When it comes to technology buzzwords, there are fewer that get thrown around more than the Internet of Things, or IoT for short. Interestingly, this is one area of innovation where young people may actually be behind the curve – at least in theory. Many of the students we speak to couldn’t tell you what the Internet of Things means, but they’re more than familiar with it in practice.
Experts predict that there are now 15 billion devices (“things”) connected to the internet – hence the name. And around one-third of these will be autonomous embedded systems. This could be anything from a thermometer measuring the temperature of a house or a sensor to detect if a parking space is occupied to an intelligent beer keg or Prof. Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair.
We’ve invested a lot into IoT, because it simply is the future of technology for our species. And we want to spread that message, which is why we’re behind the Internet of School Things, along with our partners in the DISTANCE project. The project (which you can get involved with) aims to transform the way students learn about our world. We worked with teachers and learners from eight schools to develop a whole programme of materials – from kit to lesson plans – to help you get started. The content is designed for a range of subjects across Key Stages 2, 3 and 4. Once the plug and play devices have been set up, students can explore their live data and conduct experiments on this website. They are also able to interact with other schools' networked devices, such as our array of Weather Stations across the UK.
But we want this type of learning to be the start for IoT in education. Imagine a school environment where connected devices talk to each other, passing information that makes education easier, more engaging and more successful. Imagine a visually impaired student being able to sit down at any computer and that computer automatically recognise them, and enlarge font sizes. Imagine a classroom that detects students as they walk in, and pushes a warm-up exercise to their tablet. No more register, no more struggling to get their attention at 9am every day. What about data-driven feedback on how students are coping with tasks neurologically? Neurosensors could tell teachers in real time how much cognitive energy students are spending on a task, so teachers know who’s really struggling. OK, so the last one might be a bit Star Trek right now, but the possibilities are mind-blowing.
This could spell an end to the traditional teacher/learner relationship. Giving machines this much control in what has always been a very human environment sounds scary, but it needn’t be. By shifting some of the classroom management to the Internet of Things, the teacher is free to concentrate on tailoring the education they provide. Improved intelligence from data analytics, could take so much of the guesswork out of lesson and curriculum planning.