Educating with M2M

8/29/2013

Education is all about preparing students for the future. When that future will likely include M2M technology, it only makes sense to introduce students to the fundamentals of a connected world. Schools today are including M2M in their everyday educational programs, as well as using the technology to make schools safer and more accessible to students.

In the U.K., a number of schools will be getting up close and personal with M2M. A consortium of organizations called DISTANCE recently announced its new “Internet of School Things” project. The consortium is committed to advancing education with technology. The program received a grant through the “Internet of Things Demonstrator” program, which is administered by the Technology Strategy Board, www.innovateuk.org, the U.K.’s innovation agency.

The program’s goal is to use Internet of Things technologies to develop innovative methods for teachers and students to take a more active role in creating and sharing digital content in schools. Initially, the program will be used in at least eight schools throughout the U.K.


One company taking part in the project is Xively, www.xively.com, a subsidiary of LogMeIn. Xively offers a public cloud platform for the commercial Internet of Things, offered as a PaaS (platform as a service). The company was awarded a contract to provide Internet of Things-enablement in U.K. schools as part of the DISTANCE project.

DISTANCE will use Xively Cloud Services, the open and scalable cloud platform for the Internet of Things, to create an information hub in the cloud. Part of the mission is to identify ways to encourage educators, students, and businesses to share certain types of data openly using the cloud.

Could such learning tools extend to the home for students? We have already seen this play out from a company named TVTextbook, www.tvtextbook.com. Winners of a 2012 Connected World Value Chain Awards, TVTextbook aims to narrows the digital divide that exists in education today by making digital learning available on one of the most common household appliances—the TV.

Working with AT&T, www.att.com, TVTextbook licenses curriculum-based PC content, and re-factors it to run on a TV, create a learning experience for the student that identical to that on the PC. It is yet another extension of the outside connected world intersecting with the connected home.

While M2M-enabled systems can help students to more easily transfer information, connected systems are also ensuring safety at school. Connected devices for students and employees are gaining ground, and they often aim to make it easier to connect with authorities in an emergency situation.

One example is eTrak, www.etrak.com, a company that provides a small GPS device. Teachers and staff can wear the device, which includes the eTrak Alert Button. When it is pressed, an emergency message goes out to preprogrammed recipients. The eTrak Alert notification technology sends emergency messages containing the sender’s name and location, giving school administrators the information they need to notify law enforcement. Each device can be customized by uploading and assigning a photo to the device.

eTrak is providing its GPS devices to Carroll ISD (independent school district) in Southlake, Texas. Employees will have access to the devices to increase the school’s emergency response time. The devices can also alert other teachers and staff, allowing them to lock down their classrooms.

M2M is making its way into many aspects of our lives. As we enter an era where M2M enters our cars, our homes, our fitness routines, and more, the idea could be now to start teaching kids early about the value of the technology. It could all be a precursor to continue ushering in that connected world.

While students are using the technology to learn, it’s also there to help keep them safe. As in most industries, M2M applies in a variety of scenarios in the education space. Students and teachers today may view connected systems as simply another tool to learn effectively.

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