The Potential of The IoT in Education
By: Akshata Mehta
13 Aug 2017
The Internet of Things is revolutionizing many areas of our everyday lives.
From transportation to small business management, the IoT and its numerous applications are slowly becoming commonplace and inevitably necessary to keep up in today's fast-paced world. While it may not seem like an obvious application, the field of education has much to gain from the IoT. As stated by Villanova School of Business, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is an increasingly important aspect of life in and outside of the workplace, and analytics will only naturally develop and evolve to handle the massive amounts of data generated by the growth of the IoT.” For those who aren't aware, the IoT is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of!
The digital revolution has already resulted in the implementation of the internet within the American school system, with e-learning becoming commonplace. The IoT adds another dimension to this phenomenon, allowing for a more efficient and immersive educational experience. From tracking resources to creating better student plans, the IoT is changing the way things are taught and learnt.
The IoT can be effectively utilized in high school and university settings, where students are already moving away from paper textbooks in favour of e-books on laptops and tablets. This comes as no surprise considering the widespread data and internet coverage that providers like T-Mobile provide at inexpensive rates. By using cloud-connected devices, professors can monitor which students need individual attention and track their progress. This surge in connected technology means that teachers can utilize their time and resources on more personalized instruction, as the IoT would automate processes that were previously conducted manually. For example, sensors could detect the presence of students within a classroom, negating the need to manually take attendance, thus saving precious time.
Special needs students also have a lot to gain from this shift to technological means. For instance, students with impaired vision can be given special cards that are detected automatically and can inform connected devices to display text at a larger font. Through these advancements, the IoT can facilitate equal access to education for all students.
According to the University of Cincinnati, “Technology allows teachers to design their lesson plans in a way that combines more than one teaching method. Incorporating a variety of technological enhancements enables a teacher to program each and then put learning into the hands of the students.” This means that each student is able to learn in their own way considering their own special needs, boosting confidence and creating an enriching learning process. Adopting the IoT at a larger scale within higher educational settings means the potential to connect with leaders and professionals, promoting an interdisciplinary approach to education which is more relevant in today’s world.
IoT also has applications outside of the classroom. From tracking resources and equipment to quick access to schedules, both students and teachers can save valuable time and money. Live examples of this are the New Richmond schools in Tipp City, Ohio where approximately $128,000 is saved each year by using a web-based system that controls all mechanical equipment inside the buildings. This way, the IoT can be best utilized to increase energy efficiency and reduce operating costs in schools. Another application is within bus schedules; students can track bus routes to avoid waiting in unsafe areas, and parents too can keep their minds at ease by keeping an eye on their children’s whereabouts.
There are however, some concerns when it comes to the application of IoT. One concern is that IoT will force unwanted change upon an already functioning school system at a large expense. However, a study from Capterra points out that 69 percent of students want to use their mobile devices more frequently in the classroom, and most of those students want to use them to automate tasks that they already do now, such as note-taking, schedule checking, and research. Catering to the demands of the new age, it would be prudent for schools to start taking advantage of the IoT. Research by Greentech Media shows that investment in these "smart schools" usually pays off within two years.
Another concern is the threat to privacy and security. An analytical article on DeVry Bootcampby Professor James Karagiannes, Ph.D. states that IoT has become almost synonymous with big data. This is because millions of smart devices, and other connected infrastructure can collectively measure and record even more data than is already being produced online by social networks and internet searches for a variety of purposes. In terms of the education sector, this data would ideally be used to monitor student progress, enhance campus safety, and create a more conducive learning environment. However, there are those that would misuse this data, through malicious hacking and other unsavory means. This is a natural vulnerability that comes with collecting big data, and presents a cyber security challenge to experts. Thankfully, experts have been working on ways to anonymize data. Hopefully, the near future will see these privacy concerns alleviated.
The IoT is streamlining processes within the education system, making learning faster, safer and more efficient. The next few years should see in a rise in connected and smart schools, transforming the education sector for the better.