Apr 01 2022

Q&A: Speed and Storage Support Mobile Technology in K–12 Classrooms

Micron Technologies’ product experts share why memory and storage upgrades are crucial now and for the future of school devices.

The pandemic, which accelerated tech use in K–12 schools, also changed how that technology is consumed. Today’s educators are using more applications to facilitate student learning in remote environments. Students are accessing more rich imagery and large video files as part of instruction.

This method of instruction takes up space and bandwidth on a device. Slow speeds and a lack of storage can hinder learning and frustrate students and educators.

Memory and storage are essential investments that K–12 schools should make to support learning, according to Rahul Sandil, global head of marketing for the commercial products group at Micron Technology, and Jonathan Weech, director of product line management for the commercial products group at Micron.

“There is a good chance there is Micron technology in something you touch and use every day that helps you store your stuff,” Weech says.

Weech and Sandil share with EdTech how memory — mainly dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) — and storage products, including portable solid-state drives, support a more powerful and more mobile approach to learning in a modern education landscape.

LEARN MORE: Find solutions for more powerful educational technology products from Micron.

EDTECH: Why are memory and storage products necessary in today’s K–12 IT environment?

Sandil: The use cases for the computing device, whether it’s a Chromebook or a desktop or a laptop, have changed — and that change was accelerated especially during the pandemic.

There are two options for administrators, parents or students: You can get a new device, or you can upgrade the components on your existing device. In some cases, it is easy to update these components. Whenever upgrades are possible, Crucial (Micron’s consumer brand) can be a really valuable part of it.

Crucial has easy-to-use, industry-leading tools like the Crucial System Scanner and the Crucial Advisor tool, which allows anyone to find compatible memory and storage products within minutes. With these tools, experts can advise you about what upgrades are available for your computers.

Memory is the first thing you’ll see slowing down your computer, and as you consume more rich memory, the second thing you’ll see is your disk drive filling up. If you are an IT administrator, the amount of content being stored and accessed on these data centers is going up exponentially.

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EDTECH: Why is it important to pay attention to the system performance of K–12 desktops, laptops or tablets?

Weech: What’s really important is the user experience — how people are interacting with those systems. All of this rich content is getting delivered, and we’ve moved from this one-way conduit to a two-way conduit. Over time, files, media — lots of things — start to accumulate.

When you look at a K–12 system, schools really have to approach this from a budgetary standpoint: “What can we afford?” If you look at the content that’s being delivered and the accumulation of it, it drives performance on those student systems right to the edge of acceptable.

IT administrators in K–12 really have to pay attention to the question of, “What are the levers that I have to give a better user experience and better performance to my students, administrators and teachers?” Memory and storage upgrades are really two of the key things that can enhance that experience and maintain the level of performance that is needed.

UP NEXT: Is legacy technology impacting teacher retention in K–12 education? 

Sandil: Remote learning accelerated the way people consume rich content. When kids go back to school, they’ll have gotten used to having all this multimedia for collaboration, and tools like SharePoint and OneDrive. We have shifted the baseline, and I don’t think this is temporary. We’ve enabled K–12 students with these tools, and they’ll find even more ways to use them.

Weech: What the students are doing with these systems is so far beyond what we were doing, even in the college environment, a few years ago. In STEM schools, kids are coding at a very high level. They are editing video. They are creating content. And these are applications that require memory and storage.

Sandil: The need for your device to perform better — exponentially better — is driving most of the demand for our products.

EDTECH: What should K–12 IT leaders look for when making upgrades?

Sandil: One thing I always recommend is for IT administrators to know what machines are in their portfolios. I always suggest using tools like the Crucial system scanner to see what solutions work with your devices. You need to know what the devices can support and then buy the product or components to upgrade your machines.

Weech: Over the past 25 years, Crucial has developed a lot of tools to assist administrators. We have a database that allows us to, with the IT administrators’ permission, deploy the tools on their systems.

It’s like a consultant who gives you the options that are best for your system and guaranteed to work in your system.

RELATED: Schools should implement ed tech interoperability standards, Susan Bearden says.

Sandil: We now have 190,000 system configurations in the database. We have mapped 99 percent of the world’s computers. Anytime a new device launches, we update that in our database within 48 to 72 hours.

EDTECH: What are your predictions for technology in the K–12 segment over the next five years?

Sandil: We just launched DDR5, which is a whole new standard in computer memory. It will double the amount of memory and bandwidth your computer can process. We do believe that, in the K–12 space, people will want two or even three times the memory and storage capacity on the device and in the data center.

A lot of people are talking about the metaverse and virtual reality. Virtual reality applications and rich media will need a lot of storage space.

We also believe the category of portable SSDs will expand. K–12 users will want a durable SSD, so they can be mobile.

MORE ON MOBILITY: These technologies support mobile learning in K–12 education.

Weech: As students return to the classroom full time and the learning environment returns to something a little more familiar, it will be interesting to see how the technology that has been deployed during this time fuses back into that environment. What changes will it drive in face-to-face learning?

Longer-term trends coming out of the global workplace, like virtual machines, might make it into the educational environment. A lot of districts are deploying laptops or tablets to students. Will we get to a point where robust home equipment takes predominance?

In any case, memory and storage will be key for personal devices or devices controlled by districts and deployed to kids.

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