Impact of IoT on Teaching and Learning

Looking at the Internet of Things through the lens of learner agency and student vulnerability Prinsloo et al note that an increase in the collection of data moves the balance of power further away from the student and towards the provider 1. The implications of that shift invites questions around the paternalistic stance taken on by institutions (providers) and invites scrutiny of that asymmetrical relationship. The authors contend that technology which increases the collection and analysis of student data ignores the notion of student vulnerability which, if given proper focus, could highlight “…ways to decrease student vulnerability, increase their agency, and empower them as participants in learning analytics to move from quantified data objects to qualified and qualifying selves.” The impact for education is that institutions will have to navigate new frameworks of informed consent, stronger privacy laws such as the G.D.P.R. and challenges to the idea that IoT provides a net benefit to student learning.

The momentum behind both the IoT and intelligent curriculum is generated by a substantial amount of venture capital which is an important acknowledgement since it could inform who stands to benefit from the success of an IoT infrastructure in our public institutions. Many online offerings on this subject area, for instance, are written from the perspectives of Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel and Knewton. In 2018 Knewton raised $25 million from “…Triple Point Capital, Accel, Atomico, Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, First Round Capital, Founders Fund, and Sofina” 2. A corporation with fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders has a remarkably different agenda than that of a public institution. The impact for teaching and learning will continue to be needing a mechanism whereby educational technology can be evaluated and filtered by people who care and know about learning and students more than they do about a corporation’s bottom line.

The security of the Internet of Things is of huge concern for security researchers and will impact the decisions made by teaching and learning institutions who heed their warning. When everything is a computer and by consequence everything becomes hackable, the severity of a breach moves into the realm of causing real-world damage with the potential to destroy property and potentially kill people 3. Bruce Schneier points to government regulation as the necessary vehicle to mitigate risk that comes with the proliferation of an IoT agenda. If government regulation is slow to the task, institutions involved in teaching and learning may need to position themselves to set their own rules for risk assessment, device testing, security standards, fines and liabilities.

Intelligent curriculum or ‘adaptive learning’ is an idea that’s been around since the 1950s, so answering how it will impact the future of education could start with a look into the past. Gordon Pask created the Self Adaptive Keyboard Trainer (SAKI) in 1956. After the patent was secured and the manufacturing rights obtained, about 50 were sold 4. The question that leaves me with is what happens to all these technology companies when the venture capital funding runs out, the privacy laws get stronger and government regulations become engaged with the real world risks imposed upon us by this technology? If they don’t serve the learner, they likely won’t last or risk being scrutinized by learning science academics. Questions about ‘the future of education’ with respect to this technology or that technology have been around for a long time which makes me wonder how much of the future will just be a repetition of the past.


  1. P. Prinsloo and S. Slade, “Student Vulnerability, Agency and Learning Analytics: An Exploration,” J. Learn. Anal., vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 159–182–159–182, Apr. 2016.
  2. “Who’s Funding Education Technology” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 16-Feb-2019]
  3. “The Internet of Things Will Upend Our Industry – IEEE Journls & Magazine.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 17-Feb-2019].
  4. “SAKI: Twenty-five years of adaptive training into the microprocessor era,” Int. J. Man-Mach. Stud., vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 69–74, Jul. 1982.


Brad Payne is currently the lead developer for the Open Textbook Project whose work focuses on open source software using PHP (LAMP). When not contributing to other developers’ projects on github, he builds his own. Through exploiting API’s and with a penchant for design patterns, he helps BCcampus implement new technologies for post-secondary institutions. Prior to his current position at BCcampus, Brad worked in IT at Camosun College and the BC Ministry of Education.

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