Ubiquitous, Mobile and IoT technologies in support of STEM Education: a new business opportunity

Ubiquitous technologies are all around us, thanks to them services are in place but invisible. Mobile technologies enable us to use ubiquitous services “on the move”. Thanks to Internet of Things technology and thus services are present in everyday objects. Therefore, UMI technologies, as a whole, support the implementation and use of “smart” environments (closed or open, static or on the move). These are technologies that will shortly be present in many aspects of our personal and professional lives.

The application of UMI technologies in education and training can be fun and engaging, it fits multi-disciplinary projects, triggers different competences and skills and motivates differently oriented people, even those that would otherwise not be interested in technology. Young people can build interactive objects and get naturally excited about STEM and technology. Young professionals can plan and pursue rewarding careers in novel and highly challenging subjects in almost every sector. Experienced professionals can pursue a career improvement or change, by enhancing the qualifications they already possess with cutting-edge ICT skills.

Overall, UMI technologies can be easily accessible and provide career opportunities to everyone who receives appropriate education and training. Therefore, UMI technologies constitute a business opportunity to organizations offering formal and non-formal education and training to citizens independent of age. This was the case presented by the workshop organizers at the Barcelona ALL DIGITAL SUMMIT 2017, to an audience consisting mainly of educators, trainers and managers of training organizations.

The experts, Dr. Achilles Kameas CTI and Dr. Monica Divitni of NTNU first introduced UMI (Ubiquitous, Mobile and Internet of Things) technologies and their training / educational potential, along the lines mentioned above. At the same time, they presented the ongoing H2020 UMI-Sci-Ed project, which aims at attracting young school students in pursuing UMI related careers, by allowing them to experiment with STEM education scenarios that can be implemented with UMI technologies.

An example of a very simple learning scenario presented during the session was “The IoT Tiles”, which is based on a methodology to design smart IoT objects using tangible cards (aka Tiles), or cards, thus providing an introduction to how IoT works. This method presents a number of advantages, for example, in that no previous knowledge is required from students and low threshold entry point is required for educators. It takes about 4-5 hours to conclude one such workshop and students are led to multi-disciplinary solutions in that time. Later they may also be led to creating a prototype using UMI technologies. The whole workshop is designed to involve and bring out different skills and competencies in students, as well as involve students with different initial interests. Furthermore, feedback and results are quick and tangible and the activity is fun and engaging.

During the last stages of the session, the experts gave a quick tour of the UMI Platform and introduced the Communities of Practice (CoPs) being formed there as a part of the UMI-Sci-Ed project. These CoPs bring together various relevant stakeholders, namely teachers, policy makers, career counsellors, educators, trainers, industry representatives and many more. The platform – open to all interested – also features a number of learning scenarios that others can use or can add their own.

Why is this relevant for AD members?

  • The UMI-Sci-Ed approach in using UMI technologies to support STEM Education can be ported to non-formal training environments and to varying audiences, which include the target audiences of AD members (adults, professionals, unemployed, marginalized, etc)
  • UMI technologies constitute the next “digital revolution” and they will be everywhere, therefore, it will be necessary to train everyone on how to use and benefit from them; in light of this revolution, digital skills will have to be redefined
  • New target groups can be reached by AD members, including young students and girls
  • The UMI-Sci-Ed platform (together with its training contents) are accessible by anyone who cares to register and join the supported CoPs
  • The necessary technology in order to implement the scenarios is open and relatively cheap, therefore the required investment can be affordable by AD members
  • AD members that choose to invest now in providing training in UMI digital skills and STEM, will probably acquire a strategic advantage as these technologies become increasingly widespread

What is the role of digital competence centres?

  • AD members can be training providers (in formal and non-formal settings)
  • AD members can act as UMI technology hubs, connecting different stakeholders and supporting local CoPs
  • AD members can create bridges between formal and informal education (for example, by promoting technology and STEM education, by providing STEM education outside the classroom, by putting pressure on formal education to integrate more technological skills, etc.)
  • AD members can become UMI digital skills certification centres once these technologies become widespread

Further ideas/suggestions from the participants after the end of the workshop?

  • In order to work with UMI for STEM, most trainers will require further professional development, in order to become familiar with these technologies and the associated pedagogies
  • Transition from formal to non-formal training settings is possible, but the scenarios will have to be adapted (for example, become more “market skills oriented”)
  • Parents could be encouraged to become trainers
  • Simple, easily understood approaches, like the IoT Tile, can help in facilitating transition from tradition technology education to UMI-based STEM education

Several participants expressed interest in registering in the UMI-Sci-Ed platform and in testing the UMI kits (based on UDOO platform) that will be made available by AD, in the context of UMI-Sci-Ed project.

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