Whether you call it STEM or STEAM, the Internet of Things and connected data and devices are moving into the school day. Teachers and students are capitalizing on some remarkable resources for children and you could call the results Grade School 4.0.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are hands-on activities that stretch from the classroom to the workbench to anywhere with a WiFi signal.
Kids are exposed to both the technical knowledge and problem solving skills of IoT in today’s STEM projects. And educators say that even one experience with a STEM project can put a child on a path to a lifelong interest.
The website Instructables.com shows just how a do-it-yourself work ethic meshes with the fun of creating, coding and hacking. Affordable starter technology like the Raspberry Pi controller bring both the Internet of Things and operating code for the devices to kids – even mashing up hobby and game brands such as Lego and Minecraft.
More than just a good report card, kids see they can win prizes or college scholarships, start homegrown companies and build a hobby or career.
After-school and even some club events are teaching programming with basic electronics, circuitry and even some plug-and-play creations with an Arduino microcontroller. There’s no substitute for hands-on experience that goes deeper than just using Mom or Dad’s smart phone to play games and videos.
Elementary school teachers are using maker fairs, or creative competitions to engage kids – emphasizing team communication and cooperation. Paige Johnson, of Intel, launched the Intel® Teach Program, an initiative that has trained more than 12 million teachers in over 80 countries. Her site includes programming and resources for preparing K-12 schools at the district level or the individual classroom.
PTC’s K12 Academic program is dedicated to delivering an educational advantage with academic packages on IoT that include software, curriculum and projects that help educators develop smart, connected products right in the classroom.
Schools are sharing success stories and collaborating with local employers, colleges and universities in a strategic way that addresses job opportunities and skills shortages in a particular region – not just a cookie-cutter approach.
Other programs are opening up the entire world to kids through technology. Devoxx4Kids.org has gone global, setting up events and online resources for kids that want to learn coding in more than 16 nations from the U.S. to Pakistan and throughout Europe, said Daniel DeLuca, global event coordinator
“Holland, for example is a very active country and they have, say, 400 kids reached every year in total, “ he said in a 2015 interview in Belgium. Companies such as Red Hat Software have gotten involved, offering software and physical workspace in its offices. “Everybody can contribute in translations or creating new workshops, in English or in the local languages.”
For those still on the IoT learning curve, it is possible to start with workshops that don’t involve using a computer, but explain basic concepts of networking, connected devices and data exchange.
Libraries, camps and museums are other institutions creating “maker spaces” where kids can explore. In Baltimore, the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center, has programs in a renovated storefront that involve children as young as first grade.
“Kids today are pretty far ahead but before you can code, you need to know about tools and how to handle them,” said Jo-Anne Baxter, of the Children’s Museum in Boston. “We had a TinkerTent event where kids could come and use tools, and the TinkerKit goes out to libraries and other museums.”