By David Rogers
They say we are in the fourth Industrial Revolution.
Steam replaced human and animal power in the first Industrial Revolution, electricity replaced steam in the second, electronics automated many repetitive tasks as computers drove the third Industrial Revolution, and now the interconnectivity of devices is heralding the fourth Industrial Revolution.
Education has been impacted by each revolution over the last two centuries. When society needed workers for factories, schools commonly produced well-disciplined people who knew how to follow instructions, perform calculations and write reports. The second Industrial Revolution improved the efficiency of students by providing warmer, well-lit classrooms and duplicated notes and worksheets. The same skills were still needed in the workplace, so schools kept teaching the same subjects and skills. With the dawn of computers, there arose the need for programmers, so some classrooms were converted to computer centres, and a select few students learnt to code for the new power multipliers in businesses.
Accent on acceleration
The fourth Industrial Revolution has brought with it a fundamental change in the way workers function in society. With creativity and collaboration being more important than production, society has less need for workers who follow the rules and more need for people who can generate the next big idea, the next society-changing app, the next biotechnological breakthrough.
We have learnt that the Age of Enlightenment,2 which was made possible as people were freed from the drudgery of manual labour, grew best when people shared ideas. But this took time – the span of which children born in the age of the internet may well not be able to comprehend. Even after the end of the Age of Enlightenment, by the 19th century, for example, it took Charles Darwin from 1831, when he formulated his ideas of natural selection while travelling around the world on the Beagle, until the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1856 to share his ideas.3 On the other hand, the first iteration of the World Wide Web went from formal founding in 1990 to “rough draft” in June 2000,4 and dealt with more data than Darwin had amassed in two-and-a-half times the time period.
Nowadays, schools need to prepare students for a life where new ideas are being generated far faster than ever before and which involve more people in the creative process. Fortunately, the fourth revolution has provided a tool that simultaneously gives access to the accumulated body of human knowledge and provides a means to create collaboratively to produce the digital artefacts that demonstrate the understanding of new knowledge. In the fourth Industrial Revolution, for example, it is no longer important to know which region produces a certain crop, but one needs to understand the systemic factors that have led to the production of that crop in that region, and how a changing physical and economic environment will influence the distribution of its production in future. This understanding cannot be demonstrated as short answers to a test, but require the efforts of a group of students to produce movies, sound clips and presentations that show a deeper level of understanding.
Mobile devices have moved into the classroom as improvements in both local infrastructure and external internet connectivity have made this access to information and creativity possible. At all the schools in the Kyalami Schools Group in Gauteng, all students from Grade 6 to Grade 10 use iPads in the classroom for both accessing resources and creating digital artefacts. All schools in the Kyalami Schools Group are now also connected to the internet via fibre optic cabling, with the college enjoying a top network broadband speed of 200 Mbps. The schools use Google Apps for e-mail and collaborate using both a local virtual learning environment and Google Docs.
Computers in each classroom provide the teachers with access and a way to display content to their classes.
There is still a need for computer laboratories, and each campus has two venues where information technology skills are learned and where students can access the information systems outside of class time. Due to an unreliable electrical supply and the probability of soaring future energy costs, we have sought ways to improve the electrical efficiency of our computer centres. In the past, the laboratories have been heavy consumers of electricity, with each computer using up to 250 watts while in use. Keeping these centres cool has required expensive air conditioners that consume even more energy.
Enter the Intel® NUC Mini PC and Ethernet cabling
Beaulieu College, part of the Kyalami Schools Group, has therefore combined with British company, Extreme Low Energy (ELE),5 to utilise Intel’s latest addition to its range: the Intel® NUC Mini PC. This, says Intel, “reimagines the desktop PC into a pint-sized package so that you can work, play, create, entertain, and inspire in any room.”6
ELE has managed to further reduce the power consumption of this device and match it to a low energyconsuming monitor, all powered over an Ethernet cable. (Wireless access points, telephones and CCTV cameras are set up and controlled in the same way.) This means that new computer venues do not need electrical connections, just normal network cabling. There are no moving parts in the devices so noise is reduced, the devices run cooler and they will last much longer than standard desktops. The computers are more powerful than the desktops they have replaced, and will use less than 10% of the energy of the old systems (each unit uses 20 watts). The systems runs off a bank of lithium ion batteries that are charged overnight. Loadshedding has no impact on the class, as there is no electrical supply required during class time.
Spread the word
In future, Beaulieu College will be looking to charge the batteries via solar panels, reducing running costs and our carbon
footprint even further. We believe that this is the first such
installation in a South African school, and I am sure other schools will be seeing the benefits of low-energy consumption
in years to come.
1. See, for example: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourthindustrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond.
2. See, for example: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/ Age_of_Enlightenment.
3. See, for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zq8gcdm.
4. See, for example: http://webfoundation.org/about/vision/history-of-the-web/.
5. See: http://extremelowenergy.com/.