New education standards and goals are causing school systems nationwide to take bold steps into the world of high technology. Some supply chain companies have decided it’s time to walk with them, introducing the education market to a broad range of products and services while simultaneously expanding their business opportunities.
One notable example of this trend comes courtesy of technology distributor Avnet, Inc. Specifically, its electronic components distribution business, Avnet Electronics Marketing, is approaching the K-12 education market in the United States with a business venture designed to anticipate growing demand for solutions that combine hardware, software, consulting, and other services to help schools make the transition to a digital learning environment.
Avnet’s Rorke Global Solutions, which was folded into Avnet EM Americas in 2013, is the key point of entry, making a splash over the summer with the launch of its 1:1 Learning System Chromebook and following up this fall with its Wi-Fi 1:1 Learning System for Windows. Both systems help teachers and administrators integrate technology in the classroom and meet new demands for a more streamlined, high-tech education environment. Through partnerships with publishers, software providers, and other technology companies, RGS aims to create demand for these new solutions in the fast-growing education marketplace.
“RGS gives [Avnet] an opportunity to address a whole new market,” explains Scott MacDonald, vice president and general manager, RGS. “It’s a chance to say, ‘How can we change lives? How can we help make a better life?’”
Putting Technology First
Technology is the common thread that holds Avnet EM and RGS together, says MacDonald, emphasizing the natural connection between the electronics industry and the education market. RGS is providing technology solutions to public and private schools nationwide, and as a business unit of Avnet EM’s Embedded Technology group is tapping into products, services, and capabilities that will help educators create more technologically “connected” schools and help both teachers and students get “a bigger and better learning experience.”
“[RGS is a] market solutions company focused on education,” explains MacDonald. “Being that partner that helps schools make the digital transformation—that’s our goal. We’re putting the technology behind it.”
Both the 1:1 Learning System Chromebook and the Wi Fi 1:1 Learning System for Windows offer educators technology systems that address four areas: technology infrastructure (the device or other hardware used to deliver content), content/curriculum (through partnerships with publishing companies, software providers, and others), professional development resources, and management/support services.
The approach emphasizes the idea that digital education is about more than just giving kids a laptop.
“You can give a child a laptop or tablet, but it’s really about…how you use technology, make it interactive, and foster an environment in which people want to learn,” MacDonald says. “That’s really the market opportunity. We can deliver the whole suite of services. Being part of Avnet gives us an amazing, unique opportunity to change the face of education and create a lot of value.”
RGS’ 1:1 Learning System Chromebook with Wi-Fi includes hardware, digital content from educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and strategic services that address professional development, technical support, and asset life cycle management. RGS’ Wi-Fi 1:1 Learning System for Windows includes a device, accessories, and supporting services for setup, warranty management, and call center support. Devices for the latter are available in two forms: traditional laptop and 2-in-1 tablet with detachable keyboard. Users can access supplemental content through a learning management system or directly from a number of digital content publishers.
Both systems meet the content requirements of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
MacDonald adds that both systems represent an entry into the digital education market, which he expects to be a key growth area for RGS and Avnet over the next few years.
“It’s an exciting time in education and technology,” MacDonald adds. “There’s a lot of buzz in the market talking about this digital transformation. We think it’s more of a learning transformation than a digital one—and having one of the global leaders in technology behind it is really a great opportunity for the education market.”