Systems Thinking as a Method for Leveraging Smart Classrooms

Jazmyne V Del Hierro, University of Texas at El Paso


Digital technologies have revolutionized enterprises across our personal lives, and most major industries. The digital transformation can be considered a strategic response to digital trends (Vial, 2019), encompassing substantial changes in society and industry caused by technology development (Taj, et al., 2010). It’s a complex journey that needs to be guided by clear strategy. Digital transformation is more about people, than it is about technology (Frankiewiczz, B., 2020). It requires organizational changes that are backed by leadership and driven by challenges to culture (Abbu, H., 2022). Digital transformation requires leaders to build trust (Mugge, Abbu, and Gudergan 2021; Gudergan 2021; Abbu et al. 2020). Existing research suggests that organizations need to develop a digital transformation strategy to find innovative applications of technology, manage the changes triggered by technology and coordinate the implementation of the digital transformation (Hess et al., 2016). This digital transformation is revolutionizing the way enterprises support, improve, and fulfil their processes and activities. This revolution is introducing innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, analytics, and other advanced technologies to provide a fully connected SMART network that can optimize workloads and improve performance. One of the main industries that this digital transformation is affecting is the manufacturing domain. Incorporating the technologies that this era of digital transformation has brought upon has deeply affected the manufacturing enterprise operations and production processes in terms of increased efficiency and flexibility (Björkdahl, 2020; Pereira & Romero, 2017). Sectors of the private industry and engineering centers in the United States Department of Defense have embraced this transformation, implementing digital engineering activities to great benefit (DOD Strategy, 2019). As for the healthcare industry, adopting novel technology and embracing the potential of this digital revolution has become a necessity for every health center. For example, endoscopes produce video data, but these are not recorded beyond still images (Zimmerman, H.D., 2021). It would be beneficial to use the entire video for evaluation and other purposes. The education domain can also reap the fruits of this digital transformation. The digital transformation started with a defined strategy that leveraged opportunities presented by new technology while meeting the objectives of system stakeholders (Demartini, C. G., 2020). That strategy has been leveraged for education connecting everything to support tomorrow’s digital world and creating strong strategic partnerships able to build an ecosystem connecting people, processes, and things into a powerful, and secure, system of systems. While it is apparent that there is much to gain from this digital transformation in any domain or industry, there is still a lack of knowledge available to Small to Medium enterprises looking to leverage SMART capabilities within their facilities. With the use of our tools, methods, research, and resources, we aim to provide Saint Patrick’s Cathedral School with a baseline of what is needed to leverage SMART capabilities in classrooms. This digital transformation is essential for adoption because it will prepare students to enter a workforce where digital literacy is essential. Not only do SMART classrooms enhance collaboration, but they also prepare students for in-demand careers. In an economy that’s increasingly driven by data, analytics, cloud computing, and other advanced applications, technological literacy forms the foundation of many careers — including some of the most lucrative. From electrical and civil engineering to biotechnology and nursing, many jobs demand a high level of technological proficiency. By familiarizing students with educational technology at a young age, teachers can help to establish the skillset that will later be utilized to grow into fulfilling career. This thesis analyzes the need to adopt novel technologies, tools, methods, and practices the K-12 learning enterprise, and explores the foundation needed to leverage the concept of creating a SMART enterprise. Our case study examines educators of Saint Patrick’s perceived barriers to technology integration and the leveraging of SMART classroom capabilities. Educators and administrators from Saint Patrick’s pK-8 th grade levels in El Paso, Texas were observed in their classrooms during an 8-week period. A discipline of Systems Engineering called systems thinking was utilized, and the systems engineering lifecycle applied to approach this case study and create an architecture for leveraging the baseline necessary to support a digital transformation within an enterprise. To achieve our goal, we asked stakeholders what they would like to achieve. To better understand our stakeholder’s needs, we conducted an in-depth observation. We then used that information to determine what processes and socio-technical activities, such as workforce training, need to be completed to leverage SMART classroom capabilities, and what is feasible for the enterprise. Our approach involved the Systems Engineering practice systems thinking to view the system as a whole and understand how the social and technical aspects of the system can work together to leverage SMART classrooms. To merge these two entities our case study involves the installation of a reliable internet network along with training the workforce to better utilize digital technologies. A variety of systems engineering tools such as an enterprise architecture, a systemigram, and functional flow block diagrams were developed to better visualize the sociotechnical aspects of the system. The results from this literature review and case study implicate that a reliable internet connection is the basic requirement needed for using this technology. Moreover, our thesis also identified the important role that enterprise members and administrators play in carrying out and influencing the work. A major area of focus during this site observation was teachers attitudes toward technology capabilities and their guiding principles, goals, and visions for adopting SMART technologies. Mission and vision communication from administrators, along with sufficient workforce training is pivotal to adopting digital transformation and leveraging the concept of SMART classrooms. Our students will inhabit a digital workforce; thus, it is morally imperative that teachers adopt technology. We are responsible for shaping how our students interact in their surrounding environment and the world.

Subject Area

Systems science|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

Del Hierro, Jazmyne V, "Systems Thinking as a Method for Leveraging Smart Classrooms" (2023). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30493746.