Internet of Things for Good – New course for the new school year

This year, we piloted an Internet of Things (IoT) course powered by Samsung, which is now open to all Apps for Good schools. Here Learning Content Manager, Donna Hay, talks about the new course and some key information teachers need to know.

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of everyday objects to the internet (and to one another) with the goal of smarter, more efficient experiences. These ‘smart’ devices can be anything from fridges and washing machines to wearables, medical equipment and jet engines. The Apps for Good IoT course explores the benefits and potential issues surrounding IoT and gives an introduction to the technology underpinning these devices. Students work in teams to design and prototype an IoT project which solves a real-life problem, with an emphasis on building technical physical computing skills and the design of the devices to develop a great user experience.

Course resources and CPD

The course has nine sessions, along with two Expert sessions (where educators connect to our network of professionals who provide feedback to students on their projects). Each session includes a lesson primer explaining the theory and technical information needed to deliver the session, plus step-by-step instructions on how to complete the physical computing activities.  

The resources are based on the Micro:bit and Arduino microprocessor boards. Schools may also want to pair the Micro:bits with Kitronik Inventor kits, which include an edge connector, breadboard and various sensors and actuators to enable students to build circuits and programme their devices using either Blocks or micro Python. 

Additional CPD materials will soon be available so that educators can confidently deliver the course even if they have no prior experience of using microprocessors. These will include an overview of current IoT developments and an introduction to setting up circuits and programming microprocessors. Future versions of the course will include resources for Raspberry Pi and Crumble, which is particularly suited for primary schools.

Curriculum Mapping

The IoT course has been piloted in KS3, KS4 and KS5.  The IoT course covers basic programming principles and can be used to introduce a text-based programming language, e.g., micro Python or the C based Arduino programming environment. It also covers other aspects of the KS3 Computing programme of study, such as:

  • Understand the hardware and software components that make up computer systems, and how they communicate with one another and with other systems
  • Undertake creative projects that involve selecting, using, and combining multiple applications, preferably across a range of devices, to achieve challenging goals, including collecting and analysing data and meeting the needs of known users

At KS4 the course can be used to cover the emerging trends, issues and impact strands of GCSE specifications in addition to programming techniques and the input / process / output model.

In the pilot, Connell Sixth Form College ran the course as part of the Cambridge Technicals level 3 course (unit 17 – Internet of Everything). Teacher Hassan Nawaz said, “The students have a sound understanding of what is meant by the internet of everything, they have managed to analyse the global impact of IoE on society and the environment. Two main areas that it linked in nicely with were ‘be able to re-purpose technologies to extend the scope of IoE’ and ‘be able to present concept ideas for development.'”

The course also links with the new DT GCSE specifications, which include the need to understand ‘how electronic systems provide functionality to products and processes including sensors and control devices to respond to a variety of inputs, and devices to produce a range of outputs’. 

Project Examples

SafeStep uses pressure pads to alert carers if a vulnerable person has a fall or leaves the house unexpectedly. It was created by a team from Dunoon Grammar School in Scotland and won the People’s Choice Award at the Apps for Good Scottish event.

Self Register is a fingerprint register to track attendance in the classroom. The team, from Connell Sixth Form College, produced a working prototype using a Raspberry Pi and Arduino board.

Micro:gate is a piece of low cost science equipment for measuring speed, duration and velocity data, created by a team from Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton. It’s already in use in the science department and is helping students to complete their GCSE coursework.

All three teams are now finalists in the new IoT category at the national Apps for Good Awards.

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Team from Dunoon Grammar School explain their device at our Scottish Event

Feedback

Students involved in the pilot have been enthusiastic about the course:

“It really made us think about computing from a different standpoint.”

“There is nothing to improve but making lessons longer/more frequent! The inventors kit makes coding that bit better and allows you to experiment with making more advanced products/things!”

Feedback from educators has also been very positive, although it has been commented that the learning curve for educators delivering the course is steeper than that for the app development course. It is therefore recommended that educators complete the CPD resources prior to delivering the course if they are not familiar with physical computing and programming microprocessors.

The cost of the kit – around £300 for a class set of Inventor kits or £400 for Arduino kits – is also a factor when deciding whether to run the course. To help schools overcome this potential barrier and fundraise for the IoT kits, we’ve teamed up with Rocket Fund, a new fundraising platform for school tech from Nesta. (If you’d like to try it, go to www.rocket.fund and start creating a project – you can add yours to our Apps for Good group.) 

Final word goes to Marc McWhirter, a teacher at Speyside High School who had this to say about the course:

Experience new technologies and engage with creative problem solving skills that expand into more “real world” solutions compared to apps. A lot of interesting resources and videos provided. Concepts that really made me as an educator reconsider how I approach teaching computing. Overall I have really loved working with the course and would like to continue to deliver it in the future. A really good addition to the Apps for Good family.

If you’d like to run the Internet of Things course in your school drop us an email at education@appsforgood.org. We can then make sure you have access to our CPD materials and course content and get you started.

Samsung generously supported the Internet of Things pilot, powering the content development and supporting the 10 schools and 450 students to test the content and provide feedback by providing Micro:bits and Kitronik Inventor kits.