We’ve been hearing it for years – tech is getting smaller. But while their components are shrinking, the capabilities of devices are getting bigger. The Internet of Things is an ideal for the modern world – one in which devices, systems and services are connected beyond machine to machine communications, in both domestic and commercial applications.
In many ways, the Internet of Things had already established a presence in our lives. The emergence of wearables like the Fitbit, as well as home security and automation systems like Piper are giving us a taste of a world where we can control and monitor almost anything via the Internet. The reduced cost of processing power, the miniaturisation of technology and the rapid growth of mobile and cloud computing makes this kind of society possible.
But it’s not just about having a fridge that will text you when you’ve run out of a milk, or a heating system you can turn on using an app. The Internet of Things is expected to incorporate over a trillion connected objects by 2025 and to be used in an infinite variety of applications including remote health monitoring, manufacturing control and earthquake warning systems. Widespread adoption of these technologies requires an education system which not only teaches the concept, but embraces it too. And after all, there are some great opportunities to incorporate IoT technologies into the curriculum, and completely transform learning in a new, connected world.
IoT and Education
In a recent white paper, Cisco suggested that the exponential growth of technology is a disruptive influence in education, and that institutions need to rethink ways in which they deliver the curriculum. Cisco also highlighted the need for an education system which empowers a new generation of digital citizens who not only understand the technology beyond IoT, but are also aware of the societal impact of widespread adoption.
As the underpinning technology and perhaps the wider concept of the Internet of Things is complex, focus has mainly been on Higher Education as the starting point for introducing and integrating the concept and its technical aspects into learning. The Open University, for example, has revamped its computer science curriculum and now offers an introductory course “My Digital Life” which is based around IoT concepts.
But without laying a solid foundation for this way of learning and working in schools, the transition to a connected society won’t be possible. The DISTANCE consortium launched “The Internet of School Things” into 8 UK schools as a pilot project geared towards teaching students and teachers to share data in ways that make learning fun and link closely with the curriculum, particularly in science, geography and technology. The schools were given access to connected objects and supported learning materials, such as an environment chamber that could control the growing conditions of exotic plants and internet-connected air quality monitors. The project gave the schools an opportunity to experiment with IoT technology, and begin to think about the future of technology in learning.
The Computing curriculum includes a number of points of study that clearly align to the concept of the Internet of Things. For example, “designing and creating a range of programs, systems and content to collect, analyse, evaluate, present data and information” in KS2. Additionally, “understanding computer networks, how they can provide multiple services and opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration” in KS3. Both present the opportunity to discuss IoT and even develop and experiment with IoT devices.
The Internet of Things in education is about helping students understand and become familiar with sharing data and the social impact of doing so. Changes to the curriculum create the perfect opportunity to introduce these concepts early on in education, and redefine thinking around devices and their capabilities to connect to the world around us.