How the Internet of Things Is Improving Education
The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming fast, with 5 billion devices and sensors already connected (Gartner) and 75 billion expected by 2020 (Morgan Stanley). These devices will be generating 20 zettabytes of data by 2025. There are smart homes, smart cities, smart hospitals, and smart classrooms. An important aspect of smart classrooms and schools is that the IoT not only brings advanced value to the physical structures and environment, but also improves education itself.
A smart school has a computational Internet of Things nervous system that keeps the facilities functioning smoothly and enables a higher level of personalized learning. Smart devices throughout the school and campus send data and receive instructions over the Wi-Fi network.
Keeping the Terminology Straight: Smart Schools, Smart Boards, Smart Machines, and Smart Devices
The meaning of the word “smart” is constantly evolving and applied differently in diverse contexts. Today’s smart school makes extensive use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and associated smart devices. Over the years, the term has also referred to schools that specifically used one type of smart device, the smart board. Another usage of the term is independent of technology. For example, one SMART school program keyed on the acronym for Strategic Measurable Attainable Results-oriented and Time-bound. Another, very different use of the term is to imply the use of artificial intelligence, as in “Smart Machines” defined by Gartner to describe systems capable of analyzing and predicting student success, like Watson Analytics.
In the context of the Smart School, as well as Smart City and Smart Hospital, the word smart implies an intelligence and awareness, as well as the ability to learn and transform itself. Indeed smart schools have an infrastructure that enables them to grow, adapt and progress as important sites for learning.
Exactly What Goes On In A Smart School?
At the smart school, student attendance is automatically tracked. Teachers are aware of how far each student has progressed in their reading and how well they understand the content. Testing is easily administered digitally, both high stakes summative testing and impromptu formative testing. Student well-being is monitored during athletic activities with smart wrist bands. Supply inventories and even waste baskets are tracked for optimal inventory management and cleanliness.
Outside of the school, buses are tracked on Google Maps and school parking lots are managed with smartphone apps. Campus lighting is optimized to the instantaneous needs based on ambient levels, weather conditions, local activity, and anticipated patterns.
Inside the school, airflow, air quality, temperature and humidity are constantly monitored and optimized in every possible learning space. Flat screen monitors are available in the classrooms to display data from student or teacher devices during collaborative sessions.
Smart Internet of Things Devices For Schools
The phrase Internet of Things generally refers to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications involving network-based remote sensors and actuators. Wireless sensors generate data (often Big Data) which can be stored and analyzed either on site or in the cloud. The range of smart devices found in schools today includes: eBooks and tablets; sensors in the hallways, entrances, classroom spaces, and buses; all sorts of fitness bands and wearables; virtual and augmented reality headsets; robots; video sensors; smart displays; smart lights; and smart locks, to name a few.
Take Our Smart School Internet of Things Survey
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Data from these devices can be used for simple tracking, as with school buses, student attendance, and supplies, or more complex monitoring, for example, to understand student learning patterns as they progress through their eBooks and adaptive learning systems. All activities can be monitored in real time during critical periods of online testing. Throughout the school building, low-cost sensors enable a more finely-tuned HVAC system to keep the environment optimally tuned and to reduce expenses.
School Infrastructure to Support the Smart School
At the core of the smart school is the rock-solid, dependable Wi-Fi network. It must be scalable to handle the rapidly-growing number of smart devices coming onboard. Addressing the security, safety, and privacy concerns inherent in both K-12 and higher education requires comprehensive network management software. Network analytics provide a vital view into the network traffic and performance to insure there are no data bottlenecks.
Immediate Benefits and Future Possibilities
In addition to the direct benefits for education and teaching, smart school devices can have a positive impact on student safety. When Fraser Public Schools in Michigan added video sensors throughout their schools, they noticed the incidence of fighting dropped to near zero. Students knew they would be captured on video if they misbehaved. According to Superintendent David Richards fighting didn’t just move offsite, it simply stopped.
Incorporating the Internet of Things into the curriculum by introducing IoT devices like Arduino and Raspberry Pi helps teach engineering and math, but even more importantly, inspires creativity. The vast arrays of big data provides students with the opportunity to learn data analysis and to gain insight into the burgeoning career opportunities in data science.
The growing streams of school and student-related data create the opportunity and the challenge to provide a more personalized student learning experience, while controlling costs. Learning from the patterns of highly successful students could benefit the entire student body. In a farther-out scenario, both in time and in weirdness, not only is student attendance tracked, but also their in-class attention. Headbands such as Muse track brainwaves and could theoretically pass along information about student’s cognitive activities during class.
New IoT technologies, used effectively, increase student engagement and provide a safer learning environment. Teaching can take place in an entirely mobile, highly-responsive milieu. This emerging environment helps insure that all students are prepared for college and careers, including careers that may not even exist today.