Blog Automation

Autonomously Connecting the Classroom of the Future

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 2 Apr 2019

Laura is on her morning bus ride across town to Excelsior High School. Her smartphone is open and connected to the bus’s Wi-Fi, but today she’s not messaging with friends. Instead, she is making last-minute changes to her history assignment – adding a video and editing the conclusion. She knows it should have been completed it on her home PC, but her first love is soccer, and the World Cup was televised live right up to her bedtime. As the bus arrives at school, she submits the assignment through her phone and receives on-time acknowledgment.

As Laura passes a scanner at the school entrance, the IT system recognizes her and readies a personalized learning plan for the day. The plan builds on her interest in sports, often posing learning examples in visual athletic terms. Sports-oriented videos are drawn upon to provide remedial help on topics that have challenged Laura.

Smart Classrooms, Smart Buildings, Smart School Districts

Autonomous network infrastructure enables large school districts to provide better personalized learning and to reduce energy costs by up to 90%, according to research from Gartner and Deloitte. Using smart building technology, LED lighting, and sensors throughout the building, the environment can be set to optimal levels that vary with occupancy and local activity. In classrooms of the future, temperature, lighting, and even oxygen levels are monitored and controlled to foster active group discussions or more passive individual studying.

Security is enhanced with network-based locks and surveillance. AI and ML technology can now automatically flag suspicious behavior without requiring humans to stare at walls of video displays. Gunshot monitors pinpoint the danger in the worst-case scenario, undeceived by echoes or bouncing sound illusions.

Network security is not just important for student safety and privacy protection (FERPA), but also to protect medical records in the student health department (HIPAA) and financial transactions at the book store (PCI DSS). All of these capabilities and technologies securely reside on a single network with privacy assured thanks to Extreme Fabric Connect and ExtremeControl.

Today, Laura has been especially looking forward to her first-morning class. They are taking a virtual journey to Antarctica during earth science with Google Expeditions. All the students will be connected through a network-shared space to interact with penguins, seals, and polar bears, although the latter will be wearing patches to explain that they are just visiting from their home in the northern hemisphere. The shared virtual reality is network bandwidth-intensive, but Extreme Networks ensures that the traffic runs only across sections of the network where it is required, so the entire network is not burdened.

After the virtual tour, Laura’s science teacher will review what they’ve seen on large digital monitors and administer a formative assessment, which the students can answer on their connected personal Chromebooks and smartphones, to give the teacher an idea of how well each student understood the lesson. The network in the classroom is flexible enough to enable screen-sharing with Chromecast, Apple TV, Bonjour, and Miracast. It can even be reconfigured with voice commands through voicebots like Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Are Improving Educational Outcomes

Both AI and ML are being used in diverse ways to advance education. Research has shown that social interactions can be more important than academic success in predicting the likelihood of student drop-outs. On a trial basis, some schools are implementing AI programs to take over monitoring social media as it involves both recruits and students. Google has worked with a group of schools applying ML to the challenge of student retention. They shared successful results at Educause 18 during the session, “How analytics and Machine Learning are transforming education”. Indiana University fed Canvas class assignment data correlated with student success into ML algorithms and found they were able to predict student outcomes based on how they were completing their assignments. The school can now automatically reach out to students predicted to be in danger and steer them back on track. At Strayer University, an ML system was able to identify students experiencing difficulties earlier than the faculty could.

Additional applications of AI and ML at universities include: predicting which high school students will actually apply for admission; and providing automated writing feedback, an otherwise labor-intensive task.

In networking infrastructure, AI and ML are being used to manage and tune Wi-Fi access points, reducing the load on the IT staff. AI/ML can detect and deter security intrusions, as well as resolve network issues faster and more proactively than humans.

Lunchtime brings a mid-day break, and Laura is free to listen to music and watch a video. Having aced her digital citizenship curriculum in the fall, Laura has access to Facebook and Snapchat while in the cafeteria during lunch. The network blocks access to unsafe sites throughout the school day and generally manages connectivity based on the student’s profile, their location, and the time of day. AI-enhanced network management constantly optimizes the network and Wi-Fi access points depending on the occupancy level and other variables associated with the cafeteria.

Even with her lunchtime network freedom, it is difficult for Laura to relax knowing what is coming up at 1:00. Today is state-wide student testing in English language arts. Granted, the test has become much more bearable now that questions have a more-varied structure, and the answers no longer must be hand-scrawled in a blue book. The network helps spot cheating with analytics, video-based facial recognition, and by cross-correlating answers of students, especially those in adjacent seating.

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One thing that helps keep Laura’s spirits up through the testing is the knowledge that she has robot lab at 2:00. The STEM rooms are located at the far end of the building. The first time this class popped into her schedule app, she had no idea where it was. The wayfinding map showed her how to get to the room, which had just been converted from a no-longer used storeroom. Laura is planning to program the lab’s new robot to kick a soccer ball through a net.

eSports Build Teamwork and Extend the Campus

eSports at both K-12 and higher education schools are delivering unanticipated benefits. Not only do they provide a way to draw less-athletic students into intramural and inter-school team competitions, but they are providing scholarship opportunities, they tie into new game design courses, and they have helped connected off-campus online learners with on-campus student life. Successful eSports programs require a robust, high-bandwidth, low-latency network and dynamic network analytics to provide the home team with every legal advantage.

Before heading home, Laura’s final activity of the day is checking on her science experiment. No changes to her terrarium flower yet, but the plant is expected to burst into flower within 24 hours, so her camera and sensors are all poised to capture the event. An alert to her phone will let her know as soon as anything changes, and she’ll be able to watch remotely as the developments occur in real-time. Ultimately, her lab report will incorporate the resulting videos and timeline, as well as a spreadsheet of all the terrarium conditions, with her final write-up.

When Laura relaxes back home and grabs a snack in the kitchen, her chatbot recognizes her and delivers a message. “Great job on that history project! Mr. Franklin has given you an ‘A’. But next time don’t leave it to the last minute.”

Connecting Online Learners with In-School and On-Campus Life

Remote, online learning continues to grow in educational importance, not just for higher education, but also for primary and secondary school students who cannot attend class due to illness, disability or inclement weather. The network helps virtually place remote students in the classroom through high bandwidth video and audio links. It connects students with IoT sensors for managing lab experiments. Remote presence robots enable students to travel through the school and virtually attend classes. eSports team members can be physically located anywhere there is a game device and a high-performance network connection.

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