Back To School With Internet Of Things Innovations That Could Change Learning

Danielle Beurteaux

And now we come to the time of year when across the land we hear the collective sigh of relief as children everywhere are deposited by their parents at the finally-they’re-open doors of educational 273486_l_srgb_s_glinstitutions, with barely a “sayonara, kid. Have fun in calculus.”

But think about this: Sometime, perhaps in the very near future, there will be no school, just the Internet of Things providing educational opportunities within the confines of your own house. Your children will never, ever leave. And even if they do fly the nest for college, they’ll probably come back.

Okay, time to wake from that particular nightmare.

Except for the Internet of Things part. According to a report by Ericsson, by the year 2020, 90 percent of the global population aged 6 and over will have a cellphone, and 70 percent will have a smartphone.

How will IoT change how we educate? Here are some ideas.

No penmanship required: Did you ever get in trouble for writing on the walls? I’ll bet your 8-year old self wishes he or she had thought of this: A startup is crowdfunding Phree, which they’re calling “[t]he world’s first unrestricted, high resolution, write-virtually-anywhere mobile input device.” It’s a pen — or, rather, pen-shaped — stylus that lets you use practically any surface to write on, and then transmits that info via Bluetooth to an app of your choice. Fellow wall-writers unite — the campaign raised over $1 million.

IQ tests no more: The students of tomorrow won’t need to take standardized tests because their brains will be mapped. Neural activity, communication flows, and rest will be tracked.

Forget frog dissection: Imagine virtually dissecting a frog in science class. Or entering the blood stream. Or…well, just about anything. Virtual reality in the classroom is becoming more likely and could be particularly valuable because of its ability to be adapted to different types of learners.

Robots, robots, robots: They’ll be building their own custom-designed robots to clean their rooms, walk the dog, and fabricate and assemble personal space ships. And they’ll start with something like crowdfunded GoBox, a subscription-robot service that aims to send monthly robot kits, along with missions to build things like robot cars.

Shop class will be back, but different: There will be a bunch of kids who are Maker Faire and Maker Camp veterans, and they’ll want to put their ideas into action. There might not be metal shops any longer, but there will be Maker Shops instead where they’ll 3D print their own drones and kid smartwatches.

No attendance: Students will be marked as present — digitally, of course — the moment they enter the school yard with with technology like one that’s being piloted in some New York City schools or the biometrics that some other school districts are trying out.

The school year is starting to look like a different animal from the days of chalkboards, paper notebooks, and textbooks. But one thing that will never change — kids’ reluctance to return.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.