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The classroom is dead! Long live the classroom!

Education technologies are reconfiguring school buildings and enabling new virtual, online experiences everywhere else, which makes true learning anytime and anywhere a tantalising possibility. It will be up to AV integrators to turn those potentials into reality, writes Kevin Hogan

The ed-tech revolution is real. And it is global; from elementary schools in Ghana to university lecture halls in California right out to the ever-growing number of devices in student backpacks and pockets worldwide. The financing dollars prove it. According to a January report from research firm Metaari*, international investments in learning technology companies blasted previous records with (US) $16.34 billion spent in 2018. More than 1,000 edtech firms across the planet received this funding, up from 813 in 2017.

Of course none of these innovations will succeed without proper AV infrastructure. This means creating new physical learning environments, where huddle spaces replace rows of desks; where multiple mobiles, laptops, and tablets interact seamlessly and simultaneously with all sorts of digital surfaces, projectors, and displays; and where sophisticated IT, once the domain of corporate enterprise systems, now manage and protect student data. These needs stretch out beyond just the traditional classroom to involve the wider school campus and beyond.

Leading-edge AV integrators will also have to understand and empower emerging technologies that require infinite bandwidth and solid state wireless support. Some students already strap on headsets for virtual field trips through the Vatican, the Amazon, and the London Transport Museum with services such as Google+ Connected Classroom and Discovery Education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), free online curricula from the world’s top universities, are available for anyone to enrol right now. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way for students to receive instructions and collaborate with peers. They also require AV that can handle live streaming, audio and video conferencing, and cloud-based learning management systems. The influx of gaming as a legitimate instructional tool has also disrupted education, for better or worse, which means integrating multiple platforms, applications, and screens into effective surroundings.

These set-ups are not reserved for the traditional primary, secondary, and higher education sectors either. Corporate training centres, government and military installations, professional development services, libraries and museums are quickly adopting these techniques into their business as well. Almost 150 different exhibitors have identified themselves as education technology providers this year at ISE. Be sure to visit the education technology zone to dig deeper into these possibilities.