OK class, quiet down. Once upon a time, British schools taught serious computing skills through the BBC Micro program. Things went downhill in the last decade or so, with computer lessons being little more than glorified Word tutorials, but they’ve picked up again in the last couple of years thanks to the Raspberry Pi. And now, pupils at 8 UK schools will get to train up on a crucial new trend: the internet of things.
The £800,000 ($1.25 million) “Internet of School Things” project was announced early on Wednesday (British time). It’s being run by a consortium called DISTANCE, which includes the educational sensor company ScienceScope, LogMeIn’s Xively internet of things (IoT) platform, Intel, various universities and others.
The idea is not only to teach kids about the potential of connected everyday devices, but to use such devices to bring other subjects to life. The children will collect data in the areas of transport, energy, weather and health, and DISTANCE will develop new apps and visualizations to make use of that data.
ScienceScope chief David Crellin told me British schools have been using dataloggers for educational purposes since the 1970s, but the IoT approach would see this activity stepped up:
“Schools will be doing rafts of experiments demonstrating how the world works from an educational point of view. If you get light levels from across the country, you can see how the sun rises at different times in different places. It’s partly about making live data available to teachers and students, so they can see something happening now in different locations.
“This is bringing education right up to date in terms of the way in which the world does now change very rapidly.”
This will be a one-year trial, but the intention is to develop resources that can be rolled out across UK schools afterwards. The consortium also hopes more UK businesses will join in the fun, working with schools on new IoT technologies.
It all sounds like a fun and useful way to prepare students for the evolving, data-centric tech landscape. Ultimately, the internet of things is all about telling us more about the world around us, so its application in the educational sphere is something of a no-brainer.