IoT in schools: How IoT can be used for education

Author: A.J. O'Connell

Today's school students are digitally native and experienced with smart technology—more than four-fifths (83.2%) of 12- to 17-year-olds have a smartphone, according to Insider Intelligence. This provides an opportunity to use innovative technology in schools to enhance student and teacher experience.

One example is the growing use of the Internet of Things in education, or IoT in education, which according to Data Bridge is growing 14.22% annually and estimated to be worth $17.42 billion by 2028. IoT in schools can help transform campuses by improving aging infrastructure and implementing smart city applications in response to physical safety, transportation and communication challenges.

However, there is also great potential for IoT in schools when it comes to teaching and learning. Devices and objects with IoT sensors can help deliver tailored learning, improve engagement and provide immersive experiences.

What are the benefits of IoT solutions for education?

The use of IoT in education can take several forms—smart lighting and environmental controls, devices like smart pens, trackable badges, even smart gym equipment like connected basketballs. All of these devices and more can be used for educational purposes.

It should be noted, however, that IoT has been making inroads in education for a long time. Some classrooms may already be equipped with voice-activated assistants and interactive whiteboards (or smart boards), and both students and staff bring their own wearables and devices to school with them. Despite the fact that IoT in schools is commonplace, however, there are many more ways smart objects can be used to improve student learning and engagement.

1. Increased engagement

Low student engagement was the highest nominated (68%) impediment to helping students reach grade level, according to an Education Week Research Center survey of teachers. The average student's attention span is between 10 and 15 minutes, yet most students sit in school for about seven hours. Traditional lectures can struggle to hold the attention of a group of bored kids, but IoT can help to refocus.

A voice-enabled classroom, for example, can free a teacher up to walk around the room interacting with students while still controlling the lesson and the whiteboard from any point in the classroom. This means the teacher is able to work with students individually, rather than being tethered to the front of the room or the controls of the interactive board. Similarly, an interactive whiteboard can make it easier for teachers to call attention to certain topics or share multimedia content.

IoT can help boost student engagement in more subtle ways as well. Take the example of tunable lighting, a form of smart lighting that subtly signals to students that it's time to refocus or change activities. The students may not notice the lighting change, but the difference in the light will help change their mindset. Bright white light can help wake everyone up and works well for labs and activities. Warm light relaxes students during quiet times, like silent reading.

2. Interactive learning experiences

IoT-enabled devices like goggles, glasses or other virtual reality (VR) devices let students step out of the classroom and into an immersive learning experience. Education is seen as one of theindustries where immersive technologies will be most impactful. In fact, 28% of experts said it will be the most disrupted.

Virtual field trips enable classes to travel to locations the school budget might not allow them to visit in person (like another country), to places that aren't safe (like an active volcano), and to places that aren't quite ready for school trips (like Mars).

Augmented reality (AR) experiences are useful when it comes to exploring concepts in math or visualizing molecules in three dimensions. Students who are learning a new language can use VR and AR for an immersive experience, just as they might in a country where that language is spoken.

3. Personalized curriculums

By tracking students' learning through connected IoT devices, teachers and administrators can tailor learning experiences to the best interests of each student, be it offering more help where it's needed, pushing high-performing students harder or encouraging students to move into fields of study they might be interested in.

Students with learning difficulties can particularly benefit from the use of IoT in education. Researchers have successfully used robots to help students as young as age 7 stay focused through strategies involving games, jokes, breathing exercises and physical movement. Students who used the robot were found to have higher engagement levels and higher task completion rates than those who did not.

4. A positive learning environment

Student learning can be impacted if they're not comfortable, healthy, or they don't feel safe. IoT in schools can help with that as well. We've all been in classrooms that were too hot or cold. Sensors and wearables can track students' body temperatures and adjust environmental controls to ensure comfort.

IoT devices can also help with monitoring attendance, allowing staff and students to spend less time on roll call and more time learning. Location data can also be used to ensure students are in the correct room or are actually in the bathroom and not wandering the halls.

What infrastructure do you need for IoT in schools?

Adopting IoT solutions for education is not without its challenges for administrators. IoT devices can place a huge strain on school networks, which must be capable of handling large amounts of data without negatively impacting speed or capacity. A network capable of supporting data collection and analysis at the edge will also benefit schools looking for an advantage when implementing IoT.

5G's massive throughput, fast speeds and ability to support increased data volumes with low lag (or latency) make it helpful for supporting VR or other AR experiences. Further, 5G can allow signals to be separated into different virtualized and independent logical networks within the same physical network infrastructure.

Learn more about how Verizon can transform your school with immersive learning and IoT in education.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.