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4 Questions on the Evolution of EdTech with Extreme Industry Expert, Jonathan Kidwell

Deidra Peterson Specialist, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 10 May 2019

Technology continues to shape the K-12 education experience for teachers, students, and districts as a whole. From 1:1 computing to cutting-edge tools like smartboards and augmented reality, the way curriculum is delivered today is vastly different from legacy approaches of the past. As EdTech continues to evolve, K-12 school districts have to be prepared to adopt new technology to enhance the learning experience.

With so many new tools, technologies, and teaching methods cropping up, the network has never been more critical in helping school districts succeed. To learn more about what makes Extreme different when it comes to improving the educational outcomes, I sat down with industry expert, Jonathan Kidwell, Director of the North America Education team for a Q&A.

Question 1: What sets Extreme Networks apart from our competitors?

Our solutions provide visibility and educational insights into how students are learning. We improve the educational environment. If you take a closer look at traditional network manufacturers, a great deal of emphasis is placed on network speeds and feeds, how many students can connect to an access point, and the ability to provide a data connection.

It’s true that schools absolutely must have those things as table stakes. However, our differentiator is going beyond the functionality of the network to improve the educational environment and enable data-driven decision making. A teacher only has 55 minutes to educate their class of students; we help optimize that time. If students can’t connect to a wireless network, their instructional time is lost. Teachers must be able to onboard students quickly and keep it simple with one network SSID; not a bunch of disparate technologies and complexity. We want educators and students to be able to log on quickly. We don’t want teachers to become IT people. We want teachers to be teachers who can rely on IT to run transparently and continuously in the background.

If a teacher loses 20 minutes trying to get students connected to wireless, they’ll never get that 20 minutes back. There’s no overtime in classroom education. They have one opportunity to keep students focused. The teacher has one opportunity to keep students focused; if there is a technology problem or slow network, the teacher can get flustered and lose the students. They may have to stop what they’re doing, change direction, get the technology working again, and try to refocus the class. That adds up to a tremendous loss of instructional time. Our goal at Extreme is to make the network transparent so that the teachers and students don’t have to worry about it.

Question 2: How does data-driven decision-making play a role in K-12 education today? How does Extreme provide solutions to meet the data analytics needs of educational institutions?

Data-driven decision making is incredibly important in schools today. Data analytics are giving districts the power to uncover a broad range of key insights. School systems can save money by strategically changing bus routes, or starting the elementary school at a different time than the high school, for example.

There are many data-driven decision-making capabilities that we can provide to executive decision makers and IT staff, as well as superintendents. For example, using our analytics tool, it’s possible to visualize the network habits of high-performing students by integrating our analytics. Decision makers can easily run a search for every student who has a 3.8 GPA and 28 or higher on the ACT if they were curious about the network behavior of high performers. You might drill down and ask specific questions, such as:

    • What applications are those students using?
    • How long during the school day are those students on the network?
    • Are they using district devices?
    • What are they reading?

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Decision makers could take it a step further and compare that data with different demographics of students. Ultimately, data analytics help schools gain insight to determine whether the digital divide is being closed effectively.

Here’s an example I experienced with a customer: a school system had purchased smartboards, but analytics showed that some teachers weren’t using them. The IT staff drilled down into the data and realized those teachers had never received smartboard training. These types of capabilities help staff in all sorts of roles identify the why for a myriad of issues that pop up.

Question 3: Extreme Networks puts a lot of effort into helping school districts navigate the E-rate process. What kinds of resources and options do we offer for districts who are looking to obtain E-rate funding for their infrastructure?

Extreme Networks makes a concerted effort to help school districts with the E-rate process, so much that we have in-house E-rate experts, as well as a strong partnership with an industry-leading E-rate consultant, Funds for Learning. We’ve been heavily involved with E-rate since its inception.

We recognize how important it is for us to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in benefits and funding. It provides a way for schools and libraries to implement high-speed broadband and data networks. Nearly our entire product line is E-rate eligible, and we make it an ongoing priority to be there for partners and customers who are looking for information on their options and how to get started.

Question 4: Making integration with numerous technologies commonly used in schools is a big focus of our offerings. Walk me through some of the different integrations that are available through Extreme technology.

    • Google GSuite and Chromebooks are commonly used in school systems. A directory service is provided, but Chromebooks don’t provide visibility into users. Our network can authenticate to the user, not just to the device, so with GSuite integration, it’s easy to authenticate right to the user rather than just the device.
    • We also integrate with web filters like iBoss and Lightspeed. Internet filtering is required by law in schools, so all districts use it, but sometimes schools want to provide different restrictions from one location to another. In the past, districts filtered based on VLAN, but Extreme integrations make it very easy to vary access based on user, device, location, time of day, etc. It’s more of a range than an on and off switch.

Our ultimate goal is this: if a new Edtech product comes out tomorrow, no district should have to change their network or infrastructure. We want our customers to be prepared for change and have access to an adaptable, agile network that makes this possible. Even if school districts can’t completely predict the future, their network will be prepared for it.

 “Education institutions globally are on a digital journey that ranges from the early stages of digital enablement, through digital optimization and, ultimately, to digital transformation. The journey encompasses basic steps — such as making assessment digital — as well as major optimization — such as going to the cloud with the SIS. But more importantly, an increasing number of institutions recognize that the transformational power of digital is forcing them to change their business model.” – Gartner, Education Digital Strategy Execution Primer for 2019

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