What makes a “smart” classroom?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate digitalization in K-12 schools, the market for ‘smart classrooms’ ed-tech tools is estimated to reach over $117 billion in 2022 and nearly $260 billion by 2028, according to a recent report. from absolute ratios. As schools increase their adoption of emerging technological tools for teaching, the question of what makes a classroom “smart” tends to vary between educators and over time.
But for many teachers and other professions in the ed-tech space today, it’s all about how technology is used rather than whether a classroom adopts a wide array of technologies per se.
According to CIO Steven Langford of the Beaverton, Oregon School District, a smart classroom is defined by a variety of hardware and software tools that can be used to enhance teaching and learning.
Langford said he doesn’t remember exactly when “smart classroom” became a buzzword in the edtech lexicon, but the definition has evolved in recent years to describe how schools use technology. technology for instructional planning, as well as how teachers are trained to use new tools to enhance learning.
“It is essential that educators have the knowledge and skills to be able to integrate these hardware and software tools into students’ learning experiences. It could look like students being able to stream their work on their device to a screen to show their learning to classmates, students being able to work individually or in groups on projects using a learning management system (LMS) , or the use of augmented reality or virtual reality for simulations,” he said. “A key element of a ‘smart classroom’ is the flexible use of technological hardware and software, coupled with the professional development of teachers that enables learning in different ways.”
Langford said years ago interactive displays and audio systems would be examples of technologies used to describe a smart classroom. He said this is starting to change as the IT market develops a plethora of new tools using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
“I think now – and this could be due to our learnings over the past two years – there is more than hardware that contributes to a smart classroom,” he said. “Smart classrooms should now be viewed as a combination of hardware, software applications, and educator professional development to provide a variety of methods for learning and demonstrating learning.”
Joel Kupperstein, senior vice president of curriculum management at Age of Learning, an information technology company, said smart classrooms should aim, among other things, to provide learning experiences tailored to specific student populations.
“It’s great to know what works in other places, research studies are helpful, but you have to know yourself to know how well a product is going to fit into your ecosystem,” he said. . “It’s not just, ‘Hey Alexa, turn on my smart board’, but give me information about what my student knows and doesn’t know and is ready to learn right now so I can make instructional decisions based on depending on that.
“I think [the smart classroom is] one of those terms that means a lot of things to a lot of people. The pandemic had a ton to do with it, because as we became more dependent on technology, we actually realized that this stuff could do a lot more for us than we thought, and it can make us more efficient as instructors,” he continued. . “The smart classroom is defined by its ability to transform the way teachers deliver personalized learning experiences. Technology for technology’s sake is not the goal.
David Jarboe, director of instructional technology and STEAM at Colorado Springs Harrison District 2 Schools and chair of emerging technologies at the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), said the “smart classroom” really comes down to efficiency. tools used. As for when the term first appeared, he believes it dates back to when schools first embraced smartboards years ago, before the pandemic.
In today’s smart classrooms, Jarboe said audio-visual tools can be used to make lessons universally accessible to visually and hearing impaired students, as well as boost student engagement in general. He added that schools need to have a strong vetting process to determine if these tools are useful in the first place, as well as a focus on sustainability to keep new devices under 1:1 programs.
“It’s really about looking at the instructional goals in the classroom, because that’s more important than the technology itself,” he said. “There’s a temptation to put things out there around technology and educational technology without really figuring out the real purpose and benefits and testing it with students…You can have great technology but that doesn’t doesn’t improve teaching, it’s just the next shiny thing.
“Business talks about return on investment, and we talk about return on instruction,” he continued. “If it’s extremely expensive, it may not be the best investment, although it may work. But at this price level today, it may not be the best solution.
In terms of the technology itself, computer science professor Neil Heffernan of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, also lead developer of the AI-based student feedback program ASSISTments, said much of the developers’ work of educational technologies focuses on AI-driven platforms. Specifically, educators are interested in the role of AI in managing data for instructional planning, he said.
“Right now we’re trying to make them smarter based on the data we see,” he said. “You want these programs to get smarter by looking at all this data… We’re trying to learn what kinds of feedback are most effective.”
Jarboe said the role of AI in functions such as data management for instructional planning based on measuring student performance metrics could be at the heart of tomorrow’s smart classrooms.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on using data to inform and improve teaching, so that’s an area of technology that’s built into your systems. We have more data than we know what to do with, so for me the idea is to figure out how to harness that data to make it useful,” he said. “I think that’s where AI has the potential to be a powerful tool – to really sift through that data and do that manual processing and look at different patterns… It’s possible to relieve some of the charge teachers and give them a virtual assistant that can help them in the classroom to handle some of these things.