Now is the time to collaborate with stakeholders in the education industry to ensure we have a sustainable framework to address topics like blended learning, and ultimately improve students’ learning outcomes. By collaborating on the development of an education blueprint, solutions and a refinement of approaches, we have a better opportunity of accelerating a shift into modern, equitable and personalized education.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Wei Huang Oania.
Wei Huang Oania is the Education Vertical General Manager in Intel’s Internet of Things Group. She leads a worldwide team responsible for driving the market growth and creating innovations based on Intel architecture computing solutions for Education and Corporate segments. With 15+ years at Intel, Wei has held various engineering and marketing management positions, and she is a recognized leader in many of Intel’s data centric businesses, including telecommunication, retail, banking, and education. Wei holds a Computer Science degree and an MBA from Arizona State University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
At a very early age, I knew that I wanted to pursue an engineering degree. Perhaps it was because my father was an engineer, or perhaps it was because I seemed to grasp how things worked by doing them. However, my learning journey was not always a pleasant one. My divergent learning style did not land me at the top of my class, nor did I receive the highest score on my college entry exams. Once I realized that my chance of entering a good Chinese college was seemingly impossible, I made the decision to pursue higher education in the US where different learning styles are more acceptable. This decision moved me 7 thousand miles away from home and put me on the path to a career at Intel. I’ll never forget how my different learning style stagnated my academic progress. As a technologist, I know it is possible to impact learning positively through technology and actually reduce limitations. Now as a Mom to three school age children, I’m especially passionate about influencing smart learning to transform the way we learn, to provide engaged, equitable and personalized learning to all children including mine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It is hard to point out one interesting story. I spend more time at work than at home. What I realize is that you have to find a job that aligns with your passion and seek out a working environment and co-workers who inspire and support you. Of course we may not always be fortunate enough to have that, but the important lesson that I’ve learned is that you control your destiny at any job. Know what you want and work hard and smart to get there. My favorite quote is, “Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on a collaborative learning project with our ecosystem partners that will bring modern learning to remote students in rural China. It is a very meaningful project, as we know that many children in rural China do not have the needed connectivity and access to education. Obtaining and maintaining qualified teachers in rural area is a huge challenge and as a result, children struggle to keep up with learning basic language and math skills. In fact, many are falling behind in learning.
With technology like 5G, web based Real-Time Communications and digital displays, we can now broadcast lessons from major cities to rural schools. In addition, the modern teaching devices are loaded with verified education content, enabling real time teacher engagement to these rural area children. Seeing the smiles on their faces and witnessing their improved learning progress really warms our hearts! Now imagine that we can extend this solution everywhere! The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that things can change anytime, and can happen unexpectedly. We should embrace technology that can enable learning from anywhere, campus to campus, campus to community, campus to home.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority in the education field?
I am an engineer turned business executive and supported many consumer facing markets including client PC, banking and retail, before leading Intel’s global Education vertical for the IOT group. The experiences and key learnings gained while digitally transforming these markets have really helped me understand the right focus areas for education. I’ve leveraged this experience to build a substance-based solution roadmap which helps educators and schools approach modern learning in easy to follow steps.
As an engineer and technology innovator, I know what’s possible with technology and how to solve a problem. As a business leader, I also know that we have to understand customers’ issues and headaches, in order to provide the value-added solutions. I understand the importance of learning by doing, and continuous improvement. We have to encourage dialogue between educators and the technology community. And of course, being a Mom to children in multiple grade levels, I’ve gotten to experience the US and Chinese education systems in a new way. We have lived through what’s worked and what’s needed to improve. This allows me to bring a unique and global view in using technology to impact positive change in learning.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
I would rate the US education system today as needing improvement. Like many of you, I am consistently amazed at just how fast the technology has changed our way of living. However, when we look at our children’s classroom, it largely remained unchanged for decades. We cannot expect to effectively educate our future workforce with yesterday’s methods.
You’ve written previously about “blended learning.” What does that mean?
The world has changed significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have experienced school closures and seen the impact of those closures and intermittent learning environments bring into question the state of the global education system. While some countries have students back in the physical classroom, many are still struggling with school re-opening. With the continued uncertainty of COVID-19, teachers and students must adapt to new learning formats — digital, blended, etc. — for the unforeseeable future.
Is the world ready to transform education systems?
I believe so. Now is the time to collaborate with stakeholders in the education industry to ensure we have a sustainable framework to address topics like blended learning, and ultimately improve students’ learning outcomes. By collaborating on the development of an education blueprint, solutions and a refinement of approaches, we have a better opportunity of accelerating a shift into modern, equitable and personalized education.
Are schools starting to embrace blended learning? If so, what does that look like for students?
Yes, we have been working with schools to deploy technology and bring continuity to their students during the pandemic. These schools often have an interactive and collaborative board in each classroom with digital content and lesson plans. They may also have several multi-media classrooms which can do real-time recording, broadcasting or become a teacher’s content creation hub. Schools are also incorporating data-driven insights to drive student engagement, help teachers improve their efficiency and provide personalized blueprints for learning. Finally, schools are implementing purpose-built devices for teachers and students, while also providing technology training to make it easy to use.
No matter what stage each country’s readiness for a modern education system, this pandemic has fueled a massive expansion of digital devices. There are federal, local, and private communities getting together to provide personal computing devices in the hope of reaching all students. The shift to digital has made it clear that the current generation is not only adept to digital technology — technology is also a part of how they operate daily. Schools must start considering inclusive, technology-enabled learning to provide effective and engaging education to our children and in the “language” that this generation responds to and understands.
This sounds great! So, where do we start?
It starts with people. Teachers, parents and students are facing new challenges daily. By understanding these challenges, we can develop better solutions.
Based on our experience partnering with students, parents, educators, and district leaders, it is clear there is no shortage of challenges, including: keeping students engaged and motivated, ease of use for teachers, and providing continuity for students, parents and teachers.
Overall, there is a shared desire to empower teachers. This means creating solutions that support an environment centered around the student, supported by both schools and teachers. This school/teacher-centric approach helps us focus on the ways to build a blended learning journey that enables teachers to deliver a great learning environment.
For example, imagine a new blended classroom with:
- Collaborative boards that can bring physical and virtual students together in one classroom and enable the option of teaching in the physical classroom (alone) using available assets.
- Creative digital content and format that keeps student’s attention and encourages learning.
- A purpose-built teacher device that is portable, with built-in functions of content creation, recording, broadcasting, remote sharing, and large screen view that is intuitive to use.
- Devices that are seamlessly integrated with any LMS and automatically process work activities with notifications.
- Digital readiness, that enables needed data insights that will empower the right digital roadmap for our teachers, improve efficiency and deliver better personalized teaching for our children.
This all sounds so amazing. How do we get there?
The tech community and the education industry must continue to work together to solve current challenges and create solutions to improve learning outcomes. Together, we can identify the right issues, find the critical focus and implement needed technology in schools, empowering our teachers and schools first to drive the best learning journey for our students.
Thank you for your time today! How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wei-huang-oania-42834a2/
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!