New technologies like remote learning platforms, big data, and AI are changing the way students learn (and the way schools are managed). From early childhood, to K-12, to higher education, and beyond, new tech in schools is opening up transformational possibilities for instruction, student support, and school operations. Below, we cover some of the most valuable technological innovations helping school administrators and their staff deliver a quality educational experience while adapting to staffing challenges and tight budgets.
1. E-Learning Technologies Allow for More Flexible Education Delivery
Many schools were forced to dramatically accelerate their e-learning initiatives almost overnight in response to the COVID crisis, and supporting technologies for remote and digital learning have multiplied like never before. The ability to support socially distanced learning was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of the latest technology in remote education. For example, mobile learning apps make it easier for students to work at their own pace. Online instructional platforms allow students to easily check homework assignments, submit work, and collaborate with their peers. Classroom recordings can make it far easier for students to catch up after missing class, saving valuable time for students and teachers alike.
Another accelerating e-learning trend, “gamification,” refers to a variety of approaches for making both remote and in-classroom learning more fun and engaging. Gamified learning solutions may involve a complete gaming experience designed to deliver specific educational content. Alternatively, gamified elements may be added to more traditional learning content, such as by offering badges, points, or other incentives for the successful completion of learning modules.
Looking forward, the emergence of virtual and augmented reality will blur the boundaries between virtual and in-person learning experiences. Students at home will be able to sit in immersive virtual lecture halls, while students in the classroom will have access to virtual experiences that potentially extend far beyond the walls of the school itself.
2. Green Technologies Support More Sustainable Schools
By cutting back on energy consumption, schools can save money while mitigating their environmental impact. Some of the most important solutions helping schools implement more sustainable operations include:
- Onsite power generation technologies like wind turbines and solar panels, which can directly reduce the energy consumption of school facilities.
- Smart HVAC systems that can adjust the temperature depending on factors such as time of day and whether given rooms or facilities are in use, allowing schools to cut down on wasted energy.
- E-textbooks, student laptops, and other digital technologies which can drastically reduce the paper waste generated by school operations.
- Recycling and water reclamation systems that help schools consume resources in the most efficient manner possible.
Green technologies can also contribute to a school's educational mission, offering students direct exposure to future-defining technologies like wind, solar, and smart-home technologies. EdTech Review provides a helpful overview of educational applications for green school technologies in this article.
3. Big Data Analytics Streamline and Personalize Student Support and Assessment
Today's data analytics solutions, often described as “big data” due to their ability to process incredible volumes of information, can help school administrators thread the needle of providing more individualized student support while adapting to tight budgets.
For example, teachers can now see in-depth analytics of student performance, allowing them to see how precisely students are performing, which materials are proving challenging, which students are most engaged, and where additional support is needed. By allowing schools to target their resources more precisely, analytics will play an important role in helping schools support the students who need it most while opening up new possibilities for truly personalized learning.
4. AI Automates Repetitive Tasks to Let Education Staff Focus on Students
The transformative impact of AI-based solutions is dominating headlines like never before, and education is no exception. At a high level, AI can play a valuable role in helping school administrators leverage the data analytics advancements discussed above, translating complex analytics into actionable insights for school decision-makers.
At an operational level, AI can help streamline time-consuming, monotonous administrative tasks, allowing administrators to focus limited time on student interaction and other activities that require a human touch. As AI is integrated into more robotics solutions, physical tasks like cleaning will also become highly cost-effective targets for automation. We explore automated cleaning in more depth below.
5. Automated Cleaning Solutions Help Boost Efficiency for Janitorial Operations
The combination of AI and robotics will allow school administrators to harness the benefits of automation in entirely new areas of school operations. Robotic cleaning solutions, capable of working alongside human janitorial staff, provide an instructive example. By taking on repetitive tasks such as vacuuming, commercial robotic floor cleaners free up janitorial staff to focus on cleaning classrooms, or on more complex maintenance tasks. And, by safely and autonomously cleaning, robotic cleaning solutions can provide an overall level of cleanliness that would be extraordinarily time consuming and costly to achieve with human staff alone.
Autonomous cleaning solutions are not intended to replace human workers. In fact, technologies like the commercial robot vacuum, Whiz, offer features designed specifically to streamline collaboration with human custodial staff, including access to SoftBank Robotics’ proprietary data and reporting platform,Whiz Connect, where users can manage the routes and track the productivity of units to improve their performance. In the face of widespread staffing shortages, hiring additional staff to improve school cleanliness standards can be a substantial challenge. By deploying robotics solutions, schools can leverage their janitorial staff in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
Learn More: How Commercial Robot Vacuums Helped One School District Boost Cleanliness by 2x
New tech in schools can offer tangible cost savings and efficiency gains for educational administrators. Wicomico County Schools' deployment of Whiz at an elementary school and administrative building provides a great example. Whiz has noticeably provided students and staff with a cleaner environment, autonomously vacuuming millions of square feet since their initial deployment, at a cost of just $5.70 per hour.
Wicomico County Schools’ Facilities Operations Manager reports that their Whiz implementation “saves 250 hours per month at our facilities—that’s 250 hours of time we were able to put back into schools and to classrooms.” To learn more about this real-life automation success story, check out the case study here.