How Does a School System Become “Smart”?

Today, public schools in the U.S. provide at least one computer for every five students, putting in over $3 billion annually towards digital ed tech. Last school year marked the first time that electronic state standardized tests for elementary and middle grades outweighed the old-school pencil and paper kind.

The biggest benefit that school managers foresee from adapting a “smarter,” more tech-connected school is its impact on the students: Better engagement and a more personalized education. But developing a smart school is easier said than done.

Schools Need Systemic Change to Become “Smart”

After surveying 612 different schools — mostly across North America, with a few respondents from the Asia Pacific and Latin American regions — Extreme Networks was able to report an exhaustive list of smart devices already at work in school environments.

The list appears to be a pretty even split between devices, seen here:

Cameras and video

Tablets and eBooks

Multi-touch tables

3-D printers

Interactive whiteboards

Electric lighting/ maintenance

Smart podiums

Athletic bands or wearables

Temperature sensors

Virtual and augmented reality


…And more complex, interlocking systems like these:

Student ID cards

School bus tracking

Smart HVAC system

Supply inventory tracking

Motion sensing and tracking devices

Attendance tracking

Airplay and Smart TV Devices

Wireless door locks

Adaptive learning systems

Parking sensors

Facial recognition systems


School supervisors overall seem to be better at individual devices then in overhauling entire coordinated systems: Their top currently used smart technologies are interactive whiteboards, cameras and video, and the fabled tablets/ebook readers.

Schools seem intent on developing with the times. As the same survey linked above found, 46 percent of K–12 and higher ed IT managers believe smart technology in education will “have a major impact over the next one to two years.” But in order to follow through on that commitment, school systems will need to adapt to more change than just adding tablets to each classroom.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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