Internet of Things (IoT) applications in K-12 are plentiful – they can tell parents when the school bus drops off their children, automatically adjust lighting and audio visual settings to a teacher’s specifications when she or he enters a room and can monitor hallways and building perimeters to keep students safe. IoT enables this innovation through a growing collection of internet-connected technologies and devices – such as connected school buses, smart lighting and security cameras – all providing real-time data and valuable insights to students, parents, faculty and administration.
K-12 professionals recognize that IoT can help make schools and districts safer, improve student engagement and save schools and districts money, according to CDW-G’s new survey of 300 K-12 decision-makers, IT professionals and administrators about how they are approaching IoT. In fact, nearly half of schools and districts already have a formal IoT strategy in place according to the survey. This is a surprising statistic. Given budget constraints and student privacy concerns, K-12 is not typically the first industry to embrace innovative technology. Plus, IoT is new – it’s only celebrating its third year in the mass market. The fact that so many schools and districts are preparing for IoT means that, despite its infancy, educators can see the benefits.
Take connected school buses, for example. A quarter of schools and districts surveyed have connected school bus technology in place. The technology is popular for a handful of reasons, including that it makes busses safer, more engaging for students and more cost effective.
In an IoT- connected bus, if a bus driver slams on the breaks, that data is reported back to the fleet manager. It enables the school to address whether the driver was driving erratically or if he or she acted swiftly when a dog ran across the road. Similarly, some schools are leveraging apps that enable parents to know when their students are dropped off. It can help a parent ensure that they are available to meet children at the bus stop or know when to expect them home.
Secondly, connected busses can improve student engagement. While a smart bus may not boost creativity, giving students more internet-connected time to work on homework is a clear benefit. This is especially valuable for low-income districts where students may not have internet access at home.
Finally, while survey respondents identified costs as their biggest concern in implementing IoT, smart busses can be very affordable. For years, police departments would update their fleets with the latest technology. It required extensive work to physically attach hardware to the cars. When individuals hear “smart bus,” they often picture something similar. However, today, implementing IoT can be as simple as plugging a device into the vehicle diagnostic port, which is not only faster, but much less expensive.
And there are plenty of other examples of the impact IoT can have on classrooms and school buildings. A smart HVAC system may help a school save money and energy by functioning only when needed. IoT technology that automatically takes attendance enables teachers to start their lessons sooner. Internet-connected devices, such as tablets, paired with analytic technology, can help educators monitor student activity during testing and classwork, and leverage said technology to provide more agile, personalized instruction.
In five years, according to CDW-G’s study, 82 percent of K-12 professionals say the majority of schools/districts will have incorporated IoT into core functional areas that impact the day-to-day operations of the school. That means by 2020 the majority of students will use, or be impacted by, IoT during their school days. Yet, more than half of schools and district do not have an IoT plan in place. There is a gap between what schools and districts want and what they are ready to embrace.
We encourage schools and districts to identify their goals for IoT technology; get community buy-in, communicating with all levels of the school; and talk with their peers and solution providers. There is no doubt that the potential of IoT is infinite. Through the right conversations and planning, it could positively impact the majority of schools in the coming years.