In a recent survey of more than 600 IT leaders from K-12 and higher-education organizations, almost half – 46 percent – reported that they believe Internet of Things (IoT) technology will transform the way students learn at their schools within the next two years.
An Internet of Things Smart School is a concept describing a school that leverages IoT technologies to further students’ understanding of subjects using tools like interactive whiteboards, virtual reality, robots, wearables, tablets and ebooks, 3-D printers, attendance tracking, and more.
Speed of progress noted at schools
In the survey, conducted by Extreme Networks, 9% of its participants reported having already implemented parts of a smart school plan. Another 3% indicated that they have plans in place to do so within the next 1-3 years.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a massive shift in place across the board, 29% of participants indicated that the concept of a smart school is entirely new to them, and another 36% reported that they are only slightly aware of the topic.
The requirements that come with implementing IoT technology into a school are also pretty high, and many schools lack the immediate resources required to become a smart school.
Among these requirements, the school would have to have complete and reliable Wi-Fi coverage throughout the campus, including a high-bandwidth network connection capable of handling the increase in traffic that these devices would bring.
The purchase of school-owned devices such as tablets, wearables, and other mobile technologies would also come with a high initial cost. This cost would have to be approved and budgeted by school administrators, a process often taking place over a period of several years.
The benefits of a smart school to the education of students from Kindergarten through college make a pretty significant list. A potential for increase in student engagement over traditional book learning to what is, to them, a more familiar digital format is at the top of the list of benefits reported in the survey.
Additional benefits include: mobile learning, personalized education, improved efficiency and reduced costs, a safer learning environment, and an improved method of measuring and tracking student progress.
New technologies would dramatically change the way students experience their education. For example, a virtual reality tour of the inside the human body would take place of a series of photos and paragraphs in an often-dated text book.
Security and privacy still big challenges
On paper, these benefits sound impressive, but with every change comes a new set of challenges for both the IT departments of these smart schools and educators.
Security and privacy are two of the most prominent concerns addressed by participants of the survey. By digitizing a student’s entire learning history, and possibly even location, security is critical.
The expense of initially starting these programs is also a concern as sensors and other hardware technologies would have to be purchased, as well any software licenses and unique code required to implement these technologies.
This study indicates that schools are beginning to embrace the Internet of Things at a slow, yet steady pace. Smart schools, powered by a new generation of devices, are already in the works.
These early adopters will undoubtedly set the tone for discussions in school board meetings for years to come.