The Internet of Things (IoT) is an interconnected system of computing devices, relying on sensors to transfer critical information and data over wireless networks. With the advancement of technologies, such systems are made even more accessible than before, and there is a need to tap on the affordances of such technologies to enhance pedagogies and make learning more authentic by providing students with opportunities to engage with real-time data through IoT.
As such, a general elective course for NIE student teachers and NTU undergraduates was designed and implemented to meet this need, focusing on the learning affordances of IoT. The course is Designing Learning Environments with a focus on IoT (AGE 08D). Research Scientist Dr Kenneth Y T Lim and his team worked closely with NIE colleagues from the Centre for Innovation in Learning (IN-Learning) to use open-source technologies to help the students approach curriculum design from the perspective of IoT.
Students enrolled in the July 2018 course came from a number of schools within NTU, including the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering School, the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, and the School of Social Sciences. NIE student teachers also enrolled for the course, and they came from different academic groups such as Physical Education and Sports Science, and Humanities & Social Studies Education. The diversity of backgrounds of the students was definitely an added advantage, as everyone had ample opportunities to learn from one other's unique perspectives. It also reflects the fact that the Internet of Things is multi-disciplinary in nature, and forms a useful lens for designing curriculum across disciplines.
All the student-initiated projects had real-world applications, such as a project recommending the most suitable site for a rain garden within the NIE campus, another project was about food waste, and another project was aligned to the university's oneNTU 'Eco-friendly', 'Connected', 'Healthy' and 'oneNTU' (ECHO) initiative for a Smart and Green campus. This latter project used open-source sensors to control the activation of fans and lights in the NIE canteen and was successfully piloted during the course.
The feedback from the course was positive, and the following remark by Mr Toh Wei Jie, a 3rd year NTU student in the School of Social Sciences, was typical of how the students felt:
"During this course, I have managed to learn about IoT as well as the applications that came along with it. This course has shown me that IoT is something that even ordinary folks like us are able to make use of! If I had not taken this course, I would still have the idea that IoT is something for the "experts". This misconception, I feel, is something most people would have. Hence, in my essay, I touched a little on it stating how IoT is actually something that everyone can include in their daily life and is not something that is really difficult or something we should be afraid of."