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Smart classroom
Designing the
smart classroom

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

Decades ago, chalkboards, overhead projectors and composition notebooks were the prevailing tools in classrooms, but recent advances in technology have made the learning experience much more immersive.

Many traditional classrooms have now evolved into smart classrooms. These classrooms enable students to learn from almost anywhere in a digital environment. When done well, this can improve access to educational resources and learning outcomes. However, it's the responsibility of educators to ensure that students are fully equipped for success in these learning environments.

Smart classroom components

While smart classroom solutions may vary by school, several key technologies can help teachers provide a digitally enabled learning experience. Interactive whiteboards, laptops, tablets, learning management systems, education apps and even video conferencing tools have become core smart classroom components.

An interactive whiteboard, which is essentially a high-tech version of an old-school chalkboard or overhead projector, may help to increase student participation, engagement and collaboration. Teachers can connect their laptop or other digital device to these whiteboards to project what's on their device's screen. They can then write on the board with a digital pen or use their fingers to move objects around on the screen. They can also navigate to different websites or upload videos, files or PDFs onto the screen, using these materials as real-time teaching tools. Students in the classroom can easily follow along, as can students who may be participating remotely in a hybrid learning environment.

Learning management systems (LMS) are essentially content management systems for all classroom materials. Teachers can use these systems to share assignments and course calendars, track submissions, share grades and communicate with students. An LMS can also be integrated with video conferencing tools to provide live or on-demand lessons from one unified platform.

Educators are increasingly turning to education apps to create more immersive learning experiences as well. For example, some apps allow teachers to transform standard classroom lessons into interactive games, which could increase learning retention for students. However, even with all these largely software-based applications, digital devices and robust connectivity are the main smart classroom components that schools need.

How to transform your traditional classroom into a smart classroom

As your school works to reimagine traditional classrooms, you will need to ensure students have access to digital devices and reliable, high-speed connectivity.

As the last year has shown, not every family or every student has access to a smartphone or laptop or lives in an area with reliable network connectivity. Many schools across the country have tried to address these challenges by purchasing devices for students in need and by using mobile hotspot (Mi-Fi) solutions to allow students to connect to the internet securely from virtually anywhere.

It's important for your school to keep access in mind as you try to build out your smart classroom components and infrastructure. You can begin by assessing both hardware and software needs in your school district—which, in some cases, may mean upgrading older laptops or transitioning away from desktop devices that lack portability in favor of tablets and newer laptops that enable educators to teach from virtually anywhere. This is especially important if the need arises for your school to once again engage in hybrid or distance learning.

Secure connectivity is just as important. Your school can consider using a Private IP solution to scale connectivity while protecting your data. This secure virtual private network (VPN) solution allows authorized users, devices and applications to securely access an internal network. In addition, cloud-based software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) allows schools to enhance network security, performance and management. This virtualized approach, which is typically offered via a managed service, can help your school gain more visibility into the traffic coming into your network, expand network bandwidth and prioritize certain traffic (such as the data transmitted via a video conferencing solution during a virtual math or science lesson).

Once your school has established a robust device and network infrastructure, you then can incorporate other software-based solutions—whether it's an interactive whiteboard or interactive gaming app—to deliver an engaging learning experience. Though this may require a significant investment, your school may be able to take advantage of E-Rate eligible services from different technology providers to offset some of these costs. Additional federal aid may also be available to help your school make this worthwhile investment and build your smart classroom components and infrastructure for the future.

Discover more educational technologies to support the smart classroom.