In June 2015, Samsung announced the release of Classroom in a Box in collaboration with McGraw-Hill Education (an education company dedicated to creating improved educational experiences based in Learning Science research). Samsung announced its intention to positively impact students through technology while giving teachers the tools required to harness the power of education to improve the lives of those they teach. They were motivated by the lack of support teachers experienced when utilizing technology, especially since around 60% of K-12 teachers surveyed felt unprepared and that 91% saw a need to use relevant technology in classrooms. As such, Classroom in a Box was ideated to provide the digital equipment, professional development, deployment and classroom management services, using carefully planned curriculums by McGraw-Hill Education to bring a digital-learning experience to students. Through the training sessions, teaching resources and technology, Samsung hoped to support educators in bringing an enjoyable, modern education to their students. Click here for an introductory video!
Classroom in a Box was something anyone involved in education could look forward too. Since the whole world has been turning to high-tech solutions and education is meant to prepare students for the working world, being technologically literate would be crucial. This made Classroom in a Box important, seeing as it facilitated this learning. That said, you may ask which of its features stood out in creating a successful product. Well, we would like to look through the highlights of Classroom in a Box and subsequently, use its areas for improvement as learning points for the implementation of The Patatas’ alternative solution.
Highlights of Classroom in a Box
1) Professional Development
The Classroom in a Box’s professional development curriculum was meticulously planned by McGraw-Hill Education. As McGraw-Hill Education uses Learning Science to plan their courses, they would be more than able to provide an effective curriculum for efficient learning. For the aforementioned professional development provided for teachers, everything is based around a pre-planned curriculum which gives a clear structured guide for teachers to be better prepared to teach in digital classrooms. Professional development sessions were held to train teachers to utilise technology to solve longstanding problems, such as motivating children who struggle to read. This reduces the fear educators have regarding not being ready to teach with technology as they are given the guidance they need, allowing them to better understand modern learning to cater to their students better. As such, professional development is extremely important; only when the teachers understand the capabilities of technology, can they maximise its potential in classrooms.
2) Classroom Management
Classroom in a Box provided a Google Chrome Management Console in their given devices. This Console is key in effective teaching, allowing teachers to have full control over access rights and any other security features they feel a need to use. This allowed for effective management over classes even as they use a relatively unfamiliar medium. By providing them with the ability to control each digital classroom, teachers would feel more comfortable with using technology. Besides, Classroom in a Box even allowed them to use Google Play for Education (which has since then, closed). With access to educational applications and resources with just a click of a button, the plethora of content online was made available. Educators could take advantage of this and choose the tools suited to their preferred style in digital classrooms.
3) Digital Curriculum
The digital curriculum included was also planned by McGraw-Hill Education. The curriculum featured licences under two main systems under McGraw-Hill Education itself: Thrive and Aleks. The licences mainly focused on the provision of learning in mathematics, for topics like algebra and geometry, over a range of grades (grades 3-8 and 3-12 respectively). By providing educators with the content needed for teaching over digital platforms, this better equipped them to deliver quality content. Furthermore, the curriculums designed under Thrice and Aleks were proven to work based on Learning Science and in practice, increasing confidence in educators in their ability to still teach effectively even if it required them to adapt to modern teaching styles. Perhaps they were assured that change was not so daunting since they were well guided by the digital curriculum without having to experiment with different teaching strategies using technology all on their own.
Areas for Improvement
Now that we covered the highlights of Classroom in a Box, we note that it had areas for improvement, especially if we consider using it in less developed countries. To cater to these loopholes, we propose our own solution: CaseStudy. It is a sturdy briefcase containing audio-visual equipment needed to facilitate classes anytime, anywhere. Another plus point is its shockproof and waterproof properties, making it hard to damage. You can watch our introduction video here!
1) Flexibility of its equipment and content
The first improvement we have in mind is in the realm of flexibility. Firstly, if we consider less developed villages or refugee camps, the amount of help the equipment could provide would be limited. Many such locations already receive donations regularly and may already have their own devices or other educational resources. These places also suffer from both unstable electricity and Internet connection. Since the applications and devices in Classroom in a Box need both these things, its reliance on unstable resources made its equipment usage inflexible and unable to cater to different circumstances. Secondly, Classroom in a Box was not customizable to cater to the needs of these locations. If we look into the example of refugee camps, many children there had to cut short their education at various stages back home. This means that having the ability for portable classrooms to be customized to suit the unique needs of every class is of utmost importance (as there will definitely be different mixes of children with different educational needs in each classroom even if they are the same age). As such, the standard McGraw-Hill curriculum’s structured learning may have been unsuitable in these communities seeing as its inflexibility may only apply to institutions in developed countries where education is more rigid, with less sporadic changes or differing student circumstances. We believe teachers at different locations worldwide using such resources should be given freedom to change the content they teach since they know their unique needs best.
