Connected kids

Children today have more opportunities than ever to experiment and conduct their own research. When I was a school boy, my parents gave me a chemistry set. They probably regretted it. I immediately set about blowing things up, making bad smells (sodium bicarbonate and iron filings make a great stink bomb) and generally discovering what kind of disasters I could perpetrate when I mixed certain chemicals together. I did this all on my own, and it was probably a good thing that I did. No animals or children were harmed in the process.

Science education today is much more sophisticated than it was in my day. It exploits a range of new technologies, most of which are connected. It develops children not just as scientists and researchers, but also as inventors because it gives them opportunities to find out and discover for themselves how the world works. Data logging and sensing tools can capture data which is then digitised, and possibly shared within a large network of learners. Children can also access data from other schools, research agencies such as the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and even space exploration organisations such as NASA. But the ultimate is just arriving on the scene - and once it has been integrated into the curriculum, we expect to see science becoming even more connected, and children learning from each other at a global level. When we are able to connect any object to the Internet and use surfaces as control tools, we will be using the Internet of Things. Tools already being used in schools such as Makey Makey are exploiting this possibility at a rudimentary level (See the video below):

One organisation, The Internet of School Things, aims to transform the way children learn about themselves, their world around them and ultimately, how we will shape our future. Here's their mission statement:

We want to use the Internet of (School) Things to transform the way students learn about our world. We have worked with teachers and students from eight schools to design connected devices and learning materials that encourage people to explore the Internet of Things. Our learning materials have been designed to get educators using our kits to teach a broad swathe of subjects across Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.

Once our plug and play devices have been set up, students can explore their live data and conduct experiments on this website. They are also able to interact with other schools' networked devices, such as our array of Weather Stations across the UK.

The plug and play devices can be created by the children before they perform their experiments. It gives them ownership of their tools as well as the process of investigation. It makes more sense to them. Being able to turn every day objects such as six inch nails and tin foil into science experiments has always been fun. Being able to connect them to the internet and share your findings with children all over the world takes it to another level.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
Connected kids by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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