May 27 2022

Ruggedized IoT Requirements for Outdoor Classrooms

As in-person schooling resumes, ruggedized IoT devices and infrastructure can support learning and exploration beyond the school walls.

As a way to increase student engagement in the K–12 classroom and provide an opportunity to socially distance, many schools have turned to outdoor learning spaces. With new technology, lessons can now take place beyond schools’ four walls.

In K–12 education, ruggedized Internet of Things (IoT) technology makes this trend toward outside learning possible. Not only is outdoor learning more therapeutic, but it can also increase student engagement and provide a safer alternative to traditional learning spaces.

The next step for many schools is to consider what ruggedized IT infrastructure they need and how ruggedizing keeps IoT devices safe, so students can make the most of an outdoor learning experience.

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What Is Ruggedized IoT, and How Does It Enable Outdoor Learning?

Simply defined, ruggedized IoT is hardware that can withstand intense conditions — dust, rain, wind, storms — and is hardened to resist impacts if accidentally dropped or stepped on. Having devices such as these available to schools supports outdoor learning initiatives because outdoor learning is more involved than just taking an indoor class and moving it outside.

To support these classes, for example, schools will need enterprise-grade outdoor Wi-Fi and outdoor-rated access points, technologies that allow students and teachers to optimally use devices outside. Additionally, the devices themselves must be mobile. Other frequently overlooked resources, such as battery packs and cameras, are great to have on hand.

LEARN MORE: How K–12 schools are bringing classroom technology to outdoor learning.

How Can Outdoor Learning Support Technology Use for Students?

In addition to the outdoors being generally more engaging, students and educators are not restricted by the four walls of a traditional learning environment, which increases the reach of technology.

Outside, physical structures don’t inhibit Wi-Fi connections, and with the right technology, like enterprise-grade access points, connectivity range is hundreds of feet. These features permit great flexibility for outdoor learning. Couple this with mobile tablets and Chromebooks, and students can easily engage with the world around them.

Outdoor spaces, according to a white paper by the Association for Learning Environments, also expose students to technologies they would not typically use in an indoor classroom, such as survey instruments, water and soil testing equipment and even older technologies like sundials and weather vanes. Add in newer technologies such as battery-powered projectors and portable screens, and educators can conduct much of their lesson outside.

How Do Schools Protect and Advance Ruggedized IoT?

When outside, devices may be dropped more frequently. Outdoor access points are higher in the air, making them more susceptible to storms and extreme weather, which can cause electrical interference.

Ruggedized IoT, while still susceptible to damage, is designed to be in the elements and withstand weathering. Additionally, many accessories exist to ruggedize and student-proof devices, such as cases to protect against drops, water, dust and rough handling in general.

When investing in ruggedized IoT, schools should also look to modernize their IT infrastructure. For example, both ruggedized IoT and general school technology could be upgraded to Wi-Fi 6. As the latest standard, Wi-Fi 6 can rapidly transfer data and has powerful signal strength, supporting outdoor learning efforts and enabling broader technology use for schools.

EXPLORE: Top 3 ways to future proof your K–12 network.

With outdoor learning spaces trending in K–12 districts, schools will want to lean into ruggedized IoT to optimize the student learning experience. Attending class outside can dramatically change students’ perception and their willingness to learn. The right technology and modern infrastructure enable these creative avenues to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Augustas Cetkauskas/Getty Images

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