It’s that time of year again; school instruction is coming to a close and Jeff Spicoli is about to get a visit from Mr. Hand to go over the history lessons he ignored (reference: Fast Times at Ridgemont High). While Jeff is explaining to Mr. Hand about the class, IT equipment is being ordered, shipped and implemented by channel partners in preparations for the August-September timeframe, which marks the beginning of a new school year.
According to NPD’s most recent SMB IT Quarterly Survey (April 2017), in the next three months, 50 percent of firms in the education market plan to spend on technology, which is a 62 percent increase from the prior year. The instructional side (classroom technologies) will be a key area of growth, as technology can solve for many of the shifts we are seeing in the classroom, including…
- Classroom sizes have grown and teachers are in need of solutions to help reach every student more effectively.
- More schools are adopting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs to help the U.S. become more competitive on the global stage.
- Schools are encouraging students to become more innovative and expressive, while collaborating with their peers to solve real world problems (e.g., project-based learning).
- Schools are preparing for digitally-based Common Core Standards assessment testing.
Where Technology Comes In
To address the needs of larger classroom sizes, many schools have increased their use of learning management systems, such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Google Classroom, to better manage students and encourage greater parent involvement in the education process. In addition, polling devices via smartphones and classroom responders are also helping teachers better understand when the students are absorbing the content most effectively.
Schools that have woven STEM and STEAM programs into their curriculum are adopting technologies such as 3D printers, microcontrollers, drones, and more. Many schools are teaching students how to use computer aided drafting programs to create their own designs and print them via a 3D printer. To help students learn programming skills, schools have adopted microcontrollers (e.g., Arduino boards), which allow students to download open source code and even create their own code to develop projects such as obstacle avoiding robots, plants that send a tweet when they need to be watered and more.
As more of an emphasis is put on project-based learning, schools are using methods such as flipping classrooms, where students watch videos of the next day’s subject ahead of time, so class time can be used for digging deeper into the material via peer learning groups. In this case, instead of receiving an hour-long lecture, students form peer groups where they discuss content and then present findings to the classroom using a projector or an interactive whiteboard, encouraging students to develop communication skills. From a demand perspective, according to NPD’s Distributor Track and Commercial Reseller Tracking Services, year-to-date (January- April 2017) versus the prior year, we have witnessed 136 percent unit growth in the interactive whiteboard market.
For schools that have adopted digitally-based Common Core Standards testing, Chromebooks have been the device of choice due to lower average selling prices. Year-to-date (January- April 2017), Chromebook shipments have increased 26 percent in the B2B channel, with the largest volume month approaching in July. In addition, according to our SMB IT Quarterly Survey, in the next three months, 45 percent of firms in the education market plan on purchasing personal computers, which is a 22 percent increase from last year. Along with the growth in Chromebook sales, upgrades in wireless networks will occur, as students and staff place increased demands on the network. According to the SMB IT Quarterly Survey, 50 percent of education institutions plan on purchasing networking gear, a 183 percent increase from last year.
As technology is further ingrained into school curriculums, whether driven by necessity or choosing, we expect to see strong 2017 back-to-school sales in the B2B channel. And, for Jeff Spicoli, maybe we’ll see a drone delivering pizza or a bagel in a future remake of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.