When classrooms and lecture halls abruptly went online three years ago, we all experienced moments of technical frustration. From connectivity issues to clunky virtual interactions, sometimes accompanied by distracting background noise, we persisted. Fortunately, the education sector has had time to iron out some of these wrinkles, particularly through improved connectivity and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).
Having seen such positive changes first hand, Elliott LevinDirector of Global Public Sector and Education at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is excited about the latest technologies and their impact on the learning experience. Prior to moving to EdTech, Levine spent 30 years working in a variety of K-12 and higher education roles. Levine’s extensive experience has given him an understanding of what teachers and technology students need to foster 21st century skills. Recently, EdSurge sat down with Levine to discuss how AI can enhance the learning experience.
EdSurge: How does Qualcomm fit into the education sector advancement equation?
Levin: Qualcomm brings connectivity, efficient processing and artificial intelligence to the edge. Connectivity is probably the way Qualcomm delivers the biggest impact in education. Most of your cellular networks, even a large part of your wireless networks, often rely on Qualcomm innovations. So 5G, 4G, LTE… these are technologies developed by Qualcomm that are used all over the world. And we introduce technologies in ways that make them more affordable and accessible to schools, districts, and educational agencies.
Through our Qualcomm Wireless Reach initiative, we work closely with partners to collaborate and identify local schools in need of high-quality technology with the goal of bringing connected solutions to dramatically improve education outcomes. and learning. The school is not only getting advanced devices powered by our latest processor technology and access to connectivity – many of these schools don’t even have WiFi available – but also being introduced into the teacher training curriculum and learning elements. assessment to model the adoption of digital learning that may occur. This innovative approach has been working for over 10 years. And I think that really demonstrates what’s possible when we view connected learning not as a luxury but as a basic human right.
We are moving forward with more integrated cellular devices, including our platforms designed for PC always on, always connected. Besides being built with 4G or 5G modems, they work unlike other processors which can really eat a lot of power: what we’ve seen with Snapdragon technology is more like “sipping” energy. So while typical devices can get up to 10 hours of battery life before needing to be recharged, Chromebooks and Snapdragon-powered PCs get up to 20 hours of battery life. My Windows laptop on Snapdragon has up to 28 hours of battery life which helps as I am constantly on the go. But it does mean students can borrow a laptop from school for homework without having to worry about the charger lying around or losing it. Classes can move outdoors since students and teachers don’t need to be tethered to an outlet. We’ve even seen cases of mobility-impaired students struggling in classrooms where power cords dangle from desks to outlets. These are very tangible improvements that also help to ensure continued learning after class.
If not, how is Qualcomm solving the digital divide between students?
If we look at K-12 education globally, the majority of learners do not have internet access at home. We still struggle with what is sometimes referred to as digital poverty because a child without these resources and tools will face lifelong disadvantages. We are very passionate about fighting digital poverty by bringing more connected solutions to market. And at the same time, we’re trying to bring better computing experiences to those who already own devices, as well as introducing mixed reality, both virtual and augmented, as key facets of immersive learning. We believe this is the next step for digital education.
What teacher supports or professional learning community does Qualcomm offer?
With any new technology initiative in schools, you need to think of a digital initiative like a stool. And every good stool has four legs. One of those legs is hardware and infrastructure. The second step is technical knowledge and support. The third is teaching tools. The fourth step is professional development, mentoring and coaching. If you leave one of those legs out of the equation and try to sit on that stool, you’re going to end up on the floor. But Qualcomm is the whole package; we offer all four legs of the stool to provide a solid base of support for teachers and professionals in the learning community.
How does AI augment the role of an educator?
Excellent question. It can be hard to conceptualize AI, so I started making 60 second Snapdragon videos to explain some of the AI features in our devices these days. As I mentioned, one of the things I love about new devices running Windows on Snapdragon platforms, like the newest ThinkPad X13s, is not just the battery life, but the AI functionality that exists on the unit itself. One of these features is built-in noise cancellation. Some of the other companies have tried to create a database of noises that they will analyze and block out, which is more machine learning. We have real AI instead, and it works in a few TOPS, trillions of operations per second.
I wanted to show how well this noise cancellation works. So I shot a video where I went in the middle of Times Square with all that noise. For the first 30 seconds I was on my phone explaining it. For the next 30 seconds I switched to my laptop and recorded the video to show exactly what it looks like with AI. No tricks. No prototype. It made such a difference! It’s a game-changer, especially for teachers creating content, doing virtual tutoring, hosting virtual office hours, or interacting with parents online. This kind of functionality makes all the difference.
What advice would you give to teachers who are reluctant to implement AI in the classroom?
First of all, start looking at some of the simple AI tools it could really help improve a personalized experience, just a tiny bit. Don’t be afraid to fail. Some of our best learning takes place amidst mistakes. Then, encourage students to explore AI technology and try to apply it in the projects they do. Not all AI is cloud-based, and much of it runs in the background on the devices we use every day, such as laptops and smartphones. Finally, we must remember that this will be the world in which today’s children will grow up. These are the tools and resources they will have to rely on. We cannot ignore them. We need to embrace advanced technology and show students how to master even higher critical thinking skills. Nonetheless, educators reading this are already well on their way to researching what is possible and learning what Qualcomm, in particular, is doing to help educators and students improve the teaching and learning experience inside and outside the classroom.
Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its affiliates.