The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the infrastructure of connectivity–a network between users and their physical environment. It describes not only communication between humans and devices, but also M2M communication, where devices work together to obtain and process data without any human interaction whatsoever.
With the Internet of Things, the same network used by your phone, computer, or tablet, is extended to everyday objects: the automobile, the watch, and now, the classroom.
The number of objects with IoT compatibility has been steadily increasing, and experts predict that nearly 40-50 billion devices will be connected by 2020.
A multi-billion-dollar industry already, IoT can offer an enhanced learning environment for students by changing the way information is presented, absorbed, and reinforced.
But IoT’s role in schools is more than using tablets, phones, and other mobile devices to help educate–it’s also implementing smart technology into the physical infrastructure of the school, including hallways, doors, school buses, and HVAC systems.
So exactly how does the ultra-connected, smart technology that IoT offers benefit the classroom, and at what cost?
The most common IoT solutions implemented in schools – Source
An IoT classroom provides students with a stimulating and immersive learning experience by engaging students with smart technology that they’re not only familiar with, but use in everyday life.
According to a study by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR), schools that offer compatibility with even standard IoT devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, are met with more responsive engagement by students.
Usage of Smart Technology in Classrooms | Source
With IoT, the student’s engagement in the classroom is no longer contained to, well, the classroom.
Lecture capture technology allows students to review and reflect upon lessons after class has been dismissed. Students learning remotely could even participate and interact with their peers and teachers during a lecture in real-time.
When schools enlist proper app development and UX design services, they provide their students software learning tools they can access on their phone anytime, anywhere.
While the positive impact IoT systems have on student engagement is clear, the full integration of smart devices into the classroom comes with a difficult challenge: distraction.
Already a problem in today’s schools, many educators have banned phone usage in the classroom outright. According to the same ECAR study, 67% of teachers felt in-class use of mobile devices was distracting, and nearly half of undergraduates agreed with them.
One of the major challenges the school system continues to face is the need for effective ways to implement an education plan personalized to the individual. As each student learns at their own pace, IoT systems can gather data on their progress, and determine which students need more attention.
Typically, this is a difficult and time-extensive assessment that teachers currently must perform manually. IoT data collection relieves this duty from the teacher, allowing for more instruction and student interaction.
It could also allow educators to view how entire classes are understanding concepts, and adjust their lesson plans accordingly.
On an even larger scale, a comprehensive student profile could be developed throughout their entire enrollment at a school. This profile could provide future educational institutions, or even employers, with much more data than a simple transcript ever could.
Of course, with an enormous amount of data of individual students available, risks of privacy and security need to be considered.
Institutions implementing a large IoT network need to create IT policy with appropriate network-access control and network application visibility, to ensure the safety and privacy of the users.
While the full integration of IoT solutions into a school is a costly effort, the increased efficiency it offers reduces expenses and provides savings that outweigh the initial price tag.
In the classroom, teachers can expedite day-to-day banalities, such as taking attendance or grading tests, with IoT devices that collect and record that data automatically.
This frees up valuable time for actual instruction, student interaction, and other activities more constructive to the student’s education.
IoT systems in schools can also severely cut energy expenses, as demonstrated by the New Richmond Exempted Village schools, which generated over 128,000 dollars in savings from IoT monitoring energy usage.
In fact, according to GreenTech Media, IoT can yield energy savings of $1000 per endpoint per year. And it’s not just the energy bill – the usage and consumption of any school resources can be tracked by IoT to streamline processes and reduce operating costs.
The very nature of IoT as reusable technology can help contribute to school savings. Computers, tablets, and phones can all easily be reused, and with strong mobile software development, costs towards resources like paper could be fully eliminated.
Some companies project that investing in IoT technology could pay off within two years. Especially robust smart-tech could even be compatible with older systems that are already in use by schools.
With bullying, violence, and school emergencies all dramatically increasing in recent years, it is now more crucial than ever before to ensure student safety. IoT creates a significantly safer, more secure learning environment for students, both in the classroom and out.
For example, transportation systems with GPS capabilities enable students and parents to track bus or shuttle routes. This would allow students to not have to wait for transportation in potentially dangerous areas, or at late hours of the night.
Cisco’s Physical Access Gateway also gives schools the power to remotely control thousands of doorways and entrances across campus.
This enables the administration to track visitors, restrict access, and implement emergency lockdowns when necessary. Student and visitor ID cards allow schools to record the last-known location of a user, and to control who can gain entry to different areas of campus.
If an emergency does occur, a smart communications network can send alerts to students, staff, or emergency responders, resulting in a faster reaction time to crises.
As the Internet of Things continues to rapidly expand, its integration into the classroom offers significant benefits and presents new challenges for educators.
IoT can substantially increase student engagement, provide a more personalized education, and create safer schools, all while generating savings by increasing operational efficiency.
On the other hand, these assets come with concerns about security, privacy, and distraction. In the end, these concerns can be mitigated with strong IT and administrative policies, resulting in a IoT school that leaves a lasting, positive impact for students and faculty alike.