Technology's place in education has traditionally divided opinion. To many, interactive and media-rich tools such as computers are seen as portals, allowing students to access far greater realms of information than ever before. To others, the rapid increase in mobile devices and social media has been a disruptive force, preventing students from focusing on their education.
The rise of the Internet of Everything looks poised to change this. Technology's adoption by schools and universities has not always kept pace with advances in consumer technology. However, the level of connectivity offered by the Internet of Everything has the potential to vastly enrich the learning process for students around the globe.
Thanks to technology, education is evolving from a linear knowledge-transfer model, to a more collaborative, engaging process. Rather than a bottlenecked route for information to come from set textbooks, students are able to use the internet to discover their own sources of information to add to the overall learning process.
Educators need to embrace this new, connected student. With the majority of students owning mobile phones, their use as a learning tool could be amplified by collecting data to interpret students' behaviours and habits, to create personalised teaching plans. Similarly, a student could be able to track their progress in a particular subject in real time and then compare themselves to other learners around the world. This could remove the need for examinations, and replace them with ongoing assessments.
This type of teaching is already being realised. A school in Australia is using Cisco video technologies to connect with peers in South Korea, as well as experts elsewhere in the world through their mobile devices. A similar program is underway at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which is live-conferencing its laparoscopic surgery to secondary schools, allowing the observing students to ask questions. Now virtual tours and other immersive interactions are made possible at any time. The Internet of Everything is also increasing the impact students are having on shaping the education process. For example, students are keen to use data-gathering devices to tag physical objects, which would then relay back live information. This could include sensors and webcams to monitor live animals and their behaviour, or devices to record tidal patterns, temperature, rainfall, air quality etc. This way, students would be directly involved in the collection of data, and not simply given facts and figures to analyse.
The push towards connected learning is designed to prepare children for their professional lives, which will demand an ever-increasing familiarity with, and proficiency in technology. Some schools are already using Internet of Everything technology in other ways, getting students involved in using facilities, while improving the efficiency of the school at the same time. For example, Bourneville College has implemented a system which monitors movement around the campus, controls doors, and allows staff to manage different access levels for students and visitors. Similarly, a school district in Pennsylvania uses a system to monitor the energy usage of facilities around the campus, allowing them to start up and shut down equipment at will.
Preparing students for the Internet of Everything's reach into education should not be seen as a mammoth task. Because of their existing daily use of it in various forms, the most important part of bringing it into a learning environment will be to get these students' actively involved in its implementation. Thankfully, shown in the examples above, this is already happening.