school districts fall short of SETDA standards, leaving students at a disadvantage.
The problem stems from a lack of funding or access to quality internet for schools. Funding difficulties are decreasing, however. According to this year’s CoSN survey, less than half of school districts cite funding as a barrier to meeting standards from organizations like SETDA or the FCC3. With more funding available, many K-12 school districts are able to implement two of the top fiber network solutions: dark fiber and wavelength services.
Dark fiber offers nearly unlimited bandwidth at a fixed cost and is incredibly scalable, making it an ideal solution for school districts that need high capabilities. However, dark fiber also requires a high degree of technical knowledge and management, making it more time and resource intensive than other options.
Dark fiber is often the first solution K-12 school districts evaluate to improve their connectivity. It is not, however, the only solution available. Wavelength services is an alternative option that gives school districts exclusive access bandwidth. Wavelengths provide the connectivity schools need, but also includes network management services, alleviating the burden on staff.
Maintaining a connected classroom environment requires a consistent investment from K-12 school districts. Updated technology, including hardware such as tablets and software with AI algorithms, is essential. Finding the right network solution is even more critical, as it will enable all the technology purchased.
To ensure your school district has both the connectivity and the technology it needs, develops an ongoing connected classroom strategy. Include regular technology upgrades as well as network needs. If possible, work with a local fiber optic network provider that can give you more personalized attention and advice on what network solution is most likely to meet your district’s needs both now and in the future. Work with them and your technology providers to ensure your schools have consistent access to the essentials they need to provide an effective learning environment.
TeachHub. “Technology in the Classroom: Keep Everyone Connected”–http://www.teachhub.com/technology-classroom-keep-everyone-connected https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/ai-technology-is-disrupting-the-traditional-classroom/
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