What is iBeacon and how is it Being Used in Education?
When people discuss location aware learning tools, they usually are talking about Apple’s iBeacon.
The iBeacon is a Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE) device that has significant potential in the world of education, as well as plenty of other industries. IBeacons are no more than offline beacons; the difference being it’s triggered by another mobile devices proximity to it with a Bluetooth 4.0 sensor. When the beacon is triggered it sends a snippet of information to the in-range device.
The thing that makes iBeacon different to other contactless technology is that it can be used accurately over longer distances 50 metres in some cases. This means that it could provide notable opportunities that the likes of NFC and older forms of Bluetooth can’t.
Because an iBeacon is a trigger and can only send small amounts of information, the onus is on the programmer to create experiences that utilise the iBeacon and curate experiences in accordance with context and location.
The best way to understand this is to look at some of the ways it has already been used. So, how can iBeacon be utilised in an educational setting?
New Zealander living in Ireland, Paul Hamilton has created ‘Learning Zones’ with iBeacon. In this case the iBeacon is used to provide students with relevant materials locations in places such as libraries or classrooms. The app in this scenario utilises the iBeacon in conjunction with an app to provide students with relevant resources that could be used to gain a richer grasp of a subject and further their knowledge and their thinking skills around a specific subject. The app simply sends a push notification to the smart phone or tablet informing the individual of the location of a relevant text or piece of content in proximity in the library, classroom or educational setting.
UK school Clevedon used iBeacons to turn their school into an interactive learning environment. The iBeacons were placed throughout the school.
The technology uses cloud service Foldr to host educational content, access to this content is triggered by being in proximity to a specific iBeacon.
Teachers simply use drag and drop to add specific content for each class to the beacon technology. Students can then open up the content through the push notification that has been specified to them or their whole class by a member of staff for that particular day through a specific beacon in proximity to their device. For example, the iBeacon in Mr Smith’s science class at 10am would provide class 1A with their revision for their test. When class 2C entered at 11am, they would receive their resources for the day via a push notification and so on.
It’s an innovative use of the iBeacon that streamlines processes where a lot of time is otherwise wasted.
In other settings, iBeacon technology has also been used for expert location. Essentially, this allows experts or teachers in an educational setting to make others aware of their availability to mentor or presence to answer questions or queries.
Web and mLearning
There has been a significant growth in online learning and mLearning companies online. These services tend to use the power of VOIP and video feeds, as well as interactive white boards to provide students with a private online learning experience. This technology is used for everything from tutoring of secondary school students to teach those involved in some of the most progressive and complex industries in the world.
However, in a lot of ways it’s essentially the same as classroom based learning and so falls foul of the same problems – the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve being the most notable. IBeacon technology can give this sort of hands-on learning the interactive help that will make a student or employee more competent.
The technology allows users to retrieve job aids, connect with experts in real time as mentioned above and consult information as he or she engages in a specific task. From wiring a plug, to learning how to use complex software, or undertake lab experiments – iBeacon technology can provide the sort of context sensitive training that improves the learning experience.
Cormac Reynolds is a lover of new education solutions and thinks iBeacon can alter the educational landscape significantly. He writes for iBeaconblog