Steve Ballmer, former chief executive officer of Microsoft, during the AACIS Unlimited Potential Grant initiative speech in 2005, exclaimed, “The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” And it’s this potential of technology that has its roots in the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) that has not only benefitted the various sectors of economies but also the education sector in a significant way.
What is Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT), a term coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, a British technology pioneer, primarily refers to the network connectivity and computing capability that electronic devices with various sensors (except computers) in today’s world are characterized with, which collect data without much external human intervention.
When it comes to real life scenarios, Internet of Things can be as simple as your travel history, routes and destinations on Google Maps connected to one’s account, or as complex as a Search Engine Optimization algorithm based on someone’s browsing history, tastes, or preferences.
How is Internet of Things Impacting Education?
- Emergence of Productive Educational Enterprises/Tools: When it comes to 21st century education in international schools, according to Shoshana Zuboff, the idea of surveillance capitalism, the selling of data by companies for profit making, and e-learning in recent years has given rise to cloud software like Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) such as Moodle, Google Classroom, Seesaw, Managebac, etc. These programs were a direct result of IoT where comments and opinions from individuals from various sources were collected and were redefined, keeping in mind gaps in learning areas, tracking of student progress, alignment of content and assessments, feedback, and other administrative aspects of schooling of children.
- Sustainable Energy Usage: Smart air-conditioning and thermostatic radiator valve-based heating systems (Lifesmart-Smart IoT) along with passive infrared or PIR based lighting that integrate with systems such as WAGO or DEFA not only provide efficient and intelligent atmosphere for optimal learning environments but also are great entry points for discussion with students regarding positive outcomes of IoT.
- Student/ Faculty Safety: Surveillance cameras, RFID student cards, sensor-based fire alarms, biometrics, wireless locks, and entry systems in school facilities have changed the way security protocols and workflow procedures are implemented in schools. Constant data interaction of security devices via routers and networks also means that they are vulnerable to cyber-crime and breaches. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise offers unprecedented security infrastructure, IoT containment, layered accessibility of devices across networks, and provides feedback to establish better cybernetics and artificial intelligence to counteract threats from intruders.
- Innovative Research Based Learning (RBL): The usage and emergence of automated IoT systems in international schools has led to ample feedback that educators and administrators can rely on in order to direct students to learning and outcomes that relate not only to their cognitive abilities but also target their passions in out-of-the-box scenarios/ paradigms. Organizations like Edx.org, Coursera, Udemy offer an extensive range of skills and courses both for educators and students and offer personalized learning experiences via research collected through the agencies part of surveillance capitalism.
- Inter-operability and Homogenous Protocols: IoT offer integrative flexibility to users which renders it highly productive and useful for international schools. Even though it’s unrealistic for workflow, learning, administrative or security products to portray full inter-operability between various platforms, the automation and standards that IoT systems prioritize makes it easy for administrators, teachers, students and parents to follow guidelines and envision standards that would take into account future needs and curriculum redesigning in order to accommodate research-based learning of the 21st century.
Although there are remarkable benefits of IoT systems in the educational sphere, there are a few legal questions that remain unanswered around the topic. The first and the most important being, is allowing businesses to use individual’s personal information to promote profit making through data collected by devices utilizing IoT an ethical enterprise or not? Is it direct breach of privacy of an individual?
The way the IoT technology outpaces the policies and jurisdiction that pertain to legal use of individual data for business purposes is under a constant threat as individual organizations follow dissimilar standards and definitions of how the Internet of Things is to be implemented within their products, making the idea vulnerable to their selfish capitalistic benefits.
Overall, technology has made positive impacts in the educational field and changed how students learn in addition to how schools function.
Uma Shankar Singh is the ICT Teacher and Media Specialist Librarian at the International German School Ho Chi Minh City since the summer of 2019.