Education technology is no longer an option–it’s a necessity. Students, both K-12 and higher ed, expect technology to be at the center of their educational experience. Whether it’s bringing games into the classroom to increase engagement or enabling Wi-Fi access on school buses so students with long commutes can work on their homework, technology is an integral part of education.

The latest trend in ed tech is Smart Schools. Schools around the country are harnessing IoT to help devices connect and “talk” to each other throughout the school.

However, while the trend is growing in popularity, Smart Schools are still a relatively new concept. According to a recent Extreme Networks survey of more than 600 K-12 and higher ed IT managers, 29 percent of respondents were totally unfamiliar with the concept of a Smart Internet of Things School, while only 12 percent either had implemented a Smart School plan or intended to do so in the next couple of years. The bulk of respondents were either familiar with the topic (36 percent) or were investigating what’s needed for a Smart School plan (29 percent).

However, while many respondents were unfamiliar with a Smart Internet of Things School, 46 percent of IT managers expect a major impact from IoT in the next two years. IT managers also expect the IoT to offer big benefits to instruction and learning outcomes, including increased student engagement, more mobile learning, personalized instruction, improved efficiency, and reduced costs.

While respondents identified clear benefits of IoT, there were also challenges that must be overcome or managed for Smart Schools to take off. Drawbacks ranged from budgetary concerns to difficulties with preserving security and data privacy. Additionally, as schools integrate new IoT technology into their existing technology infrastructure, IT managers are concerned about interoperability between existing devices, as well as different IoT devices. As with any new technology, IT managers also expressed concerns about difficulty managing the new technology.

Extreme Networks also asked the respondents to identify IoT technologies that their schools have already implemented. The top 10 technologies are interactive whiteboards, camera and video capabilities, tablets and eBooks in the classroom, student ID cards, 3-D printers, smart HVAC systems, electric/lighting maintenance, temperature sensors, attendance tracking, and wireless doorlocks.

The top technologies easily match up with the most important factors the IT managers identified as most essential for implementing IoT technology. IT managers identified reliable Wi-Fi, network bandwidth, teacher professional development, appropriate student devices, and network analytics–among others.

Smart Internet of Things Schools may not be mainstream quite yet; however, as the technology becomes more and more affordable and as students demand more constant access, schools will need to implement integrated IoT technology inside and outside of the classroom.

For more on Extreme Networks’ survey, check out its infographic.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.