For years, experts have predicted that the Internet of Things—a system in which objects can communicate internally or with other machines—will transform the way we live our lives. As it turned out, some of those prognostications were a bit premature. In 2014, however, I fully expect the IoT to be a much more mainstream concept. ABI Research, after all, predicts that by 2020, 30 billion total devices will be connected, nearly triple the number that exist today.
Applications for the IoT are already being leveraged in sectors like healthcare and customer service; now schools are joining the party. Some of the ways the IoT can benefit education may be apparent, while others are not as obvious. So I decided to tell you what I believe are the biggest implications for connected devices in schools and how they could shape the learning for the next generation.
Help for Special Needs Students
Connected devices can help make life easier for students with special needs. For instance, a visually impaired student who is given a special card that when registered by a computer, automatically enlarges font size. Rather than having to call a teacher over for help—costing both the student and the teacher time they could be using more productively—the student can take care of the issue, which also builds self-confidence and promotes independence.
Schools typically have finite resources, meaning the more they streamline day-to-day operations, the more money can be spent on actually teaching students. Time consuming activities like manually taking attendance and bringing the information to a central office can be eliminated with the connected devices that send the data where it needs to go instantly. The IoT can also help cut energy costs. For example, the New Richmond Exempted Village Schools, located in Tipp City, Ohio, will save $128,000 annually due to an energy conservation program that included building automation retrofits and more accurate monitoring of energy usage.
Sadly, we all know how difficult this issue has become in recent years. Schools should be one of the places students feel most secure, but in light of recent events, it is easy to understand why, for some kids, that might not be the case. With the IoT, schools can create levers or buttons throughout the school that, when engaged, initiate a customized lockdown system. The lockdown can include, among other features: automatic perimeter security; immediate notification of authorities; and transmission of video to police so they can monitor intruder activity from headquarters and on the way to the building.
Until recently, if a student needed help with homework, his/her options were either to figure it out, call a friend or ask a parent for help. With the IoT, however, schools can give students full-time access to educational tools. The ability to share content digitally with both teachers and peers encourages collaboration and engagement.