Ed-Tech Talk: Going Beyond 1:1 with Rick Herrmann

In this first of a series of posts, Intel’s Director for Government and Education shares his insights into the ever-evolving education technology landscape and analyzes the trends and challenges that will shape the next generation of learners.

How will the pace of technological change and rate of disruption affect education?

We see an incredible rate of technological change in our industry, as well as the industries that use Intel products to transform what they do and how they do it. It’s a velocity of change and disruption that few people or few industries have experienced. These changes are rippling across every segment of society and industry, including education.

I see a large number of technology forces creating new challenges and opportunities in education: ranging from managing and harnessing the ubiquitous availability of devices and networks, to getting the right policy frameworks and interoperability standards in place so we can use data more effectively, to how we might use the Internet of things to improve the efficiency of transportation, food services, or managing facilities.

Our education customers and our industry partners are on a constant and fast-moving treadmill to find new ways to adapt to the constant pace and breadth of change and meet the needs of the students we are preparing for a hyper-intense, global, and competitive workplace.

Technology has become such an integral part of how you manage and run any enterprise.  Today, every enterprise—whether a commercial or public sector enterprise—is digital. And most enterprises are either in the middle of a significant digital transformation or they are being disrupted by companies that are born digital in a cloud infrastructure.

Everything at the center of a customer experience today is enabled, augmented, or complemented by digital tools, platforms, or some form of digital insight and communication: whether it’s your entertainment, travel, or banking experience.  Education has to contend with the commercial technology forces that are enabling those capabilities and increasingly changing everyone’s expectations. But, uniquely in education, we have to do it while answering the question “are we helping to improve student outcomes, engagement, and unlocking a passion for learning?

How does the ubiquitous nature of technology figure into this evolving landscape?

If we go back to 1996, it was the Telecom Act and E-Rate that promised to accelerate access for every student in schools. We have made incredible progress in a fairly short period of time.  Especially, over the last five years where you see so much innovation and a set of favorable policies that are driving wide-scale deployments of networks and devices.

Coming from the industry side—and considering the current rate of consumption and deployment in education—we are pretty close to what I would consider ubiquitous access to devices and networks.

Just as important, I believe, is what’s coming over the next three to four years and how we think about those technologies and prepare for them. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that 5G (high speed wireless broadband) is going to be the innovation equivalent of other major economic engines like the rail system, highway system…or even the build-out of the Internet. This is the next major infrastructure change that will have a transformative impact on everything, including education.

Three to four years out is a fairly short period of time and we need to begin thinking about the implications of technologies like 5G and virtual reality right now. The possibilities are significant when you think about it in terms of education: the ability to have always-on, always-connected devices over a 5G high-speed wireless Internet infrastructure, connected to cloud services and deep pools of accessible data or digital content. How will this change what is possible in terms of delivering education? How will this change learning and student expectations? How will this change the relationship and business models between schools and technology providers? This promises to be a period of tremendous change and possibilities.

How can these paradigm-shifting changes in technology support today’s education decision makers?

The ability to have better access to data and insights is always a good thing -- especially at the enterprise-level. Whether you’re a $60 billion semiconductor company or a 600-student middle school, you need to have insights and data that can help you to make better decisions. Principals and superintendents need data to give them a full view of the enterprise they are entrusted to manage; teachers need data to further personalize learning and teaching practices; while policy makers need data and insights to make critical legislative and funding decisions.

We will never be able to replace the insights and the human touch a teacher or school leader has directly on a student. But you can provide a set of powerful, integrated tools and constantly evolve those tools to help a teacher, a parent, superintendent or principal to have better visibility to gain new insights. In my mind, you will never replace the ultimate analytics engine that is the combination of human brain, combined with the human heart of a teacher or school leader.

Do recent shifts in technology alter our vision of 1:1 learning?

We have been pursuing 1:1 computing for almost two decades now. I have seen the industry and our customers move from the notion of access for every student, to improving integration of technology through pedagogy and digital curriculum, to the more recent focus on devices and infrastructure to address policies for increased testing and accountability.

Over time, we have seen technological innovation that has matched each new wave of policy or educational theory. These things often seem to move hand in hand. When the call was for more 21st century skills, the industry was there with new devices giving users more immersive experiences, applications, and platforms.  When the policy environment called for more testing, the industry responded with innovations in platforms and more affordable devices that allowed these mandates to be carried out at scale.

It is often difficult to deconstruct the sequence in which things happen in our industry: do education policies, practices, and theories create an environment for new innovations, or do new innovations create the opportunity for new practices, policies, and theories to emerge? At various points in time, innovation leads, while at other times it’s the theory, practices, and policies that create the need for new technology innovation and solutions from industry. Most likely, it is a virtuous cycle moving back and forth between these forces.

I think we are at a unique juncture right now, where new innovations will enable policies, practices, and theories to accelerate and push the limits of what’s possible in education. The current and next of wave technologies will be more transformative than what we have experienced in the past two decades: immersive virtual reality; augmented reality; high-speed wireless networks; always-available and connected devices; digital curriculum; low-cost ‘innovative’ STEAM kits; cloud-based curriculum and assessment platforms; and many more innovations that the industry debates and discusses daily. It’s not clear to me that current practices, policies, and theories will keep up with the pace of innovation that we are seeing today.  But, we will continue to work with our customers and industry partners to apply these technologies and take on some our deepest challenges in the education field.

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Rick Herrmann

About Rick Herrmann

Rick Herrmann is Intel’s Director for Government and Education, spanning North America and Latin America. He has spent 26 years at Intel and has more than 15 years in the public sector in global and national roles. Rick was inducted into Intel's America's Sales and Marketing Organization Hall of Fame in 2016 for his years of leadership in serving customers, leading teams, and contributing to Intel's success. He has a deep knowledge of the IT industry, and has developed programs such as Intel’s worldwide government sales and marketing practice across 60 countries.