SEOUL, KOREA — Every morning, ten-year old Seo Jun’s attendance at Mi-rae Elementary School is checked automatically as soon as he passes the school gate. With a system that verifies and tracks attendance based on the student’s movement, his whereabouts are confirmed and logged onto the school’s server without a student card or fingerprint identification and that information is sent to his parents in the form of a text message saying, “Seo Jun has arrived safely.”
Seo Jun then heads to a mini-farm to check on his tomatoes. This farm looks like a greenhouse but it is equipped with the latest IT technology for controlling temperature, humidity, lighting and other factors for vegetation growth.
Jun holds his smart pad up to one of his tomatoes and instantly receives data about soil conditions, temperature and moisture on the display. It alerts him about the humidity so he clicks on the ‘water’ button to start the sprinkler.
Seo Jun’s friend, Philip, takes care of cucumbers on the other hand. Students like Jun and Philip benefit highly from this kind of state-of-the-art field education that combines a real-life, eco-friendly environment with virtual information. Using IT technology, they can manage and control the farm while getting their hands dirty harvesting tomatoes in the soil.
Later, Jun’s smart pad receives a prompt for his ‘Soo & Saem’ class. He enters a circular classroom with glass walls that acts as both a display and chalkboard. With smart walls that save and share the students’ activities surrounding the classroom, there is no distinction between front and rear. Jun and his classmates went to Alaska as part of a ‘Soo & Saem’ virtual field trip. He also learned math through team-based situational learning and play activities. Such curriculum planning is based on cultural knowledge and designed to be enjoyable. .
Next, Jun’s class tackles nature where today’s topic is Sea Life. Jun’s teacher addresses him and a hologram projection appears in the middle of the classroom. Visual graphics capture the students’ attention and transports them into the sea.
Observational learning by interacting with whales and sea turtles through virtual reality improves overall learning efficiency. Learning efficiency improves when students vividly face and feel sea animals like whales and sea turtles in virtual reality. After the hologram experience, Jun and his mates take part in continued group learning by solving puzzles together.
During the class, students take their own smart pad and touch the smart wall. Soon, the screen in the pad moves to the wall. This is how students share what they have scribbled on their pads with their teacher and friends. By doing so, they can also see their classmates' notes. The smart wall often transforms itself into a chalk board and plays multiple roles for various uses while students work on brainstorming or collaboration. When classes aren't on schedule, it functions as a wall curtain with different transparency levels for occasions where students’ artwork is displayed.
The next class is gym. Jun learns how to vault in gym class using the smart pad. The smart pad provides scientific motion analysis and feedback to each student’s physical activity once he completes his vault.
At lunch time, Jun eats at a cafeteria located on the 1st floor. Upon arrival, the message “Welcome Seo Jun“pops up with a daily diet guide for his nutrition and growth management. His lunch options are a rye-wheat vegetable sandwich, tuna vegetable bibimbap, or beans & meat mixed with vegetables. He clicks rye-wheat vegetable sandwich and his order is automatically completed through the pad and is accompanied by the nutritional information of the sandwich the pad provides.
The school regularly conducts health monitoring of its own students. Through a centralized system, a monitoring personnel may locate an ill student and take him/her to the school infirmary once a text is received. A video call connects the student’s parents and updates his health status. Such a school health care system is an edu-care service supported by a specialized school unit that monitors not only the students but the staff’s safety and health.
At noon, the students can visit the “Learning Consultation Room” to speak with a teacher. Since each student follows an individualized learning curriculum, their regular meeting with the teachers can help them sort out personal issues and check on their varying levels of learning advancement. As part of the after-school learning and mentoring program, Jun gets a private tutor. The tutor is a university student who lives near his home and helps him with difficult subject matter.
Schools structured with modifiable classrooms are fully equipped with technology and materials that cater to everyone in the community. This system provides after-school classes, tutorials, and more. In fact, once a week, Jun’s mother attends a painting class at the school. In addition, smaller rooms and spaces between classrooms are ready for projection learning, presentations, art displays, debates, etc. This ultimately maximizes the learning opportunities at school. Jun can also spend his time playing with his friends or reading books in these areas.
A message saying, “Seo Jun is on his way home” reaches his parents, along with updates on Jun’s daily learning and school life after a meaningful day filled with extraordinary experiences. Social technology as a useful tool has become the catalytic platform to facilitate communication for all involved parties like schools and parents.
