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We do need this education

Michael Refalo, director at Creolabs, explains how the Internet of Things is set to bring a revolution in the way children are educated.

A session at Creolabs

A session at Creolabs

Creolabs is one of the most successful start-up companies to come out of the Microsoft Innovation Centre. Its mission is to assist local students in enjoying a significant and innovative education experience. This month Creolabs kicked off a course on Internet of Things with Form 2 students at Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph’s school in Paola.

This course is being supported by Microsoft, which is supplying all the technical equipment and support for this course.

How is the Internet of Things revolutionising the way we work and play?

The IoT is basically the interconnection of various devices over the internet and the collection and analysis of data collected through these devices. These devices, such as sensors, can be embedded into any kind of object, from clothes to appliances to vehicles. This has enabled new applications that can constantly monitor your home, your office, even your well-being.

The intelligent workplace, for example, connects your mobile, smart watch, laptop and working environment together. You can then use you mobile to check e-mails, get directions for your next meeting, receive notifications if your office supplies are running low and monitor the performance of your machinery.

What does the future of IoT hold?

It is estimated that right now there are between eight to 10 billion devices connected to the internet. This figure is expected to rise to 50 billion by 2020. This means that the IoT will increasingly become a part of our daily lives, so much so that a new concept is emerging: the Internet of Everything. This will provide a lot of new opportunities but also threats, like security and data protection, and they both require investment in new technologies and skills.

Will we have to adapt to the IoT, or will the technology be adapted to our lifestyle?

It will be both. IoT applications focusing on being user-friendly will need to be designed to bring together the large number of devices connected in an easily accessible way.

On the other hand, sensors and other devices connected to the internet will be so embedded in all the things we use that the way we learn, work and have fun will be shaped in ways that border on science fiction. This is the reason why we need to start preparing the younger generations to grasp the opportunities that this new revolution will bring.

IoT will become part of our daily lives and we must be ready to turn its challenges into opportunities

Creolabs, supported by Microsoft Innovation Centre, has recently launched a course on IoT at a secondary school. What are the main aims of this course?

The main objective of this course is to give students between 10 and 14 an overview of what the IoT is and its various opportunities. We also introduce them to coding and how to connect and control devices through the internet.

Around 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.Around 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.

This is not the first of such courses being held. How receptive were educators and students in past courses?

Last year we launched a School of Invention to give students the 21st century skills they will need in the near future. Both parents and students have been very satisfied with our courses, with the majority of students requesting to attend similar courses in the future. Some educators and policy makers were also very appreciative of what we are doing and we intend to work closely with them.

How important is it to prepare future generations for a future based on IoT?

The IoT is being called the fourth industrial revolution and we think it is crucial to prepare future generations for this emerging reality. It will create new jobs and new challenges that we not as yet aware of and we must give future generations the necessary skills to benefit from it and prosper.

Whether we are looking forward to it or not, the IoT will become part of our daily lives and we must be ready to turn its challenges into opportunities.

Such education may presently be regarded as ‘alternative’. However, will the IoT make this kind of learning mainstream?

We cannot say if or when educational methods that are currently considered alternative will become mainstream. This kind of education is based around the acquisition of skills, making learning as enjoyable as possible, and transforms the teacher into a facilitator.

The IoT will definitely make this kind of education easier, with students having easy access to information and be able to interact with their peers anywhere in the world. It will be an incredible learning experience for Maltese students to work on a project with students in different countries, sharing knowledge, ideas and outputs in a seamless and enjoyable way.

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