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Bringing Back Music Education to Our Schools

February 27, 2014 at 8:38 am PST

While many are arguing the existence of a comeback in liberal arts education, too many public schools are seeing a decline in arts education due to budget and resource cuts. The benefits of music and arts education are well documented, but we continue to see schools losing music programs.

Unfortunately, cutting music programs in public schools tends to impact low-income students disproportionately, as private access is available to those who can afford and support it. However, people and technology are making a difference and finding a way to bring music education to schools in new ways. Read More »

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The Internet of Everything: Where Technology and Innovation Meet To Make the World a Better Place

What will the future be like? As depicted in today’s popular movies and books, the future is either one of bright promise—where the world’s greatest problems have been solved by technology and greater human enlightenment—or it’s a dystopian world where today’s problems have only gotten worse, technology has gone bad, and the very survival of humanity is at risk.

As Cisco’s chief futurist, it’s my job to think about what the world will look like in a few years, and how our actions today will impact that future. And while I’m not ready to put on my rose-colored glasses just yet, I do have an optimistic view of what the future may bring, enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE). Within 10 years, there will be 50 billion connected things in the world, with trillions of connections among them. These connections will change the world for the better in ways we can’t even imagine today. But here are just a few things I can imagine:

Better supply of food: Sensors all along the food supply chain, together with Big Data analytics and the intelligence of the cloud, will help us optimize the delivery of food from “farm to fork.” Sensors in the field will be combined with weather forecasts and other data to trigger irrigation and harvest times for each crop. And sensors on the food itself will alert merchants and consumers about when the “sell by” and “use by” dates are approaching to prevent spoilage. All of this will significantly reduce food waste—which today amounts to about one-third of total world food production.

Better supply of water: Similarly, about 30 percent of our water supply is lost due to leaks and waste. Just one faucet or leaky pipe dripping three times a minute will waste more than 100 gallons of water a year. “Smart” pipes can reduce this waste significantly by sensing and pinpointing the location of leaks that would otherwise go undetected for months or years.

Better access to education: Affordable access to education is one of the most important ways to lift people out of poverty. Soon, time and distance will no longer limit access to an engaging, affordable, high-quality education. With connection speeds going up, and equipment costs going down, distance learning is going beyond traditional online classes to create widely accessible immersive, interactive, real-time learning experiences.

Better access to healthcare: Urbanization and population growth are putting a strain on healthcare resources—especially in rural areas. After the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, Cisco was a strategic partner in creating a networked medical delivery system, including four telehealth networks that allow doctors to meet with and examine patients remotely. But those capabilities are just the beginning of what IoE will make possible. Soon, women with high-risk pregnancies will be able to wear a tiny, always-on fetal monitoring electronic “tattoo,” which will communicate to the cloud whenever the woman is within range of a wireless network. The analytics capabilities in the cloud will alert doctors at the first sign of trouble, and even tell the mother-to-be when she needs to drink more water, or get more rest.

While sensors and machine-to-machine communication are important parts of these solutions, it’s not just the “Internet of Things” that is making all of this possible—it’s the Internet of Everything—the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. And Big Data analytics is what brings the intelligence to all of these connections, enabling new kinds of processes, and helping us make smarter decisions.

I’ve highlighted just four areas where IoE will change the world for the better. But there is not a single part of life that will not be impacted in some way—whether that means improving your drive to work, speeding you through the checkout line at the grocery store, saving energy through smart lighting, or minimizing your wait at a traffic light. The Internet of Everything is not a silver bullet that can solve all the world’s woes, but with the spark of human innovation, IoE can be the engine for a better future.

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Back to School: Transforming the Classroom with IoE

With students and teachers heading back to school, I’ve been thinking about when attended high school and college. For me, collaboration meant getting together with study groups, phone calls for homework help and office hours with teachers. For my two children – one a college junior and one college freshman – I have seen streaming video, text messages and online sessions with educators thousands of miles away turn our kitchen table into a classroom with a simple click of a button.Back to School

Beyond convenience and the overwhelming coolness factor of being able to connect virtually with teachers and classmates, I often wonder how technology will impact education and careers in the long run. Collaboration software is pervasive on many campuses, transforming the learning process, academic research and the relationship between students and instructors. With the advent of BYOD and mobile technology, collaboration is even becoming more accessible.  Will the integration of collaboration in their education translate into career skills?

Read More »

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Innovation is Standard at Idaho Education Network

July 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm PST

For the last four or five years, I’ve watched as the Idaho Education Network (IEN) has implemented and reaped the benefits from their distance education program and use of video conferencing, or telepresence. To this day, they continue to improve on success, and during a session at ISTE 2013 last week, Brady Kraft and his team once again illustrated how they consistently stay on top of their game.

Brady Kraft, IEN, presents at ISTE 2013

Brady Kraft, IEN’s Technical Director, presents at ISTE 2013

IEN is a statewide network that connects every school in the state, including higher education institutions, Internet2, private and public training providers, and first responder training organizations.

One of their mandated goals is to provide equal access to a quality education for all citizens and they’re utilizing technology to achieve that goal. As the 7th  most rural state in the nation, half of the counties in Idaho have less than 10 people per square mile, and 75% of Idaho’s schools have < 600 students. These schools havenot been able to offer a full curriculumdue to many factors, including availability of qualified teachers and budgetary restraints. Read More »

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Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World

It has long been known that a combination of both formal and informal learning is an effective way of turning theory (explicit knowledge) into practice (tacit knowledge). This includes working and learning alongside more experienced people, both online and face-to-face.

The nature of learning is changing, and new learning technologies are proliferating. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that suggests many learners can benefit from alternative models and novel spaces for developing their skills and gaining further knowledge. Couple this with the increase in distance and virtual learning offerings—which offer little opportunity for face-to-face contact for both formal learning and networking—and a significant need for additional learner support begins to emerge.

This need is also being driven by our busy lifestyles: learners may not always have time to study at their chosen institution or study center; entrepreneurs and startups may need access to temporary experts and more formal learning opportunities; and learners and workers may need more than just online support from time to time. Sometimes learners want a place to study away from the distractions of home or work, or they may need an informal learning place to engage with peers and mentors.

Learning hubs” may be the solution. Learning hubs are technology-enabled, flexible, formal and informal learning spaces designed to support learners of all ages. As opposed to study centers or traditional classrooms, learning hubs:

  • Are purpose-built to accommodate more than just tutorial instructions and seminars 
  • Serve as a space for temporary or prearranged meetings and discussions with peers
  • Enable students to meet with experts and mentors virtually or to join a class remotely (from one or more hubs) via high-definition video-conferencing or telepresence facilities

Learning hubs can be located in Smart Work Centers, university and school campuses with spare real estate, community centers, and other places. Or, they can be “pop-up” hubs—physical spaces connected through high-end video-conferencing technology to enable city-to-city and multicity events—that meet specific, short-term needs. Dialogue Café is one example of a pop-up hub. Other types of hubs are shown in Figure 1.  

 Figure 1.  Potential Learning Hub Locations.

Learning Hubs

Source: Cisco IBSG, 2013

A more detailed perspective from Cisco IBSG on learning hubs—including existing hubs and those in development—is available for download at “Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World.”

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