Challenges and Opportunities of Enabling Education with Wireless

On October 19, 2017, the Wireless Technology Forum convened to discuss 'Enabling Education with Wireless,' with representatives from high school, university, county, and the startup community. The panel identified areas of opportunities but were grounded in the challenges of technology in education. Here are the top Challenges and Opportunities of Enabling Education with Wireless.

Challenges

Wireless devices are creating enormous bandwidth requirements at all levels from K-12 and university.

Kenny Wilder, Fulton County Schools, provided stats on bandwidth capacity at 10 GbE per school, and one access point per class room for a total of 10,000 access points.

Mike Gonsalves, former CIO, Oglethorpe University, explained Oglethorpe University builds out their network for an average of 5 wireless devices for students, but he has met students with up to 13 devices. Devices go beyond laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Wireless devices now include OTT Roku / Apple TV / Fire Stick, watches, and gaming consoles. Newer devices such as the latest smartphone are more demanding of throughput with higher minimum bandwidth requirements. For example, a slightly older smartphone will degrade video quality if there is insufficient bandwidth, but a newer smartphone will 'refuse' to play the video until minimum throughput is met. Mike Gonsalves further went on to explain bandwidth spikes are event driven. For example, a major sporting event such as the World Series not only spikes usage for watching the game, but social media and communications facilitating discussion about the event. His advice was to plan ahead for event-driven spikes in usage.

This fast-evolving technology has changed the way teachers teach and interact with students.

Choice and Voice is a term used to describe personalized learning experiences for students. In this scenario, an app would administer quick questions to students at the end of the lesson, the teacher would receive immediate feedback to drive the lesson plan for the next day. If only one student fell behind, the app would tailor training for that individual student, while the class moves forward with the current lesson. But these individualized learning experiences requires teachers to be more flexible with their lesson plans, and to learn the technology themselves. Teach-to-One is an example of such a program that has been met with mixed reviews.

Brian Jones, Principal, Milton High School, described 3 problems he currently faces.

  1. Classrooms and class sizes are still the same, but we need our teachers to learn new technology and paradigm shift.
  2. Lack of standardization in applications (Google vs. Office365 vs. etc.)
  3. Most importantly, the standards to get into college are still based on the same metrics: GPA, SAT, AP classes, etc.

Opportunities

Is technology worth it? Can we use technology to enhance the learning process, or are we just along for the ride as students bring more and more devices?

1:1

1-1 Initiative (One-to-One Computing) (1:1) is a K-12 program where each student is issued a digital device as part of their curriculum. Early analysis indicates success in boosting student scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science (according to Education Week).

Faculty/Staff Communications

Brian Jones has replaced weekly newsletters to his staff with a weekly video created on TouchCast.

Recording Lectures with Visuals

Teachers are recording their lessons with voice and whiteboard drawings for students. Imagine trying to listen to your professor while copying a complicated graph or formula into your notes. Now you can re-watch a lecture for the parts that you missed as you were scribbling copious notes.

Mental Help for Students

Brian Jones also reported that Milton High School will be offering all students suffering from emotional health issues to get help via text message anonymously. School can be stressful, and we want to keep our students' mental health in-check. Students may not want to make an appointment with a counselor, but they may be more apt to ask for help anonymously and digitally.

I recently had the opportunity to work with Jalen Gilersleeve, CEO of MindHak during the Goodie Nation Hackathon. Jalen is developing an AI-Powered Emotionally Literate Chatbot for incarcerated and transitional housing residents to equip them to transition into society. Unfortunately many of these inmates' are illiterate or have poor reading and writing skills. Over a weekend, Melissa Sorrentino and I demoed the AI-Chatbot on Google Home. See demo video below.

No question, the opportunities far outweigh the challenges we are facing with changing technology today. Technology will not replace teachers, as we will always need in-person, face-to-face interaction with human educators.

Still reading? Check out our event recap video below.