Smart School Comes into Reality
Future School’s homepage (http://future.keris.or.kr/) was developed by KERIS and shows how future schools will look like 20 years later. Seo Jun’s Elementary school is the exact opposite of a traditional elementary school picture that depicts a classroom squeezed from front to rear with desks, chairs and overly populated classes in the morning and evening. However, due to population decrease, some schools are reported to be on the verge of closure due to difficulty with social change. Time and scientific development have brought about such trends.
On the 2nd of this month, smart schools like Seo Jun’s Mi Rae Elementary School, opened in Sejong City utilizing topnotch technology for a ubiquitous learning experience. Such schools include Charmsaem Pre-school, Charmsaem Elementary School, Hansol Middle School, and Hansol High School. These schools showcase the smart school which Seo Jun will attend. Total construction costs were USD 69 million since last January to build the best educational environment. Electric chalk boards were installed, as well as electric podiums, smart pads, message boards, and wireless antennas at the schools. It will take about three years to complete the whole school complex explained above.
Smart education is at the focal point of the change in the education system; the change being the complementary of complimenting school education where smart learning extends into schools education system. The Ministry of Education Science And Technology (MEST) announced, “This year, we will prepare regulations on digital textbooks and find legal grounds for the fair use of copyrighted materials so that smart education can take root. By 2015, we will complete the development of digital textbooks for elementary, middle and high school and push forward to mix them up with conventional books at school. The Korean Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) and the leader of the Smart Education Project, has been contributing to the opening of Korea’s first smart school, Charmsaem Elementary School in Sejong City since its initial design stage. Mr. Kim Chul-kyun, president of KERIS, is the primary visionary of what the future holds for Korea’s smart education. After taking the position at KERIS, he strengthened the department that promotes smart education, stabilized NEIS (the National Education Information System (NEIS), and conducted major reconstruction of his organization. He focused more on external cooperation and customer management.
Charmsaem Elementary School Pioneers Smart Education in Korea
The word, “smart” can best describe the education now unfolding in Sejong City as each smart school, Korea’s first future-oriented advanced educational model, is poised for success. Sejong City’s first smart school village can be characterized as self-directed, motivated, and adaptive. It is customized depending on each student’s level and interest with the aid of unlimited educational resources and IT technology.
KERIS, taking on education & research information projects, offers the blue print of the national education information technology plan by supporting the President’s Council on National ICT Strategies(PCNIS) to locate different educational agenda. As the implementing institution for MEST’s “Future School 2030 Project” which entails the design of future school models and buildings for trial purposes, KERIS has taken charge of relevant consulting roles for the design of Charmsaem Elementary School that opened this month. Sejong City’s Administrative Multi-city Construction Agency managed and led the construction of the school.
President Kim states, “Sejong City’s Charmsaem Elementary School is the Korean model for smart education. It avails both teachers and students of free learning experience with a wireless internet environment and individualized learning gadgets which students can use to customize their own learning course based on different learning levels and interests.” He added, “A number of seminars, debates, learning projects, presentations, art displays, performances, etc are all possible at the community areas in the middle of the school which will further enhance the students’ creative learning development.”
Charmsaem Elementary School offers different venues for students who can flexibly utilize knowledge and create products through innovative thinking and application. There are various types of rooms such as Media rooms where students can produce and share numerous media materials. Virtual experience rooms provide learning experiences that are difficult to be realized in reality, and experimental production rooms that support integrated learning of science, arts, literature, and other subjects. By utilizing different programs, the school continuously adds more value to professional learning activities that helps students think deeply and broadly. Furthermore, as exemplified by Seo Jun’s school, the available areas promote the development of a community learning culture and will become the community’s central learning point’s hub that supports not only students but also parents as well as other peple in the community. This will promote the development of the "smart city."
Korea’s smart education is drawing international attention. Just last year, foreigners from 60 countries visited to learn about Korea’s smart education. Charmsaem Elementary School is primed as the ultimate model of Korea’s smart education system.
The Main Drivers: ISP and the Specialist Group
Mr. Kim explains, “Smart education is all about future manpower- Implementing systems that specifically cater to each individual’s needs and level, which was enabled through overall educational changes as demanded by the 21st century’s knowledge and information-based society. Such examples are the intelligent customized teaching-learning system, educational courses, contents and methods, its evaluation and more. With the advent of digital society, smart education means the transformation of the educational paradigm for the future of our students” Mr. Kim explains.
