“How to promote STEM education and training with Mobile and Internet of Things technologies” workshop at the ALL DIGITAL Summit 2018

New technologies, such as mobile and IoT, promise to revolutionize our everyday life. But are the citizens of our society prepared to reap the benefits of these technological and scientific advances? How can we facilitate digital transformation, so as to ensure inclusion in the forthcoming digital society? This workshop provided methods and tools on how to run educational activities to this end.

The workshop was led by Achilles Kameas and Theodore Panagiotakopoulos from the DAISSy research group, Hellenic Open University & Computer Technology Institute & Press “Diophantus” in Greece. The workshop was organized in the context of the UMI-Sci-Ed project (www.umi-sci-ed.eu), which aims at exploiting Ubiquitous Computing, Mobile Computing and the Internet of Things (UMI) to promote integrated STEM education.

About the experts

Achilles Kameas is an Associate Professor with the Hellenic Open University, where he teaches Pervasive Systems and Software Design. He is the Director of the Postgraduate Study Programme on “Engineering of Pervasive Computing Systems”, the Head of DAISSy (Dynamic Ambient Intelligent Social Systems) Research Group, and Vice-chair of the Board of ALL DIGITAL European network. Achilles pioneered the realization of the Ambient Intelligence vision; nowadays he contributes to creating an equal and inclusive society via the development of the digital skills and scientific knowledge of ALL citizens. He has participated in more than 30 EU and national projects including UMI-Sci-Ed. In this project he has taken on the role of project coordinator, while the Daissy research group also runs piloting activities in selected Greek schools as a part of the project.

Theodore Panagiotakopoulos is currently working at the Hellenic Open University as a senior researcher in the mobile and pervasive computing, quality and ambient intelligence lab. Since 2016, he has been an adjunct assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of University of Patras. His research interests include, among others, pervasive computing, Internet of Things, ambient intelligence, context awareness, biomedical engineering, mobile health and ambient assisted living systems, telemedicine and biomedical applications. As a part of the UMI-Sci-Ed project he is planning a series of public courses for educators from throughout Europe on teaching STEM with Mobile technologies and IoT to to take place in March and July 2019.

Purpose of the workshop

Innovative STEM-related educational activities within schools and communities are increasing, but most of them are driven by small groups with a relatively narrow focus. Consequently, the collective awareness that these activities are going on and about their importance, can be low, even within the community. Nevertheless, these activities offer good take-up potential and an opportunity for transformation, towards more inclusive communities, informed citizens and agile organizations. Organisations seeking to exploit this potential need to be particularly aware of this and develop their approaches accordingly.

The workshop aimed at having its participants realize the impact of mobile and IoT technologies on training / educational organizations and the business potential they offer. The goal was that the participants not only begin to understand how to transform their organisations but also acquire the some knowledge and materials on the topic to disseminate the newly acquired skills in their communities and regions.

The workshop first presented a methodology for realizing STEM educational scenarios in formal and non-formal educational settings. In order to implement this methodology, teachers and trainers must be familiar with the basics of UMI technologies and with the STEM scenarios.

What is UMI?

In effect, UMI technologies are the convergence of three different but closely connected technological domains: Ubiquitous computing, Mobile computing and Internet of Things.

Ubiquitous computing makes the computer “disappear” by realizing the integration of sensing, actuating, storage, communication and computing services into the environments where human activities take place (for example, houses, offices, parks, cars etc.)

Mobile computing supports the migration of ubiquitous computing services and data between different devices and environments, so that uninterrupted support for user activities is provided (for example, accessing the same online service using mobile, tablet or desktop computer, changing from mobile network to wi-fi without losing connectivity etc.)

This vast amount of technology-enhanced everyday objects has created the so-called Internet of Things that broadly refers to the extension of network connectivity and computing capability to objects, devices, sensors, and items not ordinarily considered to be computers.

Why UMI for STEM education? The new job market

UMI technologies are expected to affect every single job and professional sector. They will cause the considerable evolution of almost every job, while many new jobs will emerge. A new IT-hybrid version of traditional jobs will emerge (for example, Ambient Assisted Living caregiver, Virtual Classroom facilitator, Digital Collections curator, etc.). At the moment, one of the main reasons that hinders the successful development and adoption of UMI-related projects is lack of relevant expertise in the work force. This means that people must not only be trained for the new jobs that will emerge, but it is urgent to reskill a growing number of people, whose education and skills are rapidly becoming out-dated.

  • How can we facilitate today’s students so that they are not excluded from tomorrow’s society, where UMI technologies will be pervasive?
  • Are we ready for UMI technologies?
  • Can society exploit UMI technologies?

The answers to these questions are negative and that is where UMI for STEM comes into education.

STEM education offers a holistic educational approach that fosters understanding of scientific knowledge and leads to the development of digital and 21st century skills. E-facilitators have to become STEM educators / trainers in order to play a key role in facilitating the digital transformation.

Tools and materials the participants learned about

The participants were introduced to the main products of the UMI-Sci-Ed project, which they can use to develop STEM teaching in their organisations through the UMI technologies and begin to transform their approach and thus their organisations.

Workshop participants were provided a hands-on experience of the online platform that contains the STEM scenarios and supports the UMI Communities of Practice (CoPs). Participation in one or more CoPs ensures support from experienced colleagues, so that a STEM scenario can be implemented successfully. The platform contains free supporting training material, such as presentations and articles on UMI topics, classroom projects and activity sheets, evaluation questionnaires etc. Teachers and trainers are trained to use UMI technologies to support science education in a well-structured educational process, supporting learners in understanding their synergies, the functional components of IoT applications, as well as their potential in various application sectors.

During the workshop an example of an educational scenario used during a series of summer schools that took place in Greece was introduced to the participants in order to demonstrate the power and possibilities of the UMI-Sci-Ed approach. The scenario is titled “Hands on… the Internet of Things” and aims at finding a way towards more effective and efficient recycling. The main learning outcomes of this educational scenario include connecting the physical world and personal experience of learners with UMI technologies, recognizing the role of IoT in future life, exploring the possibilities of developing new applications and improving everyday life through IoT, designing and implementing IoT applications and envisioning of a future professional career in IoT technologies (and UMI in general). Details and materials about the scenario that would allow you to introduce it in your classroom are available on the platform after registration, which is free and open to anybody.

The supporting hardware used to teach the majority of the UMI-Sci-Ed scenarios, including the IoT scenario mentioned was also introduced to the participants. The UDOO NEO Edu kit, developed specifically for the purposes of this project, is a small, low-cost single board computer with lots of functionalities. UDOO NEO is, in fact, a proper mini personal computer. All its features allow its user to create things like robots, drones and rovers, as well as any UMI project you can imagine as well as connect to the internet, play with its pre-installed applications etc.

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