I’ve been tracking the internet of things for a while, and am still trying to imagine how it fits into education. I’m not sure if the IoT will hit academic with the wave force of the Web in the 1990s, or become a minor tangent. What do schools have to do with Twittering refrigerators?
Here are a few possible intersections.
- Changing up the campus technology space. IT departments will face supporting more technology strata in a more complex ecosystem. Help desks and CIOs alike will have to consider supporting sensors, embedded chips, and new devices. Standards, storage, privacy, and other policy issues will ramify.
- Mutating the campus. We’ve already adjusted campus spaces by adding wireless coverage, enabling users and visitors to connect from nearly everywhere. What happens when benches are chipped, skateboards sport sensors, books carry RFID, and all sorts of new, mobile devices dot the quad? One British school offers an early example.
- New forms of teaching and learning. Some of these take preexisting forms and amplify them, like tagging animals in the wild or collecting data about urban centers. The IoT lets us gather more information more easily and perform more work upon it. Then we could also see really new ways of learning, like having students explore an environment (built or natural) by using embedded sensors, QR codes, and live datastreams from items and locations. Instructors can build treasure hunts through campuses, nature preserves, museums, or cities. Or even more creative enterprises.
- New forms of research. As with #3, but at a higher level. Researchers can gather and process data using networked swarms of devices. Plus academics studying and developing the IoT in computer science and other disciplines.
- An environmental transformation. People will increasingly come to campus with experiences of a truly interactive, data-rich world. They will expect a growing proportion of objects to be at least addressable, if not communicative. This population will become students, instructors, and support staff. They will have a different sense of the boundaries between physical and digital than we now have in 2014. Will this transformed community alter a school’s educational mission or operations?
Which of these seems likely? What are we missing?