Dell steps up its education efforts with Connected Classroom

Dell is introducing a nearly complete hardware and software stack for in-class digital learning. Now if they can just find some content partners...
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Dell announced today a major update to its Connected Classroom hardware and software, bringing everything from updated netbooks to short-throw, 3D-capable projectors to the classroom. With the addition of teacher professional development resources, interactive whiteboard software, and capabilities for formative assessments, Dell has created a complete vertical classroom solution.

I had a chance to speak with Mark Horan, Dell’s global VP and GM of K12 education, a couple weeks ago about the Connected Classroom. Mark cited the same "fundamental shift" away from accumulated computers for kids towards creating an infrastructure for learning that I've been discussing in this blog and that educational leaders have identified as the new frontier of ed tech. As Mark noted, Dell now has a complete education stack with hardware, software, content.

According to Dell's press release,

Today’s announcement takes the Connected Classroom goals further. It offers a range of new technology platforms from which to build the Connected Classroom, combined with a variety of services that will give schools and teachers the confidence and materials to deliver effective education that meets every student’s needs. It helps teachers adopt individualized, collaborative, and project-based learning practices while enhancing traditional teaching methods, ultimately increasing student engagement and promoting mastery of content.

While this is obviously a bit of PR-meets-modern-education speak, I think that Dell may actually have hit upon a powerful combination for K12 classrooms. The major components of the updated Connected Classroom include:

  • Dell Latitude 2110 – These are netbooks based on Intel's Pineview chipset, enabling HD video and and drastically improved battery life. My favorite feature? A “tamper-resistant” keyboard design to help prevent loss of key-caps. The release also noted that, "for schools moving to digital textbooks the Latitude 2110 allows for screen rotation so that students can turn the netbook on its side and hold it like a book to read. It is scalable with connectivity options like integrated WiMAX support and embedded mobile broadband card. The netbook also boasts up to 10 hours and 13 minutes2 of battery life with the available SSD drive (storage up to 64GB) and optional 6-cell battery and netbooks are available in Red, Black and Blue. The system, available now, starts at $389 USD"
  • Dell Mobile Computing Station – "storing up to 24 netbooks, it allows teachers or students to transport shared Latitude 2110’s or 2100’s from classroom to classroom, as well as including a wireless access point, device charging indicators and a wake-on LAN feature. This enables IT staff or teachers to conveniently deliver updates via the network, greatly simplifying management." Because these are Latitudes, Dell also offers custom factory imaging.
  • Dell S300wi Interactive, Short Throw Projector– "combining the capabilities of an interactive pen with this multi-purpose, short throw projector, teachers can make virtually any smooth surface an interactive learning space. In addition, 3D capable DLP technology allows for an experience that is not possible with traditional 2D content. While the new S300wi gives schools the flexibility to use any compatible interactive software platform and toolbar, it ships with eInstruction Interwrite Workspace (at no additional cost to customers), providing interactivity in no time." Sure beats Mimeos, eh? The 3D requires goggles and extra software. I don't see this taking off right away, but it's great to see Dell leading in this area.
  • Dell multi-function printers – "choose from select multi-function printers with software that...bundles a set of education-specific applications that provide print-on-demand bubble sheet tests, instant grading results (a server with Windows and additional software is required) and reporting. The Classroom Station software will be available bundled with three new Dell multifunction printers, the Dell 3333dn, the Dell 3335dn and the Dell 5535dn." While bubble sheets might seem a bit 1982, the idea of printing, administering, grading, and analyzing data RTI-style within minutes in the classroom is quite compelling.

Dell is also rolling out a host of teacher resources to "aid teacher adoption of technology." These services include virtual learning tools, needs assessments, and training.

In fact, the only thing missing here is a set of content partners to round out the vertical solution. I expect that the content to exploit Dell's new Connected Classroom, however, is just around the corner now that a tier-1 OEM is really embracing innovative 1:1 solutions. Nice work, Dell! Looks like someone has their mojo back.

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