Education Must Standardize Tools to Drive Better Efficiency

In January, CEO Neil Gaydon was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Education World Forum, an annual gathering for ministers of education. There, he discussed the role of technology in education. This is part three of a three-part series from his keynote address. This part discusses the importance of standardizing around a common platform.

Classrooms, from a technology perspective, are starting to resemble an office.

In a typical school, there’s an average of 30 children in a classroom, and 30 classrooms. That’s around a 1,000 children with a 1,000 or more devices. If that were a company, it would be pretty good-sized. There would be a head of IT. There would be somebody managing that IT budget. And you know what they would be doing with that budget? They would be sharing common devices, and be standardized on software designed specifically for the business and industry that they were in. They would do that to get the most out, and value out, of the money that they spend. They would also ensure that the quality of the company ran at its most efficient.

A great example of that is in industries and professions. For example, in the world of finance, even though finance directors can be working in a boat building company, or for chain of hotels, or even working in government, they standardize on a software program like Excel. Why did they do that? Because they realized that for them to communicate with one another, they needed to standardize in order to get maximum efficiency. It’s the same in industries everywhere. Whether you’re designing a jet engine, or furniture, or whatever it might be, those industries recognize the need to standardize around core tools. Even though there are entirely different companies doing entirely different things, the fundamental tools are the same to drive efficiency.

So what about education? What are we choosing as the fundamental core software that’s going to last for many years? That gives us the maximum efficiency and still allows for the huge diversity of different subjects, different teaching styles, and even different countries?

It’s one of the fundamental reasons why technology is struggling to find its home in education. It’s because some ministries and individual schools have chosen software from some of the largest software companies in the world where they’ve taken business software and rebadged it as education software. These companies have taken individual little pieces of software — individual education pieces — but they don’t work very well together and that drives a huge amount of frustration and downtime in the classroom. The majority of schools and districts choose a consumer device and hope that the software that it comes with — designed for consumers — will somehow work in the world of education. It won’t.

Education, like every other profession, needs to standardize around a platform. These rebadged, small pieces of software drives confusion in the schools, which alienates a lot of teachers from embracing software. We need to provide a coherent, natural way in which software can work.

The sustainable economic model is vital. Again, going back to our example of industry, industry learned with technology that the boom-bust cycle doesn’t work. A service and subscription model around technology is crucial.

If you think of your mobile phone, I doubt many of you have paid and bought the hardware. You most likely have a subscription service model that allows you to be looked after through the service provider and allows for upgrades as well.

Recently in the UK, SMART launched CLaaS, which is exactly this model. To kit out a typical classroom in the UK with all the necessary technology, it’s around £12,500. With this service model, for a quarter of the price — £200 a month — you can kit out a classroom and get training and service and support and you get trade-ins for technology as it becomes redundant.

To transform education and make sure that there is harmony and a natural fit between education and technology requires a standardization on software technology. It requires technology that’s been purpose-built for education along with a sustainable economic model.

Discover SMART Learning Suite and how it connects students with technology to turn lessons into enriching learning experiences.

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Neil Gaydon
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About Neil Gaydon

Neil Gaydon is President and CEO of SMART Technologies. Prior to joining SMART, he was CEO of Pace plc, a technology developer for pay TV and broadband service providers. During his tenure as CEO at Pace, he led the company through a major turnaround resulting in a ten-fold increase in revenues to become the world leader. Throughout his career, his hallmark has been defining and executing strategy, creating effective structure and changing business culture on a global scale. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School in the Advanced Management Program.

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