IoT is trending. Companies invest in new tech...
In 2016, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 6.4 billion worldwide. Although the total amount of Web-related service spendings is currently estimated at $ 235 billion, US companies struggle to raise funding for education technology programs. Are there any successful cases of IoT usage in education? Will smart schools change the way educational institutions have been working for years? Read on to find out!
The global impact of e-learning
- The Millennial invasion. Young people born on the edge of the 21st century (aka millennials) currently dominate the US school system and will comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020. According to the International Education Advisory Board report, millennials spend at least 6.5 hours a day absorbed in digital and printed media. Millennials are sociable, enjoy being in control and prefer to have multiple choices. Over 80% of American teenagers have permanent access to smartphones, computers and game consoles. Although US high school teachers agree that the Internet improves students’ research skills, heavy reliance on digital sources certainly affects attention spans and forms a totally new type of perception. As of now, the American education system fails to meet the demands of the digital generation;
- The evolution of teaching. The widespread adoption of high-tech solutions has changed the whole approach towards teaching. According to the 2013 survey conducted by PBS Learning media, 74% of American teachers use digital devices (including smartphones and tablets) in the classroom. 71% of those surveyed also approve of educational apps, websites and textbooks. Teachers tend to focus on experience and believe technology enables students to learn from doing rather than memorizing;
- New learning environment. In 2013, 90% of American classrooms were equipped with PCs, and the use of interactive whiteboards was estimated at 59%. Nearly half of American schools employ online lesson plans and activities. The Internet of smart things has evolved into the Internet of Everything, since high-tech alters both the concept of teaching and the general “climate” of a classroom.
3 reasons to use IoT in education
Smart gadgets offer multiple benefits for educational institutions:
- Increased efficiency. The knowledge economy poses heavy demands on potential jobseekers. The use of smart gadgets in the classroom allows students to develop such 21st century skills as critical thinking, languages proficiency, creativity and great self-direction. The 2013 study conducted by the University of California revealed that iPads help medical students score 23% higher on exams. Some promising stats also come from the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt team. They discovered that students who use tablets increase their math test scores by 20%. Interactive applications for smartphones and tablets usually employ high-quality visuals and short tests for students to revise knowledge and gain practical experience. The Anatomy 4D app, for example, takes pupils on a real-time journey inside the human body. The Revision App is another successful case of custom software development. The application contains comprehensive tests and educational videos on all the curriculum subjects. However, the use of digital gadgets in education is not limited to mobile phones and tablets. With over 39 million US citizens owing at least one smart accessory, wearables will enter classrooms sooner than we expect. Margaret Powers, a Pennsylvania-based tech coordinator, took advantage of a Google Glass set to show how wearable technology changes the education process. She discovered that tracking everyday activities allows students and teachers to study their working patterns and improve productivity;
- Student-centered approach. Wearables’ potential spreads far beyond routine documentation. The Muse headband, for example, may provide teachers with the essential stats on their students’ brain activity. The gadget which monitors heart rate and brain signals easily recognizes distracted thoughts and produces alert notifications to help students stay focused. Sensor-enabled devices collect various data, including physical and mental activity parameters, heart beat rate and calories consumption. Using the information, schools can improve nutrition programs, eliminate stress causes and develop a student-centered approach towards education (particularly for young people with special needs);
- Improved school and campus security. According to Cisco, approximately 40% of US schools don’t have a visitor management system or use outdated surveillance gadgets that fail to cooperate with the notification mechanisms. Since 2013, there have been over 160 school shootings in the USA, and authorities keep looking for security tools to prevent gun violence. The Internet of Everything, a multilayer environment which connects both smart gadgets and people, is a possible solution to the problem. Security can be enhanced with the help of door gateway and badge recognition software, as well as the authentication wearable devices (like the Nymi bracelets). Until recently, the major argument against the widespread adoption of digital security solutions was the hardware maintenance costs. However, the modern cloud-based security systems can significantly reduce data center management expenses.
IoT: challenges & possible solutions
- Lack of financing. In 2014, the total amount of US venture funding was estimated at $ 48.3 billion. However, educational technology companies only managed to raise $ 1.2 billion. The numbers reveal an uncomfortable truth: neither the US government nor businesses realize the high-tech’s positive impact on education. Also, wearable gadgets and interactive whiteboards don’t come cheap (an average smart board costs up to $ 5 thousand). Still, the situation is bound to improve. The fact that LinkedIn purchased Lynda (an e-learning platform) for $ 1.5 billion justifies the growing interest in high-tech education projects;
- Implementation. Interoperability remains the biggest challenge for smart gadgets’ manufacturers. Since the IoT market is largely driven by small companies, most connected devices are not designed to smoothly work with each other. However, IT corporations are expected to cooperate with startups to develop universal security and implementation protocols for smart gadgets. As of now, there are several portable solutions like Twine and iBeacon which allow to connect multiple smart gadgets;
- Data Security. Besides the unclear security standards, smart gadgets transfer huge amounts of user data via multiple channels and can be easily hacked over the local network. The security of smart devices can be improved through reliable authentication mechanisms, local firewalls and digital verification.
The growing demand for high-tech education solutions is just the tip of the iceberg. In 10 years, the number of machine-to-machine connections will reach 27 billion, while the total economic impact of the industry will be estimated at $ 11 trillion. With the introduction of smart cities and autonomous cars, the digital future of education seems inevitable.