"How cool is that?" asked my son, as we walked the aisles of freezers at the local Target store. They lighted up as we walked towards them to pick up frozen strawberries and blueberries for protein shake mixes. In the near future, this data is relayed via the internet to Target Headquarters, keeping track of the frequency with which thousands of customers access their products. What if learning could be like that, each book/ebook students reach for feeding data into what was most used or accessed?
The real challenge isn't in that there are so many physical objects--50 billion by 2020--being enhanced, but will your children--and mine--be able to create and control them. An example of practical use could include "smart" digital highlighters that enable you to highlight paper documents, then transfer highlighted text from the printed page to your favorite repository of data (e.g. GoogleDocs, Dropbox, OneNote/OneDrive). Or, you can scan text with your digital highlighter and it will read the text aloud to you (Source). But preparing our children for this "just around the corner" future involves doing more than buying IoT devices pre-made.
Let's briefly explore 5 paths you can assist learners walk to achieve IoT Powered Learning:
Ready? Let's get started!
#1 - Embrace the Language of IoT through Coding.
our voices to a global choir, we need to reject that thinking. For IoT, embracing the language of connected objects involves learning to program, or in today's parlance, code.
Many of us have already become familiar with the "HourofCode.org" resources. These resources make it possible for our children to learn programming that is essential to enhancing each physical object. What a tremendous WHY--learn to program so you CAN have a voice in a world where every thing is connected to one another. Go back and read that again. We're not learning to code because it's popular, because it's what the President said to do. Rather, we are doing so we can each have a voice in an interconnected world of things. What will your song be in a world of connected things? Consider the following quote in light of the Internet of Everything:
It should come as no surprise that coding is only the first step. The next is as powerful--interacting with simple computing devices.
#2 - Unlock the Future with Hands-On, Digital Experiences
When I purchased my first Raspberry Pi, I was shocked at how simplistic it was. "What's the point of working on an under-powered computer?" I said to myself. Still, I soon had it powered up and working. The experience opened my eyes...what learner wouldn't want to jump into the command line to get this technology to work? Later, as I observed students during a Summer STEM Academy with the Raspberry Pi, I realized it was Raspberry Pi's simplicity that offers a learning opportunity to control devices that are far less powerful than my smartphone, but that when taken together, can do much more. Simple devices that, combined, enable learners to accomplish great things--that is just Raspberry Pi and the Internet of Things (IoT). That is the lesson.
And, don't limit yourself to Raspberry Pi. Find what "turns on the light" in your students' eyes. That can include a plethora of "kits" to get you started (thanks to Nicholas Keith, TexasEdTech Blog, for the list!) such as those listed below:
Already, students around the world are unlocking their future with these hands-on experiences while your students may be sitting clutching pencils and filling out high-stakes assessment prep packets. Who do you think will control the ubiquitous 50 billion IoT devices in 2020?
#3 - Build digital connections into physical spaces in Your Classroom
As shared in these videos, proximity-aware experiences--through iBeacon technology--enable you to connect physical objects to digital feedback in ways that are special and unique to each student. These serve as a way to introduce your students to the increasing "other-awareness" of physical objects, like books, a writing center, a technology center in your classroom, specialized rooms in a library or classroom. Some quick ideas for bluetooth-powered iBeacons in classrooms. Here are a few: 1) Using the beacons as digital bulletin boards for courses or buildings for students; 2) See if a child is in class, keeping better track of when s/he arrived (this can be controversial, as one district discovered); and, 3) Teachers can broadcast information about their classes or exams (Source: 100 Use Case Scenarios for iBeacon). Applications abound for assisting special needs children (and adults) as they move around campus, access physical objects.
#4 - Make the Future Real by Creating a Classroom MakerSpace
If you aren't familiar with classroom makerspaces, you may want to watch this video introduction from K-3 students. Remember, the focus is on helping students create devices they can program. It's OK if they aren't the equivalent of your computer or smartphone, but rather, serve as an introduction to the internet of things. Students become makers, persons who create and share. And, your classroom can become that space where students learn by doing, creating, and printing. For example, kinder students in Mark Simmons' school district use iPad apps like TinkerPlayand 123D to design robots, share them via cloud storage. Mark makes them real by 3D-printing kindergarten students creations using. You can start small--with a Makerspace in a box or a "MysteryBag", pop-up Makerspaces, --or big with a wealth of ideas online.
#5 - Enable students to Create Augmented Reality Experiences
"Virtual, 3D objects appear," says Digital Tech Frontier of augmented reality, "in the real world, attached to real objects." Augmented Reality (AR) enables students to bring reality and the Internet together (Watch this short video intro to AR from CommonCraft). Augmented reality is real time view of a physical environment that is augmented by a computer-generated sensory input, including video, images, sound, and/or global positioning system (GPS) data. Students are able to create a real-time, digital view of a physical environment using powerful, simple apps like Aurasma, AR Flashcards, AR Toolkit, Crayola Color Live!, Fetch! Lunch Rush!, Quiver, and NASA 3D Spacecraft. You can see that AR is directly tied to the Internet of Things, such as Daqri's 4D Studio. Some sample augmented reality experiences include recording video reviews of content (e.g. books, movies), then adding a tag to the physical object (e.g. book). This makes it possible for students to get an advance preview of the object (Source). Another possibility could include students explaining how they solved a problem, overcame an obstacle, and making that available in the physical space where the problem appears. And, getting students designing AR prepares them to create a holographic way--perhaps, using Microsoft Hololens--of interacting with each other. Can you imagine how excited students could be about designing holographic games, such as combining Minecraft with MS Hololens?
Intrigued by a Path Yet?
Worried that this is too technical? Don't feel bad about getting a late start! One of the benefits of starting down the road after others have begun is that these 5 paths are clearly marked. Yet, since human creativity is boundless, how these components are put together can be quite powerful. Allow yourself--and your students--the opportunity to become IoT empowered learners, creators, makers and collaborators.