The IoT meets digital learning in schools

May 4, 2015 OpenSystems Media

Interoperability can be a challenge for embedded systems, especially in the quickly expanding Internet of Things (IoT). When there are proprietary or legacy systems integrating with new systems, or when connecting new application areas to the IoT there are often growing pains.

Schools often experience problems when trying to integrate digital learning systems for all students, and can have a difficult time becoming connected. Educators and staff at schools don’t often have the expertise, time, and funds needed to implement such a school- or district-wide system themselves. Choosing the right device for students, be it iPads or Chromebooks or any other device, is just one small part of digital learning and can often be a challenge in itself, and only focusing on specific devices doesn’t take into account infrastructure and training for teachers and staff. As each school has different resources, populations, and is at a different stage of integrating digital learning, there is no one-size-fits-all system to address this need.

RGS, a business unit of Avnet, Inc., has created a platform for education technology that customizes professional development in digital learning strategies for teachers and administrators, curriculum content, IT infrastructure, safety, and services that are interoperable and optimized for a particular school. Their goal is to support school and district teams in making the transition from legacy one-to-many learning to 1:1 digital learning in an easy, cost-effective way that is also able to expand in the future.

“RGS worked with each school/district to review their infrastructure to determine ability to support the needed connectivity and were supported in terms of making identified areas of augmentation,” says Scott McDonald, Vice President and General Manager at RGS. “Advance planning was done with respect to determining student and teacher 1:1 digital learning technology readiness and applicable advance training/coaching was provided. The school/districts have the devices for their students that were pre-provisioned to include designated content, enrolled on their school/district domain. Going beyond the device, teachers are getting the needed guidance and coaching for digital learning success and it is having the desired impact on students.”

Interoperability, enabling single-sign-on (SSO), and ensuring sufficient bandwidth were challenges RGS encountered when creating their Ed Tech system, in addition to handling regulations around safeguarding students, but working with education experts and a pilot program launched in 2014 is helping to find practical solutions to these challenges.

The pilot program began with two school districts in the Phoenix metro area, and is expanding to schools in California and across the U.S. These participating school districts are able to test the system on a small scale to gather experiences needed in order to create a sustainable larger-scale deployment.

Hardware in RGS’s system includes an RGS 2-in-1 for Windows or RGS Education Chromebook and Chromecast dongle, and software includes Google Management Console/Google Apps for Education and the My Big Campus learning management system. Tech support and training for teachers and administrators, and setup and configuration are handled by RGS.

Perhaps soon all kids will be able to learn as seamlessly as they socialize and play in connected systems. As “digital natives,” using embedded systems in all facets of their lives is a natural thing for students, and may help foster participation and attentiveness in class, as RGS has seen so far in feedback from its pilot programs. The use of such systems is also beneficial for teachers to see how students are doing in their lessons and better cater to different learning styles on an individual basis.

In addition to digital learning, RGS is also working on a suite of school safety solutions, the VISIT System – VIsitor and Student IdenTification – that covers visitor and student accountability, access control surveillance capabilities, personal alert capabilities, and mass notification. It’s a credential and individual tracking solution comprised of software, camera, driver license reader, printer, and controlling software.

With developments that get schools and learning systems digitized and connected, and have the potential to connect to a larger IoT network, we’re on our way to integrating all aspects of daily life into smart cities.

Monique DeVoe, Managing Editor
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