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When it comes to IoT (the internet of things), every industry you can think of is on the list. Sure, retail stores and seriously covetable office spaces may be first in line due to bigger budgets and less of an entry barrier, but they’re certainly not where it ends.
One of the applications we’re excited to see develop is the new connected education space. Remember when whiteboards became a big thing in our school rooms? Little did we know then, that this was just the beginning.
There’s already a huge use case for the benefit of digital signage within education, from helping students to control the screens, to giving teaching staff a full network through which they can provide information. Imagine extending this into a fully connected space, where the classroom works in tandem to provide a richer, smarter learning environment.
Well, my friends, in this post we do exactly that.
As of 2015, 73% of all U.S. teenagers had access to a smartphone and nearly 70% of middle school students and 75% of high school students use laptops for educational purposes.
Now one of the biggest blockers to IoT and indeed, any developing technology in the classroom, is cost of device per student. Now picture an environment where students are actively encouraged to bring a smart device to school. Not just a phone, but perhaps a laptop, tablet or smartwatch, in order to tap into the best resources available to them. The BBC recently demonstrated how it could turn a micro:bit computer, often used in schools, into an IoT device, showing how existing school devices don’t necessarily need to be ruled out.
This type of environment takes advantage of mobile devices in a more natural learning format. It also makes remote learning a reality. As kids, when we left the classroom, we left most of the learning materials behind other than perhaps a printed worksheet. In the connected education space, learning can and will continue from wherever the student is.
Imagine a world that can answer your questions about it. A world globe let’s say, that can tell the distance between two points or a math table that can correct an answer. The connected environment creates a more personalized learning environment, one where the teacher doesn’t have the sole responsibility of enabling information.
Take Bosch, who in Austria, launched a ‘smart artwork’ project where art on the wall could tell students and teachers about changes to their environment. For example, a green image of the Mona Lisa would suggest that CO2 levels are too high, a factor which could make students sleepy and less likely to learn. Admittedly, this is slightly gimmicky but it does point towards a classroom that picks up on important cues for you.
Quantified art from the Bosch IoT lab
The connected environment will also track data about the students’ experience of it, later to be added to data banks and algorithms, to track any areas where they may need additional support. When you think that one teacher is responsible for tracking the goals and progress of say 30 students, it seems impossible that they have the time, resource and eyeballs to know everything that is going on.
A connected environment, containing a series of connected, smart devices will help to automate much of the feedback and analysis that teachers, students and parents so desperately need, to enable a higher order of learning.
As well as the advancements to your standard classroom setup, voice and gesture controlled technology add a level of inclusivity for students who usually require an extra level of support. For visually-impaired students, voice control allows them to navigate smart objects and operating systems just like any other student. Something like Microsoft’s Seeing Artificial Intelligence app would work in this context and could run on the student’s smartphone or a specific pair of glasses. The app gives a play-by-play account of people, objects and even emotional context, that would help students to hear and feel what’s going on around them, providing a richer learning and social experience.
The Microsoft Seeing AI app can read text, age and facial expression
Gesture-controlled technology that can be operated by eye or head movement also allows those with specific disabilities to take part within the same learning set up as able-bodied students.
Programmable bracelets that can be filled with a student's exact requirements, can ensure that the classroom adapts to them, as soon as they come within a specific proximity. This not only allows the student the independence to take control of their own environment, but it also saves time and costs of additional support staff.
Attacks on the classroom are perhaps one of a school’s biggest fears. However this is an area where a more connected environment could help tighten security and make it more difficult to breach. Connected surveillance cameras which note and also alert could be equipped with facial recognition technology, allowing them to spot and sound the alarm if an unknown face enters the school without prior authorization.
Wireless door locking systems could pose a nightmare (imagine what might happen if a particularly mischievous student gained access!) but would also allow a teacher to lock-down the school within an emergency situation and ensure that a young child can’t gain access to a door they shouldn’t go through.
Digital content means easier teacher-to-teacher collaboration, as well as synchronicity between a teacher’s classroom and the technology they use to plan lessons, take notes and track progress. Teachers can build on each other’s experience and that of the child, adapting class plans and future learning based on data and analytics tracked from previous ones.
Even the physical ability to flip content up onto a digital screen in aid of a presentation is so much faster than messing around with an overhead projector or turning on an interactive smartboard.
If you imagine a teacher having access to examples, video content, lesson notes and images from an iPad or tablet, that can easily be thrown up onto a larger screen, the lesson would become so much more interchangeable. Rather than trying to explain an abstract term, or persuade the student, who is perhaps more of a visual learner, what happened, they could simply show them.
Of course, no future picture of the internet of everything world is perfect. Particularly in situations where internet-enabled devices have access to children or those who are vulnerable, there are concerns around data, hacking and permission.
There is also the cost, as connected devices will need to be available on consumer-grade technology, as well as technology that falls below education-budget pricing, before mass adoption throughout K-12 schools is even a possibility.
Within a classroom, the technology to build a connected environment is also likely to be more sophisticated than say, an office, due to rapidly changing requirements. When you begin adding multiple technologies to the equation, for multiple lessons, terms, class plans and age groups, the chance of achieving interoperability between devices is slim.
For those looking to begin implementing a smarter classroom space, the recommendation is to perhaps start small. From interactive whiteboards, it’s easy to develop digital signage displays that create connected corridors between lessons and the information the lessons provide. Student ID cards enabled with a simple touch-technology such as NFC, begin to reduce safety and data concerns. Temperature sensors, tracking of head counts and the maintenance of lighting, heating and on/off computing systems then all begin to seem more achievable until step-by-step, the connected classroom appears further within reach.
At ScreenCloud we provide affordable digital signage software that’s easy to implement, manage and roll out within schools and colleges. We also offer a 25% discount to all education and NFP customers. Learn more at https://screencloud.com.
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