In this article
- By integrating technology into the curriculum, schools can create a personalized education for each student based on their learning style, interests and academic level
- Communities and schools must invest in the necessary IT infrastructure to ensure that their students have access to the best possible learning opportunities
Just a few generations ago, children were taught at home by parents or in a one-room schoolhouse while working on the family farm after school. As the Industrial Revolution began, schools evolved to mimic the factory environment—multiple rooms, separate grade levels—with an assembly-line feel. But while the Digital Revolution began 30 years ago, our education system has stayed the same—based on chalkboards, textbooks, paper and pencils.
However, we’re now starting to see changes. Instead of simply sticking a computer at the back of a classroom, schools are integrating technology into the curriculum to create a personalized education for each student based on their learning style, interests and academic level. Classrooms are beginning to look different. Rows of desks are disappearing in favor of round tables that encourage collaboration and mimic the work environment.
Lack of broadband and wireless access decreases student performance
But personalized learning through technology is only possible if schools have both high-speed broadband access and a reliable wireless Internet network. For example, in 2015, Chicago Public Schools administered their Common Core testing through online assessments, but one in four students were at schools that didn’t even have the infrastructure to access the online tests—they had to take paper versions!
The FCC also recently voted to expand the federal Lifeline program, which currently provides subsidies for voice telephone services, to also include subsidies for broadband service for low-income families. Supporters believe this will help close the “homework gap,” which is caused by some students’ struggles to get online to do Internet-based homework.
“Students attending school without access to high-speed Internet are less engaged during and after school, and often have lower classroom performance,” says Dan Rivera, product marketing manager for Aruba’s K-12 business. As more digital resources appear online and personalized learning becomes the norm, students without access to this level of learning will quickly fall behind their peers.
How personalized learning works in the classroom
Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, VA launched a personalized learning program last year in grades two through five, issuing each student an iPad for use at school and home. By providing iPads, the school administrators hoped to increase student engagement and challenge students to think critically, receive immediate feedback from teachers, collaborate with other students and teachers and increase creativity in problem solving. Having a solid network infrastructure at the school with wireless access points strategically placed throughout the campus allows students and teachers to participate in learning activities throughout the school.
Moving beyond the confines of paper textbooks
An essential component of personalized learning is 1:1 access to devices—either bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or school-provided. Tablets allow students to take tests, collaborate with other students on a group project and submit assignments. Devices also act as digital textbooks—instead of students simply reading a PDF on an iPad, they can interact with the content. During a lesson on DNA, for example, students can use their digital textbook to highlight text that they need to remember for a quiz, expand a DNA diagram to interact with each DNA strand or watch a video on the impact of DNA testing in criminal trials.
But personalized learning takes the use of technology a step further with lesson plans that are created for each student. “Instructional teams creating lesson plans for students not only focus on areas where they need improvement, but also ensure that students are challenged in areas where they excel,” says Rivera. Teachers can send personalized instructional materials to student devices and collect data about the student’s progress.
Wired and wireless infrastructure needed
To provide this level of engaging instruction, schools must have both the wired and wireless infrastructure to support the devices. It is also essential that schools have a data center and data analytics software to collect and manage this component of the process, which will truly make personalized learning a reality. Previously, the focus was on providing wireless coverage to all classrooms, but the focus is now on capacity. The school must have the infrastructure and capacity to support the potentially thousands of devices accessing the network simultaneously.
After The English School in Bogota, Colombia embarked on a 1:1 iPad program and used smartboards to enable personalized learning, the school began investing in the necessary technology to support their innovative learning environment. They installed access points in classrooms, public spaces and outdoor spaces. Since security was top of mind, the school also installed Aruba ClearPass to easily grant access to students and teachers while protecting data from breaches. After the technology infrastructure was in place, students were able to learn math and science at their own pace on the digital devices and create audio, video and social media content.
“The curriculum for personalized learning is still being developed, but it is essential that communities and schools focus on investing in the infrastructure needed to ensure that their students have access to the best possible learning opportunities,” says Rivera. “While this is a new model, we are already seeing results in student performance, and we know that this is the right direction to head in simply because it is working.”
To read about Aruba (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company)’s flexible and scalable wireless solutions at gigabit speeds, CLICK HERE.
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