We talk to Gus Schmedlen, VP for worldwide education at HP, about the future of educational tech

‘We are at the start of a virtual reality revolution in schools’ – HP interview

PCR speaks to Gus Schmedlen, VP for worldwide education at HP, about the future of educational tech at this year’s Bett show.

What has HP offered to education in the past, and how big is that sector to HP?

We are announcing some significant things at BETT – firstly a brand new line of devices specific for school and education called the HP Education Editions. These are built for schools – toughened for the classroom with an eight-hour battery life – and designed for learning.

There are two tablets and a notebook. The tablet has an attachable until so the students don’t lose it, and it allows them to learn subjects such as handwriting and maths. 

The notebook is made with industrial rubber so it’s super tough. It also contains a six-cell battery meaning it can run for ten hours. 

What are the key ways that this device is especially for education?

So that’s the built for school side. For the designed for learning side we’ve created something called HP School Pack which comes at no extra charge on the education editions. It incudes Classroom Manager, which helps the teacher control instructional work loads. It includes the advanced learners dictionary, which also includes things such as pronunciation so students can hear how a word is pronounced in a British accent and in an American accent.

We have overdrive, which attaches student education editions to local libraries. There are 1.5 billion titles available to download now. We also have a partnership with Pasco, we use their application called Smartview, which is available on the education editions both on Android and Windows.

We are also offering one year of theft medication, which protect students vital and private documents in partnership with Absolute. It offers a year’s free subscription that allows administrators to rip, block or wipe stolen or lost machines so the if the students lose a machine they can make sure none of the data gets out.

Would the schools supply this, or are the devices also available for the students to purchase?

They would be supplied to the schools. We believe in equal access to all students no matter what jobs parents have or where they live.

HP showcased the Zvr virtual reality monitor at CES, would you consider pushing this into education?

The education research we have seen recently has show that being able to create architectural renderings in 3D and see anatomical structuring in 3D is amazing for the student’s development.

Do you think educational bodies will embrace VR or similar tech?

We have seen a great adoption in a really cool community sprout up in 3D printing, and I think we are just at the beginning of a blended reality revolution in education, that allows for things that we can’t even think of today.

I think it is going to be a really cool couple of years, watching the virtual reality space.

7 highlights from BETT 2015

How can people encourage kids to use their devices more for education?

By creating more compelling content on devices that students are used to. You have to make sure that the content delivered to them is academic. We also have to make the curriculum relevant to students’ lives, not teaching the way people taught in the 1900s, but teaching core content areas in a way that the students know why they are learning it.

How would you figure out the relevance?

There is a niche industry for personlised learning, which is all of the data created by individual students. It serves up interventions based on what the student has done in the past. That’s the personal level.

The next level is the cohort level, which is most useful for teachers. They can see aggregate statistics about their class, who’s ahead or behind, or if anyone is going too fast or too slow.

Then we can look at the school, which you then add in all the facilities. Looking at the budget, for example, and how the school is doing for its level.

Finally the system level, providing actionable data and intelligence to deliver relevant content but knowing what will work and what won’t. 

In terms of pop culture relevance, what we have is a number of different companies and startups who are becoming much more adept to students and becoming more relevant to the youth market.

How important are subjects such as ICT and coding today compared to others like English or Maths?

ICT is essential as it now directly impacts every single industry, and it affects every single discipline within schools. You can’t learn state of the art science without learning ICT. 

We think of ICT as a way to contextualise and make real literature, history and science.

In terms of coding, I can’t think of a better way to merge ICT with business or education, or a way to teach project based learning where students have to think critically, be flexible and adaptive, and go though the whole process or creating, analysing and synthesising a project.

We want to encourage this kind of learning, especially for girls.

Why is that?

We want all genders to be represented equally and we believe we are leaving a lot of talent on the table by not getting girls more involved.

We want everyone to learn the skills, and feel there is a great democratising force of education that technology can bring and drive outcomes for all students.

How do you think technology has benefited education in the past?

Students use technology outside of school so are used to that sort of modality of interacting. Bringing that into the school environment really makes education more engaging.

We are working with teachers from around the world on eliminating time spent on more menial tasks, and having them focus on why they became a teacher in the first place. We want to maximise the outcomes of one-to-one computing on a national or local level.

How do you think technology has been detrimental to education?

I think technology was seen as a panacea, unfortunately a lot of the countries measure the amount of devices they deploy to schools, which they shouldn’t do. They should measure outcome.

There have been three errors of education technology – the error of access, which we are now leaving, the error of learning which we are not getting in to and then the error of outcomes, which we are going into. 

We make sure that there is return and active educational use of technology and we are not just deploying it as a gimmick.

Do you think teachers need to be better trained in how children use technology?

We not only need to train teachers to use tech, we need to empower them – they are part of us designing our programs as they are experts at teaching.

Not only will we enable them technically, but we will empower emotionally so they can use technology in a meaningful way.

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