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Why Investing in Powerful Devices Invests in Students’ Futures

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When my mother emigrated from Jamaica to the US, she instilled in me two firm ideologies of hers as I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota: If you, one, work hard, and two, get an education, you will have a shot at success. So for me, going to college was never a question. Because of my mother, I knew how valuable it was to get an education. Now, as head of education in Intel’s PC business unit, I am reminded every day how important education is, not just in the US, but on an international scale.

Before my current post, I spent 12 years in Tokyo, Japan, working in product management and product marketing for Intel and later for Lenovo. At the time, I was focused on distributing millions of tablets across Japan. But eventually I started to notice how these tablets were actually being used, particularly among students. For example, students were able to write Japanese kanji on a touchscreen device with a stylus or even by using their fingers. I noticed that this would allow them a greater range of freedom in the classroom by not having to tediously spell out every character on a keyboard.

Realizing the importance of the user’s experience was a wake-up call that I did not expect. I learned that the goal of distributing devices was not just about people obtaining one, but rather the experience and outcomes they would receive out of using one. When COVID hit, I decided to heed this wake-up call to reinvent myself and reenter the educational industry, but on a global scale. I wanted to start on a new path by creating purpose with all the notebook devices that our partners were bringing to market with Intel inside. I also wanted to step away from my work sometime in the future and be able to look back and see that I had made an impact. I hesitated at first in changing directions, knowing that challenges and hard work would soon follow. But I knew that Intel could help me create the impact I wanted to make in education.

It Is About Learning Outcomes
The concepts of teaching and learning have vastly transformed since I was a student. Kids today have the world at their fingertips. My son—who is only six years old—can do things on a notebook that I never had to teach him, such as how to use a mouse and open a file; it is intuitive for him.

However, though my son is fortunate enough to have his own device and can easily access the needed connectivity, I know the same is not true for every student out there. We need to equip all students with devices and connectivity as well as give teachers the right tools and resources so they all have a positive learning experience. Remote and hybrid learning is going to stick around for the long run, and I have realized that means we have to prepare students beyond traditional learning tools like projectors, worksheets, and whiteboards.

But it is one thing to give a student a device and say, “Here you go, kid, have fun and learn.” It is a completely different thing to give that student a highly capable learning device with the computational power they will need to succeed. My son may only need a camera for an online class as well as connectivity to play a game that has him match pictures of farm animals with their respective names. But a 12th grader will want enhanced processing power, graphics, and world-class connectivity with Wi-Fi 6, for more demanding use cases including e-sports, data analytics, and simulation technology.

The truth is the workloads common to each age group differ in their performance demands. Just as I had learned in Japan, it is not just about obtaining a device but also about learning outcomes and that starts with ensuring the student has the right device.

Teaching Teachers and Equipping IT Admins
Now—I am not a teacher. But I have been a student. This means that everything I was taught in school had to be learned, understood, and even mastered by a teacher before I could even start to comprehend it. But even teachers have to learn too by adopting new teaching strategies that will effectively teach students today. That is why another vital aspect of harnessing technology’s power is to also loop in teachers on this journey. I remember my son’s teacher asking me during the pandemic, “How do I assess these kids?” She was referring to the difficulty of evaluating her students’ progress remotely, which, honestly, must be incredibly challenging. In the classroom, participation and worksheets can tell us a lot about their success, but it is different when you are trying to educate through a screen, especially if you have not done it before.

Equipping teachers with the tools, resources, and guidance they need to teach in remote and hybrid environments is so important. To address this, we developed the Intel Skills for Innovation (Intel SFI) framework to redefine technology’s role in education. The Intel SFI framework is designed to help students develop specialized skillsets and mindsets that will help them enter the job market. It includes tools and resources such as professional development and technology-infused lesson plans that can help teachers captivate their students no matter where they learn. If we cannot help teachers lead and educate their students, then how can we expect those students to perform at their best? I think Intel has done a great job of laying out the necessary guidance in the Intel SFI framework, which empowers teachers to master the skills they need to effectively educate their pupils in today’s remote and hybrid educational settings.  With the Intel SFI framework allowing us to take that next step in education, we are ready to put in the work in empowering the industry to create the best possible learning outcomes.

So, with all this in mind—empowering students with highly capable, well-performing devices and equipping educators to teach those remote students effectively—it is now up to the school’s IT administrators to make all this happen. There are a lot of things to consider when an IT admin team looks to procure devices: Will the devices meet the performance demands of every student in every age group? Will they be able to manage those devices? Can they protect and secure each device, especially if it is connected to the cloud? By turning these considerations into reality, students can get the most out of their devices and focus on their schoolwork—not on if they can connect to the internet or download their assignments. If we reinvent the role of technology in education today, it will help us not only deliver virtual lessons effectively but also transform our education systems when we are back to the classroom.

Intel understands that these are challenging considerations for IT professionals to resolve. With its considerable background in world-changing technology, Intel is delivering the tools, expertise, and support today’s teachers, IT administrators, students, and parents need to adapt and thrive.

Especially in these unsettling times, setting up students and teachers for success has become more difficult—but it does not have to be that way. Technology should not be the thing that divides us in the educational industry, separating those who have access from those who do not. But I believe that with Intel’s continued contribution and leadership, we can invest in our kids’ futures with technology creating unity and equity in education.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.