Primary Tools and Follow-on Investments
Today, the primary digital tools for personalized learning are PCs, laptops, and tablets. “We’re seeing significant spending on Windows devices and Chromebooks, particularly ruggedized,” DiMarco says. “Districts want devices with mobility features such as front-facing cameras and rotating screens.” Collaboration software, interactive displays, and online-based digital curriculum/courses are also popular to support new learning styles.
These investments beget additional investments in applications for learning management, assessments, testing, and data analytics. Typically, school districts will also make purchases of networking equipment, wireless access points, storage, cybersecurity, and mobile device management tools, as well as accessories such as charging stations and carts.
Of particular importance is the network, says Michael Dannenberg, associate principal and director of new and emerging technologies at Vantage Technologies Consulting, in El Segundo, Calif. Teachers, students, and staff are “constantly connected with multiple devices so the wireless network has to be robust enough to accommodate all of that,” he says. “There is a big push to ensure both the wireless and data network are resilient to handle the many students and staff alike connecting potentially in a lot of different areas—the grounds, the common spaces, and the classrooms.”
Physical security is a very real concern at K-12 schools today as well, so that means IP network-based security systems; digital signage; classroom bell, text, and paging systems; cameras; and access controls. “When talking about campus safety in the sense of technology, IT is booming right now,” Dannenberg says. An IP network can serve as the communications backbone for security, safety, and emergency-notification systems, as well as tie in the learning and curriculum applications, creating a holistic IT environment that is scalable, he adds.
With endpoints and requisite infrastructure in place, next up for schools will likely be cutting-edge technologies related to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM) curriculums as well as gaming. “Virtual reality—including VR goggles and controllers—is among the new areas that comes up,” says Sarah Segrest, business development manager at Douglas Stewart, a Madison, Wis.-based distributor that specializes in the education market.
Dannenberg agrees that new curriculums will drive future spending priorities and adds 3-D printing and augmented reality technologies to the mix.
Another opportunity is e-sports, a burgeoning program in colleges and universities that DiMarco expects will eventually will trickle down to the high school level. In addition to high-end computing devices and high-bandwidth networks, e-sports arenas typically feature large high-resolution screens or video walls.