Special Use IT in Schools

In addition to the fleets of computers maintained for populations such as students and teachers, schools are places where special purpose computers and peripherals are found. In makerspaces, science laboratories, studios, workshops, and other special teaching spaces, there are computing devices necessary for specialized educational activities. Examples include: 

  • Arduinos—These microcontroller boards are inexpensive and use open-source software, so they are used in makerspaces and similar spaces in which students design and program digital devices.  
  • Robots—There are several organizations that sponsor robotics competitions for students, and these are also popular devices in makerspaces and in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) classrooms. IT professionals encounter a wide range of robots in schools as well. Elementary students may use toy-like robots while students in technical schools may use programmed logic control (PLC) devices for mechatronics applications in manufacturing classrooms.  
  • Printers—Much of the printing that happens in schools is high-volume and low-quality. Today, most print jobs in schools are directed to network-connected photocopiers that also serve as scanners. Many schools also provide limited access to color printers for specific purposes. Teachers may find it necessary to print some instructional materials in color, and digital arts classrooms may have printers specialized for printing photographs installed. 
  • 3-D printers—Students in makerspaces and STEM classrooms are also likely to be gaining experience with additive manufacturing. 
  • Science apparatus—Teachers in science laboratories have adopted many digital data collection tools in recent decades. Interfacing devices allow various probes to be connected to software so that (for example) temperature can be collected and graphed in real time. In addition, familiar devices from the analog laboratory, such as microscopes, are now digital. Combined with a high-resolution display, these microscopes afford more specific instruction by teachers than traditional microscopes and students can capture images to use for more accurate analysis compared to the traditional methods.  
  • Assistive technologies—In order to access their education, some students need very specific hardware or software. Decisions about what assistive technologies are necessary are made on a case-by-case basis and a team of IT professionals, outside consultants, and special educators collaborate to identify, select, and deploy the necessary assistive technologies. In most cases, assistive technologies are for the exclusive use of individual students. They both need the device all of the time and it is unlikely to be needed by others.