Government and private initiatives are driving the ‘smart school’ era and bringing the quality of regional education upto international standards, but educational institutions need to make the right technology decisions.
In an effort to transform education to align with international standards, governments across the Middle East are turning to the increased integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools. In April this year, HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched a new smart learning initiative that will transform classrooms as well as integrate teachers, students, parents and administrators into a single e-platform. The Dh1 billion ‘Mohammad Bin Rashid Smart Learning Initiative’ is part of the UAE Vision 2021 and will be introduced in four stages over five years.
Last year saw the debut of BETT Middle East, the regional edition of the world’s leading education sector exhibition and conference, which was endorsed by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). Present at the event were over 100 exhibitors whose innovative e-learning solutions promise to drive the evolution of the smart school. Equipped with vast ICT facilities, smart schools create more innovative and creative teaching lessons towards achieving the technology-literate and knowledge-based society.
Sufian Dweik, regional manager, MENA at Brocade Communications says that with the proliferation of modern smart devices, the education sector is ripe for change. The old ‘one size fits all’ classroom paradigm of a teacher lecturing to a classroom full of students cannot hope to compete with the ways that today’s digital natives learn on their own. Schools at all levels are racing to capture the interest and imagination of students by bringing the innovations of e-learning technologies and applications into the classroom and the curriculum.
The educational technology revolution is providing a three pronged answer to this question. The first is making sure that students have access to the wealth of information available on demand via the Internet. The second is challenging them with a wide array of innovative new e-learning applications. Last, but definitely not least, is reaching them through the high-speed communications networks that connect students both in and out of the classroom.
Delivery of bandwidth-intensive e-learning applications such as streaming video and multimedia is a challenge for virtually every school. Multiple single-purpose technologies are cost-prohibitive. A technology that can be leveraged for multiple uses costs less and provides agility to respond to growing and emerging needs. The answer lies in the deployment of a high-performance campus network.
A Case for High-Speed Wireless Deployment: Intelligent Campus Networks
Although most schools have existing wired systems that still provide value, as e-learning needs grow to include new applications, leveraging one IP network to provide connectivity for multiple uses will prove more cost-effective than adding additional wired networks. More and more, institutions are turning to outdoor wireless broadband networks and indoor wireless LANs as more cost-effective alternatives to wired expansion as the education technology revolution takes hold. These wireless environments can be used simultaneously for data and file transfer, automated testing, video learning, video security, voice calls, and inventory management.
Wireless solutions are also faster and easier to deploy, and simpler to manage, than wired solutions; and only wireless technology enables the mobile access that is crucial for the delivery of anywhere, anytime learning on- or off-campus. With these solutions, each classroom is enriched with data, video, and voice connectivity, while the same network provides connectivity to technical and support staff so that students’ activities are coordinated, and supplies and facilities are fully prepared.
Smart Devices and the 1:1 Classroom
Today’s students live their lives with access to the latest, most functional devices imaginable, such as smartphones and tablets. Schools can capitalize on the opportunity presented by these technologies through the deployment of specialized applications for learning. Smart devices also pave the way for 1:1 classrooms, which foster a personalized learning environment. In the true 1:1 classroom, students have individual laptop computers, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones, and they are able to simultaneously view streaming video content from the web or from a third-party educational video management system. Each individual student is able to view and work with the content in his or her own way, and also is able to work more closely with the teacher in one-on-one sessions.
Extending the Classroom
Next generation, high performance campus networks help schools extend the school day by enabling students to safely and securely access the schools’ learning tools and other education-appropriate materials available on the Internet. This enables them to work collaboratively with peers and to interact with faculty from anywhere on campus. In many cases, they can also access the network from home and from within the community.
Schools can also leverage their campus networks to help increase operations efficiency. Universities can use their networks to deliver powerful security solutions, including remote video surveillance. Wireless networks that connect the campus both indoors and outdoors are ideal solutions for increased security for people and things. High-speed network infrastructures can be exceptionally valuable by integrating existing and new video, access control, and asset management solutions into a more proactive, intelligent campus-wide security system managed at a centralized command center. Such a security system would be easy to use, making monitoring simpler and more effective through built-in intelligence and automatic alerting mechanisms. The end result would be enhanced situational awareness and a faster, more effective response.
The modern campus network offers the benefit of better management. It enables administrators to manage their entire access switching layer as if it were a single device, from initial deployment to ongoing configuration, software upgrades and monitoring. Single-point management in effect dramatically reduces the cost and time required to manage the campus network lifecycle. It also improves compliance by ensuring consistent policy among all access layer ports, and increases network availability by reducing human error, which is the number one cause of network downtime.
The advantage of the modern campus network lies in its ability to deliver maximum performance and uptime while paving the way for emerging applications such as BYOD, rich video, virtual desktop environments and unified communications for increased collaboration. This technology also allows administrators to monitor and manage a single network from a single command center, helping to increase campus safety and security, network availability, and performance consistency. Equally important, an effectively deployed education campus network offer a measurable return on investment (ROI), lowering technology, deployment, and operational expenses and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).
For educational establishments to get the best of both worlds – a campus environment that accommodates the requirements of the modern educational institute, while providing the bullet-proof resilience, simplicity and cost-efficiency needed to successfully lay the foundations for today and the future – they need to look to innovative vendors and partners. While there are a number of network solutions available in the market, only a mere handful of these combine data center class performance with a practical pricing model. If you want a campus that can deliver on all your requirements, while offering an in-built path for the future needs you cannot yet predict, there is only one real choice.
Source: Zawya.Com – Press Release – 22 August 2012