The education industry is quietly going through a digital transformation of its own, as we recently found out
Discussions about digital transformation have so far focused on large enterprises in key sectors such as banking, retail or manufacturing, another industry is quietly experiencing something of a digital revolution of its own.
That industry is education, in which technology is enjoying an ever-more dominant presence thanks to new innovations, technological developments and an increasing understanding of the benefits it can offer students.
The new age of education
A prime example of the changes taking place within schools and colleges across the UK is Bryanston School in Dorset. The school has been making use of beacon technology to provide its students with a more personalised learning experience, delivering tailored content to students’ devices throughout the day.
“The days of it being just a group of children, be that a class, a year group or a school, are disappearing a bit,” Andy Barnes, director of technology at Bryanston explained to Silicon at education technology expo Bett 2017. “Every parent now wants an individual education for their kids.
“We’ve gone a bit beyond just registering the kids. We know which lesson you’re in and we know you’re physically here so we can add context to your learning and make this experience unique to you. We have to be sensible about the fact that it’s the individual that matters. It doesn’t matter if you call them class X or class Y, it’s the fact that in that class there are 30 individuals.”
The beacons essentially allow digital resources – such as an image or video – to be ‘pinned’ to a physical location, which pupils can activate via their mobile devices as they move around the school. It allows students to work at their own speed, while also helping teachers to work more closely with individuals.
“[Kids are] so used to accessing resources and managing those resources on their terms,” said Barnes. “They just need access to it at a time that suits them.”
The beacon initiative has so far been a success and Barnes explained that two key components have been the scalability and transparency of the technology: “The driving force behind this is scalability. We’re a very large campus, it’s 400 acres, so from a technology point of view it’s can you scale scale scale. You wake up in the morning, you open up your phone or your iPad and your connectivity can follow you throughout your day.
“The technology is all pervasive but also transparent. So for a teacher to be exciting and innovative, for lessons to be dynamic and challenging it shouldn’t be about connectivity. You should just be able to get on with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your phone, your laptop, you just do it.”
The importance of this reliability issue was further highlighted by another Bett attendee, Ruckus Wireless’ regional director for Northern Europe Steve Johnson, who said children are used to home networks where everything “just works” and replicating this in schools is vital to the adoption and use of technology.
“It’s really important that we bring exactly that experience to the classroom, so that the teachers and the students don’t think about IT and don’t worry about there being an IT infrastructure there. They don’t want to be thinking about the Wi-Fi network being down or that there’s no internet access.
“It’s the foundation of this whole evolution of in terms of using technology in the education environment, the infrastructure needs to just work and be invisible. I think it’s one of the single biggest inhibitors to adopting technology faster in the learning environment.”
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