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May 01, 2017

The Future of Smart Classrooms in UAE

By Special Guest
Ammar Enaya, Regional Director- Middle East and Turkey, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

The speed at which mobile devices, mobile apps, and IoT are entering the UAE market is rapid, and with that it is no surprise we are seeing the school classroom as an early adopter of this tech. With mobile devices at the heart of how this generation interacts, it naturally falls to schools to pioneer mobile innovation and enable pupils to have a more enhanced learning experience. To do this, they must invest in technology that does not hinder pupils’ natural desire to be mobile, but also keeps them focused on the task at hand, namely the lesson.

With the curriculum constantly evolving and formats of major exams including SATs, GCSEs, ICSEs, CBSEs and A Levels changing, it is important to ensure that IT and other departmental functions can continue to evolve to meet the needs of pupils and staff in order to give pupils the best opportunities.

Through working closely with our customers in education, we are in constant discussion over the changing demands of the classroom, these

Ammar Enaya

include: Device proliferation, app usage, room/building environments, IoT onset, pupil and teacher collaboration and data-driven decision making, to name just a few.

Through these conversations we have pulled out six key themes and trends that we expect to see come to fruition in the very near future:  

  1. IoT Spreading Across the Institution – With Gartner estimating that 5.5 million new “things” were connected to networks every day last year, adding up to nearly 21 billion connected devices by 2020, IoT is swiftly expanding beyond devices for schools. The onslaught ranges from connected lights and door locks to classroom instruction and pupil registrations, with ever-more introductions in sight.
  2. Always-On Experiences – It’s not only IoT devices demanding ‘anytime, anywhere’ connectivity. Whether on the playground or in the classroom, gym or assembly hall, all users now expect speedy performance from their devices and apps, enabling them to work, teach and learn seamlessly indoors and out (anytime, anyplace and anywhere).
  3. Intelligent Spaces – A year ago, location-specific services were novel. This year, context-aware mobility is about adding intelligence to spaces so that the space interacts with you. For example, when a teacher walks into a room, the configuration of equipment and amenities can now adjust automatically to that individual’s profile. Or, as a pupil who has opted-in for notifications walks past a specific classroom, they will receive a push notification telling them when their homework is due.
  4. Wearables and Location-Awareness Solutions – Although decision-makers within schools are still working out guidelines around maintaining privacy, many expect it’s only a matter of time before institutions begin leveraging data collected from mobile devices and networks as pupils move around the school grounds. With research establishing that class attendance is the best predictor of academic performance, the ability to quickly identify at-risk pupils will allow teachers to conduct interventions that can help get them back on track.
  5. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for Teaching – Wider access to commodity virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) innovations is moving the technology out of research labs and into classrooms. From entry level to higher level learning, teachers are embracing VR and AR as mechanisms to immerse pupils in realistic simulations unavailable in the past.
  6. Multiplication of Dense Environments – Given the preceding trends, it’s clear that device density isn’t limited to lecture halls anymore. Pupils use multiple devices on site, from laptops to entertainment systems to connected lights. Outside the classroom, pupils expect to share their experiences on smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. Food halls rely on temperature gauges for warming trays, sensors on vending machines and scanners for meal tickets – all of which need network access in addition to the pupils’ devices being used during meal times. From a Wi-Fi network’s perspective, all of these devices are “things” demanding connectivity. What’s more, given mobile’s ubiquity, there’s little tolerance these days for down time or poor experiences.

Today’s pupils have an innate ability to understand most user interfaces – meaning that for most, new devices are intuitive to use, making it integral to factor these devices into lesson plans and school culture in order to maintain high levels of engagement. The smart classroom has always been an exciting yet sensitive subject given that it is imperative that pupils continue to learn and grow their knowledge in core subject areas, but it is with the rise of secure IoT environments that we expect to see it thrive.

Edited by Alicia Young

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