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Interview: How Intel is bringing adaptive learning to the classroom


PCHF Tech News
Jan 10, 2015

In the Kno

Intel acquired California-based education-focused started startup Kno in November 2013. Since then, the company has developed the multi-device platform of the same name in a bid to improve teacher performance, foster student engagement and drive learning success in the classroom.

John Galvin, vice president and general manager at Intel Education, says that the philosophy of the team spearheading Kno harks back to Intel founders Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, who placed education high on the company's agenda from the start.

Intel is now using Kno to faciliate adaptive learning in the classoom, using analytics to measure student performance and engagement in a way that allows them to select topics that they are interested in. It has also launched the Intel Education Access Point, an enterprise-grade router designed to provide connectivity to student and teacher devices both inside the clasroom and out thanks to 3G support.

TechRadar Pro spoke to Galvin at the BETT 2015 expo to find out more.

TechRadar Pro: Why is education a big deal for Intel?

John Galvin: The team we have working on education goes back to our founders -- Gordon Moore and Rober Noyce -- who felt that education was important. Part of what we do as a manufacturer is crazy hard so it's in our best interest to teach people science and math and critical thinking skills.

It's also become as much a social endeavour for us, investing in our communities that we go into. Over the past ten years as a company Intel has invested about a billion dollars in education. That's not just pure dollars - that's putting time, equipment and going in working and training teachers. That's really how do you transform education.

Three years ago I looked at what we were doing and what was happening in education, and felt it was time for us to make a big change. Education was starting to go through a transformation. It wasn't just about bringing computers and technology into classrooms, it was also how they were being used.

Teachers were essentially incorporating computers into a full day's lesson plan and encouraging students to go out and search for information rather than what had been happening before that, which was put your tablet or notebook away -- the "lids down" story.

TRP: Tell us about Intel's education team and how it's encouraging the use of tech in the classroom.

JG: We formed an entirely new team which is the only vertically integrated team at Intel. We work on multiple verticals at Intel but that's typically from a sales focus and how we deliver products as part of a solution.

We take much more of a holistic solution approach that's end-to-end. We design devices for use within a classroom that are ruggedised, water resistant, dust resistant and can stand up to student use every day over the course of a few years.

We work on applications to be able to make that into an education experience -- so scientific applications, reading, writing and arithmetic. About a year ago we acquired a company called Kno, which allows us to deliver a digital curriculum.

We also work with the publishers to be able to deliver the content in a very meaningful way. Teachers can control the content going out to devices and have the ability to take a flat PDF and work with the publisher to make it a very rich and engaging application.


Kno also has an analytics platform so we can capture about two-hundred data points about the student, how they can engage with the data, and then map that to their assessment results.

It means that the teacher can essentially get a real-time dashboard about how students are performing and do essentially real-time remediation that's required, or advance students based on what they're fascinated with, so it's a very different approach for us.

The final aspect is how we prepare the teachers for technology coming into the classrooms. As a company we've trained over 14 billion teachers around the world, and we continue to train and engage with them and help them develop their digital lesson plans.

TRP: Is Kno platform cloud-based?

JG: It can be, but that's not how we use it because a lot of schools that we work with don't have great connectivity. Even in the UK, when you get to a classroom, there's not necessarily connectivity there for 30 or more students to access content and have a good experience.

We support cloud and advise schools on how to implement a cloud architecture, and we work very closely with Google on Chromebooks and are a big supporter of them. We developed a Chromebook ourselves that Lenovo is taking to market.

Most of the applications are designed to be able to work in an environment where there's either low or no connectivity. That's one of the three areas we're really focused on. We recently announced the Intel Education Content Access Point, and it's really three devices in one.

This was based on an ideation session we did around a year-and-a-half to two years ago now, where we recognised that in emerging markets there's really no connectivity, but in mature markets it's low connectivity.


Although there are lots of access points that are being used in education, often schools won't put in an enterprise access point, they'll put in consumer access points that can't withstand all of those students trying to get information at the same time. So we designed an access point that will handle fifty or more students, and there's also storage in the device.

If a teacher has set up their curriculum where they're going to tell their students to go after a piece of content, they don't have to go out to the internet. They can just go out to this device. It's going to look and feel to them like they're going to go out to the internet to get it, but in fact they're just getting it off a local device. It has 3G integrated, so when we're going into this no-connectivity markets, teachers can use 3G to download the content into the device, and it has six hours of battery life.

