Lenovo’s Impact on Education is Bigger than the Sum of its Computer Parts

Kids in Education

By: Annabelle Thuan

Redefining Innovation

The word innovation seems overplayed in the tech industry.  Consumers and resellers alike are bombarded with companies that promise improvements in design, capabilities or service.  This is not to say that the progress these organizations strive for is not creative or cutting-edge.  Technology is definitely moving forward—whether in response to changing landscapes and end-user demand, or in anticipation of new processes. 

In technology, however, we can’t rely on the traditional definition of innovation.  To do so, is to accept a siloed and unrealistic vision of the future.  Companies should not be considered innovative because they simply make a tool better or improve services.  True innovation in this industry should be less myopic-- the result of alliances across disciplines. 

As a global conglomerate, Lenovo understands its micro impact of producing high-quality devices: within the last 8 months alone, it has released four unique, SMB-focused products that have no direct market competitor: ThinkCentreTiny and ThinkPads X230 Tablet, Twist and Helix.  Creating new form factors that change the way people do business and making sure they are affordable to the masses is quite innovative.  However, I am more impressed with the company’s understanding of its macro impact on our culture at large.  This is illustrated in its commitment to Education.

Changing the Education Landscape

Education is in the midst of its greatest transformation in decades.  As a proud member of Generation X, I remember receiving my first computer.  I was well into my tweens.  Gone are the days of being introduced to a massive desktop that takes minutes to boot or the days when homework was handwritten.  In two years, experts have argued, education has gone digital. 

According to a national survey of teachers grades pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade conducted in 2012 by PBS LearningMedia at the Florida Education Technology Conference(FETC), ninety-one percent of teachers reported having access to computers in their classrooms, but only one-in-five (22 percent) said they have the right level of technology.  This proves broadening adoption of technology and deepening integration of it in schools to engage student learning.  More pointedly, it points to a lack of strategy.  A recent article in US News states that US students (at 29 percent) only lag their Chinese counterparts (53 percent) in digital integration of K-12 curriculum.  To fully appreciate companies like Lenovo and their impact on education, we must first discuss technology in education.

The role of technology in the field of education is four-fold: it is included as a part of the curriculum, as an instructional delivery system, as a means of aiding instruction and also as a tool to enhance the entire learning process. Thanks to technology, educational pedagogy has shifted:  It has gone from passive and reactive to interactive and aggressive.  The lecture model of teaching which rewards students who problem solve by rote is quickly being replaced by more interactive teaching methods that involve digital savvy, resourcefulness, and demand true understanding of concepts.  Standardizing school adoption, however, is more complex.

The Power of Partnership

To spearhead education thought leadership, Lenovo has been partnering with Intel and Microsoft.  Most recently, the three companies joined forces to present at the NY Department of Education as part of “Prepare Them for the Next Level”.  The NY Department of Education (NYDOE) is the largest school system in the United States, with over 1.1 million students taught in more than 1,700 schools. This summit was organized to help schools and teachers understand how to access the best tools and communities to support students in their learning. 

By collaborating, these technology juggernauts recognize the limitations of viewing their respective businesses, whether hardware or software-based, as producing tools.  Collaboration has elevated collective thinking:  born out of gaps in the market identified by their respective sales teams, they now have a coordinated education product portfolio with strategically placed programs, messaging and enablement for one fully-integrated Education solution.

The solution presented took a 3-pronged approach to address community support and best practices, academic resource sharing, and outreach:

  • Intel’s Senior Trainers discussed “Professional Development” and its recently launched Engage Community, a virtual-based teacher forum housed on the Intel website to enhance personal growth, educator collaboration and share resources.  Its purpose is to positively impact education through shared ideas, strategies, creating and communicating lessons, resources and activities that have been successfully implemented in the classroom.
  • Microsoft’s Tony Franklin from Microsoft’s Shape the Future Program discussed the company’s Education strategy and provided access to the more than 100 free education plug-ins like Learning Essentials for Office , OneNote for authoring content, SkyDrive for student and teacher collaboration, the IT Academy to teach future professional skills, The Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Program, Youth Spark, the Imagine Cup, and Partners in Learning Program, as well as the Channel 9 Learning Center with tools to teach students to program C#, Visual Studio, etc.
  • Lenovo’s Sam Morris, Education Solutions Manager, presented two sessions: Education Transformation and Devices for 21st Century Teaching and Learning.  The first session provided an overview of classrooms across the country.  As districts wrestle with new curriculum, new assessment mandates, and a greater sense of urgency for accessing digital content, the selection of technology tools has become critical to the learning environment.  While there is much to be gained by empowering students through the use of these devices, educators must first identify the desired educational outcomes for such integration.  Focusing on these learning goals, Lenovo feels that schools can set appropriate technology standards, model best practices for utilizing digital tools, and ultimately transform the learning environment to achieve the desired outcomes.

The latter session, Devices for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, illustrated Lenovo’s commitment to supporting schools by increasing the dialogue with educators, IT teams, and educational leaders.  Whether through unique hardware offerings, pilot programs to observe the adoption of devices in the learning environment, software and content partnerships, or support for research and professional development, Lenovo creates solutions that address the growing demands of 21st century learning.  As one device does not meet the needs of all, Lenovo showcased its portfolio of devices which are available online.  This opportunity allows users to gain a better insight into the options and to understand the features of each of the tools.

Conclusion

True Innovation is not a siloed tactical output, it is the result of strategic collaboration across disciplinary expertise to produce solutions that benefit communities, address changing pedagogies, and ameliorate the implementation process.  In essence, to be truly innovative is to accept an ongoing process and strive to be better.