With that in mind, CaseStudy will be able to overcome this inflexibility. We have included a Raspberry Pi in it, a mini computer which holds around 8GB worth of files. It does not demand power supply as it charges using with a power bank or battery and requires no Internet as the contents are pre-loaded into it by teachers. This makes it the perfect inclusion in CaseStudy as such equipment can be used flexibly in any circumstance to disseminate content. To view the audio-visual contents, we have included a portable projector and speakers. Likewise, they utilise power banks and require no Internet connection to use. And besides, projectors work best in the dark, making lacking electricity a perk! In addition, the Raspberry Pi is highly customizable and can hold many types of files, educators can add files they wish for class each day which have content catered to their students. This is thus, helpful in facilitating any class through the innovative use of simple technology available.
Classroom in a Box, while fully equipped with useful materials, was likely very costly. With the devices used like the GalaxyTab 4 Education 10” tablets or the 11.6” Samsung Chromebook 2, together with the programmes and training conducted, acquiring it would not have been cheap. We can also consider that since Samsung and McGraw-Hill Education are both large, flourishing, for-profit companies which want to improve education through technology, that they were unlikely to keep prices down if Classroom in a Box was implemented on a larger scale.
On the other hand, CaseStudy is able to overcome this limitation. If we think about places with little money or resources like refugee camps, we can only imagine that teachers will not want to use anything too expensive. CaseStudy will thus, make a viable alternative. The Raspberry Pi, for one, is around $50 less than your average tablet. And even inclusive of the accessories in CaseStudy, the cost will still remain significantly lower than the curriculum plans and the 30 tablets or Chromebooks provided in Classroom in a Box. The materials chosen are cheap and of high quality. The Patatas has intentionally kept the cost low to cater for conditions like this, to truly make education through technology available to everyone, regardless of economic background.
3) Logistical Issues
Another improvement can be made on the side of logistics. Classroom in a Box provides many materials. While it is always good to provide generously, transporting it would be hard, given the heavy and bulky nature of the devices. For the developing world, we have already seen how transportation of bulky devices has taken its toll on teachers. Furthermore, we note that it may not be so efficient to provide individual devices for every student. The issue of cost aside, getting ready for class will be a hassle as every person in the classroom will have to ready their devices before participating in the digital classroom.
To increase convenience and efficiency, we have designed CaseStudy to improve upon what Classroom in a Box has already done – using technology in classes. Our use of a briefcase ensures that it is easy to carry. A change we made is also that all the elements are packed neatly into CaseStudy in their own designated spots, this makes the materials easily accessible for set-up. We improved on efficiency by using the portable projector and speakers too. This way, a large class of students can all view the material at once without the hassle of using individual devices. All these seemingly small changes can create a significant impact in reducing logistical issues. This can improve the overall learning experiences for students of all backgrounds, especially in developing countries where effectiveness in education is key given their already lacking educational resources while they continue to learn using relevant technology.
Overall, CaseStudy is particularly useful; its accessibility, combined with its innovative use of modern technology is essential in bringing an inclusive, modern education to all, even in underrepresented communities.
In sum, Classroom in a Box was a key development in attempting to introduce technology into the education scene. It certainly had many highlights which drew the attention of many for the advantages they could bring. The Patatas hope to use technology in innovative, efficient ways to improve the lives of those in need, are happy to have had Samsung take the first steps towards supporting the movement towards technology-driven classes. By looking into how we could improve upon Classroom in a Box to suit the needs of our beneficiaries, we created CaseStudy which we find to be a good addition to the educational resources out there. We are confident in our innovation and hope that as we expand CaseStudy’s reach, we will continue improving digital education access to the under-represented.
If you would like to continue supporting projects like this, do consider becoming a sponsor of CaseStudy for under privileged communities! You may contact us via email or Facebook if you would like to do so. We look forward to hearing from you.