TRP: Was the plan to always push it into developed markets?

JG: When we developed it, we saw it predominantly going into emerging markets, but as we pilot it and talk to teachers, we found that mature markets want the device too. I've been talking to a teacher who has been talking about her science classes and school district, and more and more are doing studies outdoors, so they're taking their science classes outside. She said that she took the access point with her and students could access everything they needed for a true outdoor classroom.

Adapting to learn

TRP: How are you building out your adaptive learning platform?

JG: Another focus area for us with Kno is the analytics engine, which allows us to build out a model where we're not just capturing behavioural data, as we can do that today -- we're also integrating assessment within the platform in real-time allowing us to essentially build a true understanding of the student and how they engage with the material. That means a student can get instant feedback.

TRP: How does that change the way students are taught?

JG: We all have things we're fascinated by, and the way a lot of courses are created today, you don't get to pursue your fascination -- you have to move with the class at that pace. We think there's a model where if students can pursue the things they're fascinated by, they're going to excel and do better.

TRP: That's what happens at A-level education in the UK -- you pick several topics and study them. Does this apply to lower age groups?

JG: Yes -- we are talking younger students and in real-time. So it's not necessarily picking a course to study. For example, I could be studying cellular structure and think it's really cool and want to learn more about it. How do I go down a path where I can get more information on it, where I can essentially turn the camera on my device into a microscope and start capturing things in real-time?

We think that there's a benefit to being able to create an environment where students are able to pursue what they're interested in and are getting real-time feedback on things they may not be able to demonstrate real-time comprehension on.

You can then get a view of that information in a different way. That's activating it for the student but also providing tools for teachers and younger students, while providing tools for parents so they can work with their children and help coach and bring them along.

TRP: What other companies are you competing with in the adaptive learning space?

JG: We have looked across the ecosystem and of the players who want to work in the adaptive learning space, nobody has completely put together a roadmap today that demonstrated they are able to do it.

We know from putting our own roadmap together that's not something we can do on our own. We have to work across the ecosystem to do that, working on standards, so it doesn't matter which publisher is involved -- the student should have the same experience across all of their material.

It's also about working with software vendors. The adaptive learning model isn't just about interacting with the content, it's also about what you're doing when you're going out and Googling the information. What are you Googling, and how does it relate to what you're studying at the time? It's an area that we're pretty excited about. We've been working with academics in the US who have done some amazing work in this area.

Now the ability to take what they've been doing in their labs and bringing it into a product is pretty exciting to them. We're working with a couple of universities -- the University of Washington has done some amazing things around adaptive learning on mathematics specifically.

We've also been running pilots in the Nordics in the state of Minnesota and Washington. We're now talking about taking them to countries where we've done some really big installations. I think we're going to have some incredibly interesting results that we'll be able to scale around the world -- and we're just getting started.

TRP: Devices in general but specifically Windows 8 tablets have been falling in price in the consumer space. How is this changing the way technology is used in the classroom?

JG: That's impacting education for sure. The prices are coming down which is a good thing for students because budgets within schools aren't growing, so as price points come down it means more students can get devices, and what we envision as a one-to-one learning model with every student having their own computing device becomes more possible.

But there is a threshold -- we've seen examples around the world where schools have bought incredibly low-cost devices and it's just not made for a good experience. The devices didn't hold up as they were designed more for light consumer use rather than being used all day within the classroom.

That's why when we design devices and work with our customers on designs, they're rugged designs. They can withstand the seventy-centimetre drop test, you can pour a glass of water on them. They hold up much better than an average consumer device. We're big proponents of let's bring the price down so more students can get them, but let's not propose that devices are so low it won't be a good experience.

TRP: What are some of the biggest challenges for Intel when it comes to succeeding in the UK education market?

JG: I think one of the challenges in the UK is the way that it's structured -- it's a very decentralised market which means that we need to influence school-by-school in terms of what they're going to purchase.

We partner quite a bit withb multinationals and are starting to work more with distributors and key education resellers so that we can really get the scale and share our solution story at a school level.

Globally, we're trying to talk to teachers more and influence them in regards to other solutions that we offer. I think if we're successful doing that, then it solves a big problem in the UK as we're able to get to teachers who influence the purchasing decisions in their schools.



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