He points out, “This year, KERIS will prioritize a set of goals it is aiming to achieve by 2015. Our plan is to create this system by 2015 and lead a new era by training teachers with information education and developing digital textbooks which will be remembered throughout history as the ‘smart education age' in which the classrooms ran on network and terminal gadgets.”
The government has set up an Information Strategy Plan (ISP) for the installation of Cloud-based smart education environment. The Smart Education Project will build the Cloud-based smart education environment for all schools across the country. This could be seen as Korea’s largest Cloud project, expecting the inflow of USD 2.3 billion. Serving as the framework for smart education, the ISP proposal will be submitted in early March by KERIS to find a contractor who would take the steering-wheel. The designated contractor will finish the project by July.
The ISP project is taking the spotlight as it will lead the venture by acting on details and take on administrative measures following last year’s smart education promotion strategy introduced by PCNIS and MEST. The government says that various educational content as the service platform was developed by both public and private sectors. It will soon replace the existing educational methods with selective and customized systems. It will also entail student-oriented education that focuses on each student’s level of comprehension and inclination.
KERIS is ready to enhance the volume with the ISP to build the Cloud-based infrastructure, initialize smart educational platform, create smart education content distribution systems, and form a Cloud PC service infrastructure, etc. They are also considering data and back-up Centers that will manage these services. Once the ISP is completed, the project will commence this year until 2015 undergoing different stages. The smart education platform development and research schools’ wireless infrastructure projects are scheduled to kick-off after the ISP consultation. One s precondition among many for the ISP is the employment of a specialized working group. In order to achieve the best results, KERIS is looking to a number of different opinions from four specialized fields; law & regulation for smart education, Cloud & infrastructure, smart education platform, and the education contents distribution structure. Mr. Kim says, “The ISP is keen to digest what the specialists agree to and conclude together. We will make sure that there will be few minimal trial and errors with the help of various specialist groups coming from relevant industries, academies, and institutions.
Digital Textbooks by 2015
The Smart Education Project is on a national scale since it targets every school in Korea to devote future Cloud PC terminals. The costs are estimated to be USD 500 million government subsidy for digital textbook development. However, for true "smart education" to be realized, there is still a long road ahead. Current regulations only recognize the conventional textbooks, so there is a long and winding road to travel before reaching the goal of adopting digital textbooks. Working on such laws, regulations, and copyright issues should be addressed first. That’s why the government is determined to test -drive the digital textbooks at few selected schools in 2014 to pave the way for a complete transition to “smart learning” by 2015. Eventually, elementary, middle and high schools follow their lead.
For the realization of the digital textbooks, MEST is currently talking with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism regarding the copyright policy that allows the transmission of conventional textbook content to digital textbooks. A revision of regulations on school textbooks is required to allow the use of the materials without cumbersome limitations. In doing so will enable the revision of the regulations on school textbooks in order for the digital ones to be used without any limitation. This can provide more ease in transferring workbook text for digital textbook production, technological development guidelines, and evaluation criteria for manufacturers. For a smooth transition, MEST is planning to run a feasibility test in schools to study, develop, and spread teaching models based on the digital textbooks.
President Kim emphasizes, “Efforts made by teachers should come before smart education takes root at schools.” The Ministry of Science Education and Technology, together with KERIS will spearhead a new policy this year mainly centering on cultivating frontrunners. First is the raising of 100 smart education central frontrunners, then, 100 people for each provincial office of education, employing an overall projected number of 1600. The group of trained people will be leading and managing various network occasions like research meetings and seminars, which will result in spreading the smart education trend, while centering around the provincial office of education, giving enough opportunity to teachers to be familiar with the smart education by installing a smart education experience hall.
KERIS (www.keris.or.kr), founded in 1999, aims to strengthen public education with the informatization of school education, increasing competitiveness for academic research through the enhancement the of academic field, raising the level of educational institutions through educational information report and information technology support, and strengthen Korea’s educational brand image and its status through global cooperation. For over 11 years, KERIS has been developing Korea’s major education & academic information projects like such as “Edunet” (www.edunet4u.net), an educational information service for elementary to middle school students.
The second story of the Smart Learning in a sixth part series.
Smart Learning plans six-part series
1. What is Smart Learning
2. Smart Education Scheme and the Model; Charmsaem Elementary School
- ‘KERIS’s Smart Education Scheme’
3. Smart Learning models, Smart Education Polices (MEST) and industry-specific Smart Learning Approaches
4. Build a cloud-computing environment
5. The future of smart learning depends on contents
6. Smart Learning business model and export strategy