How IoT Technology Could Impact Teaching and Learning in 2015

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Dubbed as the most hyped technology of 2014, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is the concept of everyday objects connecting to the Internet and each other. This includes things like “smart” thermostats, smoke detectors and even kitchen appliances.

IoT technology was one of the hottest topics at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) - a premiere technology insider event with a 45+ year history. But would it surprise you to know that education is projected as one of the top sectors to be disrupted by IoT?

It didn't surprise us, because at McGraw-Hill Education we're continuously thinking of ways that educators and learners can benefit from the latest technologies.

While most of the current attention on IoT focuses on its impact in the home, McGraw-Hill Education’s User Research team wondered how IoT technology might benefit instruction.

We started our investigation by identifying the activities that teachers typically undertake as part of their work e.g. collecting student performance data and keeping learners motivated.

We then we explored three ideas regarding ways in which IoT might help teachers, parents and learners.

Gain deep insights into learner behavior, preferences and needs — The spread of mobile devices and educational technology has already made collecting large datasets easier. However, these datasets generally don’t communicate with each other, which means that the opportunity to identify wider trends and patterns in behavior are lost.

Implemented correctly, IoT could allow educators (and parents) to not only collect more meaningful data, but also connect multiple data points for a more comprehensive portrait. However, capabilities like this also raise many new questions about student data privacy that must be given careful consideration.

Transform the school environment into a virtual lab — While still beneficial, traditional computer labs tend to require students to work independently. For younger students, IoT could open up new ways for students to interact with smart spaces to create active and more collaborative education. For older students, real-time data could help students understand real-world science applications by allowing them to record, aggregate and manipulate data using everyday devices.

For example if a science learner wants to know the velocity and arc of a baseball, why not ask the baseball? After all GPS trackers and accelerometers are now so small that they can be found in wristwatches, so why not embedded in a baseball?

Automatically complete burdensome administrative tasks — With classrooms outfitted with IoT, teachers could arrive onsite and automatically have a pre-programed setup sequence that completes tasks like turn on lights, open projectors, load lessons, lowering screens etc. Additionally, as students enter a specific location, the system could automatically take attendance, deliver announcements and set clear expectations of what students should be doing.

These brief explorations only scratch the surface of the full potential of IoT.

To be sure, correct implementation, addressing data privacy and security concerns, and ensuring all students have access to mobile devices will be crucial success factors for anyone leveraging the IoT in the classroom. However, we're up to the challenge and eager to continue exploring how the IoT can play a key role in the McGraw-Hill Education product ecosystem.

Special thanks to Jonathan Nutt of the McGraw-Hill Education User Research Team for the content of this post

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