In 1801, James Pillans hung a large piece of slate on the wall of his classroom in Edinburgh, Scotland. Using colored chalk to mark on the slate, he had just invented a new mechanism to convey information to his students. By the mid 1800’s virtually every classroom in the United States had a chalkboard — a fine example of mid-19th century game-changing technology.
Similar to the change we experience in our modern culture, the chalkboard came with a learning curve. This resulted in at least two printed books and numerous instructional tools on how to best utilize the technology. As always, technology progressed and devices such as handheld school slates were eventually replaced by pencil and paper.
Like all technology, chalkboards weren’t immune to advancement or economies of scale. The building boom of the 1950’s led to the development of cheaper synthetic green chalkboards, followed by whiteboards using felt colored tip markers. Mix in overhead projectors and transparency film, film projectors, VCRs, radio, television, etc. and an interesting timeline of classroom technological advancement presents itself. In the 21st century, learning has gone digital and lessons come to life on electronic devices.
Was Category 6A ahead of its time?
Unlike the chalkboard of old, modern technology changes rapidly. While the digital universe has seen unprecedented change, the physical infrastructure (i.e., the Category 6A cabling standard) that enabled and supported this change has been in place for over a decade.
In 2007, the iPhone was introduced, TVs were not yet smart, Netflix had just started streaming movies and we were still three years away from tablet computers. At the time of its introduction, the industry hailed Category 6A as the future-proof technology enablement standard. However, it’s only within the past few years that Category 6A deployments have taken off, now growing around 20 percent annually.
Was Category 6A cable actually ahead of its time? Yes, but it had to be. Ratification of the Category 6A standard paved the way for manufacturers, integrators and customers alike to understand Category 6A’s place, the network designs necessary to implement it and development of the active components that support it. After 11 years of anticipation, “the future is now.”
Category 6A in the K-12 Digital Classroom
While the chalkboards of the 1800’s provided a new way to visually transmit information in the classroom and enhanced the learning experience in unprecedented ways, high-speed connectivity and rich digital experiences directly impact the quality of today’s learning experience. School districts are focused on making each minute in the classroom as meaningful as possible for students, while working within limited budgets to produce the best possible academic results. That means making sure you have the right enabling cable infrastructure to support today’s digital devices.
High-speed Category 6A cabling provides the speed and capacity students need to prevent valuable classroom minutes from being spent connecting, downloading and uploading. Recommended for any new installations or upgrades, Category 6A is able to handle both current and future bandwidth requirements. This is especially important for high-speed WiFi deployments with next generation Wireless Access Points (WAPs), as the traditional method of hard cabling computer labs and classroom computer stations become old news.
Traditional Classrooms: Times They Are a Changing
Over the past 10-15 years, the notion of a traditional classroom — one teacher at a chalkboard in the front of the room, teaching rows of students at desks taking notes with pen and paper — has undergone a radical transformation. Modern classrooms are designed to create an educational experience where students can be motivated to engage with other students using technology with inspirational teachers helping them along the way. The educational space spans beyond the physical classroom to include media centers, cafeterias, gymnasiums, common areas and the outdoors, with students accessing educational resources via mobile devices like laptops and tablet computers.
The technologically modern classroom includes more than just a high-bandwidth WiFi cabling infrastructure and mobile device compatibility. Audiovisual devices such as projectors, HD flat panel displays, cameras, microphones and speaker systems make the teacher’s lessons come alive. Students are not only able to access lessons via Remote Learning, but an entire classroom on the east coast can collaborate with one on the west coast, or anywhere in world. Students can interact real time with an Arctic exploration party or astronauts on the International Space Station. The possibilities are endless!
A Great Idea Whose Time Has Come
Ironically, the chalkboard industry remains reasonably robust. From a simple easel for your child’s playroom, to decorations for your home, to the sign advertising daily specials at your favorite restaurant, chalkboards have made their way out of the classroom. Although they were innovative at the start, like their digital counterparts, chalkboards are simply mechanisms to deliver information at the most basic level — the webinars of their time. They not only prove that good ideas always endure, but provide an example of how ingenuity, communication and collaboration can better develop learning in the 21st century.
The advent of Category 6A cabling infrastructure helped to facilitate a data communications revolution with technology manufacturers rising to the challenge to create new and better digital devices that utilized the supporting infrastructure. The digital device explosion in recent years is not slowing down and many could argue it will continue to expand, both inside and outside of the classroom. Like the chalkboard, digital technology has been and will continue to be a game changer.
After more than a decade, Category 6A is gaining traction. As technology and demand continue to expand, high-capacity solutions to support them will continue to develop. Future-proofing your classroom with Category 6A has become table stakes in a game that seemingly knows few boundaries.
The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Hubbell's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.