Classroom in a Box: Jamf ‘pod’ will bring tech to developing world

Tom Giffey

The Innovation Pod, which is designed for deployment in the developing world, is delivered to Jamf’s Eau Claire office.
The Innovation Pod, which is designed for deployment in the developing world, is delivered to Jamf’s Eau Claire office. Image: Garrett Denney

As makers of software that manages Apple devices, the folks at Jamf are familiar with iPods. Jamf’s latest project, however, is a different kind of pod – an Innovation Pod – which the company and its nonprofit partner hope to eventually plant around the world in an effort to provide technological education in developing areas.

On the outside, the Innovation Pod looks like a shipping container – in fact, it is a shipping container – but on the inside its a tech-packed classroom designed to be mobilized to places where 21st century technology may be out of reach for most children. The first Innovation Pod was deployed this month in Cité Soleil, Haiti, a large, impoverished settlement on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince. There it’s expected to be used by 150 kindergarteners in a pilot program. Meanwhile, an identical pod will be on display outside Jamf’s downtown Eau Claire office building through mid-July.

On a recent sunny afternoon, Dave Saltmarsh, Jamf’s global education liaison, gave tours of the compact classroom. With solar panels and a backup generator, the Innovation Pod is designed for sustainability and use in places where electricity isn’t consistent. Inside the pod there are collaborative workspaces outfitted with interactive displays, iPads in nearly indestructible cases, and access to tons of software for both students and teachers. With its cutting-edge gadgets and white walls decorated with “Think Different” posters featuring the likes of Miles Davis, Gandhi, and Amelia Earhart, the pod is equal parts classroom and Apple store.

Inside, it’s outfitted with computers, iPads, and other educational technology.
Inside, it’s outfitted with computers, iPads, and other educational technology.

The pod was designed with help from Jamf and built by Florida-based Modular Life Solutions. The tech tools and innovative curriculum is meant to create a student-centered learning environment, Saltmarsh said. “Student-centered means students are driving instruction and teachers are facilitating,” he explained.

The Innovation Pod was created through Jamf’s partnership with MATTER, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that brings educational, agricultural, and health resources to the developing world by working with local partners. In Haiti, one of those local agencies happened to be working with Jamf as well, and an Upper Midwest partnership was formed. Jamf had already begun an effort to use its technical expertise to assist Haitian schools, a mission that can be expanded with the creation of what could be the first of many Innovation Pods. While other mobile classrooms have been developed, “This kind of hands-on innovation is rare in the developing world,” said Jeremy Newhouse, vice president of operations for MATTER.

Now that the first Innovation Pod has been deployed, the project’s partners are seeking additional donations that will help pods proliferate around the world, helping to close the digital divide one shipping container at a time.

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