From K–12 through higher ed, educational institutions have come a long way over the last two decades in terms of technology use in the classroom. The evolution of that use its benefits, and the types of technology used show how value-added resellers (VARs) and integrators are working with education in order to advance the connected classroom in a multitude of ways.
From There to Here: Computers, Mobile Devices, and the Internet
In the classroom in the middle part of the last decade, it was only a short leap to the use of iPads. After Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, public school districts in California and Minnesota announced that they would start providing them to students in their classrooms.
Simultaneously to this evolution track was the growing use of the Internet, as 35 percent of schools had some access by 1994, which grew exponentially. By 2000, 98 percent were connected. By 2013, 39 percent of public schools had wireless network access throughout the entire school. The now ubiquitous intranet via LAN and WAN connectivity has opened communication and education doors for students and faculty. It has simultaneously provided an opportunity for VARs to support the development and planning of these needs.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 58 percent of U.S. teachers own smartphones, which is 10 percent more than the national average for adults. With most students now having access to smartphones, they have become one of the leading types of technology in the classroom. In 2013, an estimated 25 percent of U.S. schools had BYOD (“bring your own device”) policies in place, which has certainly increased in the last three years.
One of the specific technologies used in order to foster student-led, collaborative learning has been projection and interactive whiteboards. These obviously started with the overhead projector. Then, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) enabled print-outs or file-saving of what was drawn on the board.
By the early part of the last decade, the same IWBs were being combined with projectors. These, in turn, have been complemented by interactive projectors that had the intelligence to track the pen built into the projector. In 2005, an early iteration of today’s Smart Board was used in about 150,000 classrooms. Now more than two million classrooms—or about 60 percent of all classrooms in the country—are equipped with IWBs. This product lets a teacher save his or her notes and send them to students, as well as show instructive videos without having to set up another device and projection screen.
What is now available is the new breed of classroom tool: the interactive flat panel (IFP). The IFP is a huge, touch-enabled TV that mounts on the wall of a classroom. With features like proximity activation and the ability to interconnect with a variety of mobile devices in the classroom or remotely via a downloadable app, teachers have the ability to share their lesson or presentation easily, using an email, QR code, or text.
With the first YouTube uploads in 2005, it was inevitable that it would become a valuable educational and entertainment platform. Poll Everywhere silenced classroom clickers in 2008 by enabling real-time feedback online and through text messages. By 2014, the Web technology was in use in 100,000 classrooms around the world, and some 10 million people had responded to at least one Poll Everywhere question.
By 2011, “Skype in the Classroom” had been introduced, allowing teachers and students to call and communicate with other classrooms all around the country and the world. At use today in nearly 85,000 classrooms, teachers “bring in” guest speakers via Skype or create virtual field trips.
Cloud-based storage services now give students and teachers a way to store and access data from anywhere using any device. The advent of the need for flipped classroom technology in the last several years has been driven by the wider use of audiovisual recording devices, computers, and the Internet, which have all had their own evolution trajectories. Cloud-based storage becomes especially compelling for educators using the "flipped classroom" model.
As the different types of technology in the classroom broaden and advance, VARs and integrators will continue to play a larger role in planning, developing, implementing, and maintaining these systems as the connected classroom advances. What other technologies are you seeing on the horizon that can and should be a part of VAR offerings to advance the connected classroom?