Internet of Things (IoT) and the Landscape of Virtual Instruction

Written by April Willis

January 25, 2021

Have you thought about how many physical items you used to keep around that have been replaced by one or two tech devices? Or, have you reminisced on the days where certain tasks used to require a series of manual steps and now can be completed with the touch of a button? Oh, and how about that cliche phrase, “There’s an app for that!” People are quickly growing accustomed to finding ways to work smarter, not harder.

For example:

  • From watering the lawn by hand to automated sprinklers
  • From turning off all of the lights in the house and adjusting the thermostat to utilizing smart home apps
  • From writing letters to phone calls to group texts to video group calls
  • From spending extensive time in the kitchen to smart refrigerators, automated cooking devices, and apps for weight, temperature, and calorie counting

The list could really go on and on…in fact, this phenomenon is so incredible, experts have given it a name- the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a term used to describe all of the items/tasks that are either obsolete or headed in that direction, thanks to advanced technology.

When it comes to education, the IoT offers a world of possibilities that would otherwise not be available to both teachers and students.

From a student’s perspective, the IoT includes:

  • Digital textbooks
  • Online calculators
  • Online grades and assignments
  • Virtual field trips
  • Word processing and auto citations
  • Digital project trackers

From a teacher’s perspective, the IoT includes:

  • Online grade books
  • Video conferencing with parents
  • Digital whiteboards
  • Digital breakout rooms
  • Recorded lessons
  • Plagiarism Checkers

Serving More Students

Most importantly, thanks to IoT, teachers and students now have access to each other beyond traditional classroom walls. For rural students who may not be able to attend in-person class due to distance, or for students who may be immune-compromised, or any other reason that may prohibit students from in-person learning, they can now continue their education, uninterrupted. Students who are restricted in course options due to a lack of qualified instructors in AP courses, electives, or foreign languages, can now attend courses virtually with teachers from anywhere in the world because of IoT. The need for in-person interaction is no longer required since virtual classrooms and online learning allow students to engage in the same meaningful learning opportunities, without the constraints.

Furthermore, for students who have special needs, virtual assistants, like Microsoft’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, can support students in completing simple tasks that may have hindered their ability to fully participate in the past. From voice to text and research support, students with special needs can take ownership of their learning with the support of IoT.

Areas of Concern

Overall, the list of IoT services/products will continue to grow as people continue to identify ways to improve our current practices. However, there will likely always be concerns over privacy, especially when children are involved. From usernames and passwords to granting access and permissions to data sharing, parents and teachers tend to express moderate levels of concern.

Also, dissatisfaction tends to become apparent when not all IoT products operate accordingly or efficiently. Our demand for quicker, better, and simpler has set incredibly high standards for product operations. While much of this technology is still in its infancy, people have relatively short fuses for beta versions and “technical difficulties.”

All in all, there will always be areas of improvement that developers can work on as time goes by, but society as a whole seems to be very welcoming and appreciative of the ways the IoT has simplified their lives or allowed the impossible to become possible again.