Case study: Proximity-based edtech

Rebecca Marie-Smart

Rebecca-Marie Smart is a freelance education-technologist with experience working within both state and private education sectors spanning from the USA to Australia. Having worked closely with the DfE, Rebecca-Marie led development of software standards and procurement frameworks for UK education; she now pioneers innovation through her involvement providing strategic consultation to businesses that implement cutting-edge education solutions. Rebecca boasts a wealth of hands-on experience delivering edtech expertise to the entire education arena from K12 through to HE and FE. In her spare time, Rebecca-Marie supports charity through fundraising activity, she is a qualified yachtmaster, author and keen horsewoman.

Follow @charityfunds101

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

After the anticipated arrival of beacons into the (almost) mainstream the education world has a genuine opportunity to consider how in our modern age we can benefit from proximity-enabled learning solutions. Recent technical advances claim to give us the opportunity to enhance learning and collaboration, through on target content distribution that supports students by providing content that can enhance their learning journey through triggers, based on time, location and the students profile.

First off, lets have a recap of what beacon technology is, the following extract comes courtesy of ibeacon.com:

What is iBeacon? What are iBeacons?
The term iBeacon and Beacon are often used interchangeably. iBeacon is the name for Apple’s technology standard, which allows mobile apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. In essence, iBeacon technology allows mobile apps to to understand their position on a micro-local scale, and deliver hyper-contextual content to users based on location. The underlying communication technology is Bluetooth Low Energy.

What is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)?
Bluetooth Low Energy is a wireless personal area network technology used for transmitting data over short distances. As the name implies, it’s designed for low energy consumption and cost, while maintaining a communication range similar to that of its predecessor, Classic Bluetooth.

As a technologist with well over a decade working within the education space I am privileged enough to witness first hand the dawn of a brand new era in learning technology. This is an era that utilises the latest location-enabled tech with the very devices students have in the palm of their hands, the very devices that the digital generation of students are using as naturally as I did pen and paper. It is difficult to argue with the evidence that smartphone and tablet penetration is high among young adults, and that offering instant mobile connections gives students a significant advantage but what effect does contextualised, proximity triggers provide?

Whenever I am presented with latest technical innovation I immediately question how the solution fits with the pedagogy versus technology debate. As an advocate for pedagogy dictating technology I am keen to ensure we do not set ourselves up to fail through technology dictating learning.

I am well versed in the notion that beacons, combined with a Learning Management System (LMS) that delivers profiled, contextualised content, are capable of transforming the traditional learning experience. They also support the mobile preference evidenced. My question, however, was how did having devices forced upon students on arrival at their learning space impact the overall human connections and collaboration that we all know plays such an important role in teaching and learning? Could we ensure that by being at the cutting edge of technology we didn't by default depersonalise the experience and in turn reduce human interaction. My fear was the dumbing down of grass roots teaching that nobody in their right mind would argue is the key element of a learning journey.

What I want to share with you is a practical, real life example of just how I have seen the change emerging in the real world. Also, I want to explain to you why I think there is no time to waste for education teams to get on board with the simple-yet-transformative advantages of adopting proximity-enabled learning into school. Whether used primarily as a learning solution, a school marketing and events tool, or both, proximity-based solutions can greatly enhance the learning experience of every type of user whilst also accommodating the vast ranges of learning styles.
 
I recently had the opportunity to observe lessons delivered with support from beacons located in and around an International School space. The technology had been designed to enhance the experience of delivering personal, contextualised information to all types of students on-site during a ‘Discovery Day’.

The Discovery Day had been supported by proximity-enabled technology set-up to deliver relevant, contextualised content at key trigger points. Beacons had been set-up that worked with an intelligent learning management app, and were set-up as follows:

To welcome students: Following user registration and completion of a user-profiling questionnaire, the 'welcome zone' triggers automatically pushed relevant Discovery Day introductions to the users. Included in the primary content push was a school map, photos and biographies of the teaching staff and the agenda for the day. The information was sent to the user as they walked into reception, their device recognised their proximity to the reception beacon and all targeted information was provided via one tap of the screen.

To add context to classes: During the Discovery Day classes, students were pushed content relevant to their learning profile and their preferred learning style. For example, where students had indicated they were visual learners the content pushed was based on pictures with limited text, whereas students who had indicated they liked detail were presented with links to further reading as well as other media such as iTunesU and weblinks associated with the subject. At this stage, information was provided that added further context to the learning subject, including the bio and CV of the teacher, the learning objectives of the lesson, and links to further content such as audios and videos related to the topics presented. Simply by walking into the classroom, the information was pushed and could be accessed in real time or saved for review following the lesson.

To identify people: In addition to quick and relevant access to supplementary content that supported the lesson, all key staff present at the event had been provided with personal beacons. That meant that students and parents could quickly identify which relevant members of staff were close by at any point in the day. The identification was clean and simple, when staff were close-by their pictures and role summary popped on screen via the technology. One tap and further information could be viewed or saved for later.

To navigate and enable DISCOVERY: Later in the day, beacons facilitated the discovery of specialised zones. Students could locate the zone that most interested them, navigate to it and digest the content provided or save for later. Pop-up notifications alerted the student to learning zones close by so choices could be made at the point of discovery.

To encourage INTERACTION: The proximity-enabled technology supported the identification of key-staff during the event's social periods. Students and parents could approach teachers or support staff more casually and confidently over lunch or break times with the assurance they were asking the right question to the right person.
 
It was at this point that I delighted; I finally had the evidence to consider carefully how the technology had affected the interaction between teacher and student! I was delighted to have witnessed that the technology proved to not only support and facilitate, but, actually encourage the very human connection that I feared may be lost! By confidently knowing who was who, students and parents were encouraged to seek out the humans, those humans who could help them learn even more about the material provided through traditional learning methods and supported by tech.

Teaching staff enthusiastically confirmed that they had indeed been identified through the technology, and that it had led to increased interaction with students throughout the Discovery Day. My conclusion was that the proximity-enabled technology had delivered the opportunity for students to gain a greater depth of understanding through their preferred learning styles, while providing them with the confidence to explore more. Blended learning at it’s very best!

Allowing the technology to take care of relevant content delivery meant that the teachers could get on with the real job… the showcase of information and facilitation of collaboration, teaching and learning! The concept of beacon technology, combined with user profiling, alongside location triggers that understand your learning space and style is now a reality, a modern digital presence is no longer a luxury item but an essential part of the toolkit for learning teams the word over.

Give it a try, the only limitation is your imagination…

Do you use proximity-based technology in your school? Share your stories below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"