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IoT in Schools and the Future of Education

The Internet of Things (IoT) is already part of our daily lives; it combines topics such as hardware, software and interdisciplinary applications.  What impact do the diverse aspects within IoT have on the future of education with regard to digital skills? On the 6th of July, several representatives of schools, the city of Heidelberg, SAP and some students came to the AppHaus Heidelberg to develop new ideas and concepts around the topic of “IoT in Schools” with the Design Thinking methodology. We had the chance to invite three of the organizers to the AppHaus after the workshop to talk about their experiences and impressions from the workshop. The interviewees were Jasper Schmidt (DAI Heidelberg), Steffen Haschler (teacher at the Englisches Institut) and Oliver Rack (Open Government Partnership and city of Heidelberg).


SAP: You decided to take over and push the topic of IoT in education. What does this topic mean for you?

Oliver Rack: If you ask for the meaning of IoT in education, you have to ask for its meaning and relevance overall. And both are already high as we have started to integrate connected things into our daily life. However, they are mostly isolated and not visible, for example in planes and cars. Everything starts to be connected to each other and is becoming more and more complex. This leads to new possibilities, but also to a rising gap between technological knowledge and the ability to do things yourself. Who fixes his car by himself anymore? Who is still able to do this? Now the question is: Is it too complicated or is there a chance to work on closing this gap? This means knowledge must be communicated and people must be empowered. Digital skills must be democratized and people must gain a certain maturity about digitalization.

Jasper Schmidt: For us, maturity and the democratic aspect are very important. A digital alphabetization has to happen. There is a new mass medium to which so many people are totally committed, but they are only the user. In one of our workshops we created a small controller with sensors, that was a way to demystify the topic. This is something young people can totally understand, but there is no possibility to just try it out or do it. If during this very crucial time, young people do not get access to these things, but will always play the passive part.

Steffen Haschler: That is why the IoT topic is so great. You have the chance to learn every aspect. You can always stop, look back and discuss where you are at this moment. This is a complete new way of working, which maybe should be part of the school system – a project-oriented way of thinking.

SAP: What was your first impression of our SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg?

Jasper Schmidt: It was great to arrive here, I like the open space and always enjoy settings like this.  It was really exciting to meet such professional designers, who really dove into both topic and process. It was great to see that we were all interested in achieving a good outcome.

SAP: Were you already experienced in the Design Thinking process?

Oliver Rack: I never moderated/facilitated a workshop by myself, but I have participated in several workshops. It is an important instrument, because I think organizations and projects are often losing their focus. It is necessary to create the right framework and agree on one process so that work is stringent and goal-oriented. Long-term processes can be acted out en miniature to make the contents more understandable. Workshops also have a team-building effect because the group is working together to reach a common goal. I was actually wondering myself whether the Design Thinking methodology should also become part of education as well as IoT.

Jasper Schmidt: It was my first full Design Thinking workshop. We are using parts of the methodology to develop new learning opportunities or working areas and better structure our processes. It was great to have external coaches this time around to better focus on the methodology and to work in a more structured way. It was great to see that there were no role allocations anymore and everyone was able to place their individual strength. I was again convinced by the method.

SAP: Were there any expectations you had for the workshop at the AppHaus?

Steffen Haschler: My expectation was to experience the entire Design Thinking process and see what I can make use of in my daily work. I was hoping to get new insights and impulses by other participants and discover new directions, meaning both directions where we can take a closer look and also directions which we can leave aside. Apart from that, I was just curious about the people participating and the discussions we would have. We still don’t have the right contacts, but it is always positive to take the time to discuss the topic, especially under professional guidance.

SAP: What did you expect to achieve with the workshop? Which goals and wishes motivated you to take this road?

Steffen Haschler: I didn’t have certain wishes before I came to the workshop. I was hoping for clarifications on some things. This is happening just because the workshop was conducted. It was very sound. And totally sufficient for any next steps coming up.

Jasper Schmidt: It was great that SAP spread the topic among different circles of people. I think new and totally unexpected options arose for us.

SAP: Which part will IoT take over during and for education?

Jasper Schmidt: It is important to deal with and understand the new technological possibilities in general education and the educational system. A fundamental understanding of the feasible is crucial. These skills are necessary for young people’s later working life and their maturity in the 21st century. One has to not only be competitive, but also able to work on and critically question these processes and topics independently. The access to IoT topics must be natural and more detailed than it is at the moment.

SAP: Did you enjoy working with our storytelling kit ‘Scenes’?

Oliver Rack: The tool is great: a compromise between structured and artistic skills which everyone can be part of. Very often, while building a prototype, only two or three people are involved. Scenes makes work very efficient for everyone. At the end of the workshop, every group was able to present something valuable. In addition, Scenes lets you include a time axis, which is not possible with a prototype.

SAP: How did the AppHaus as a creative space influence the work of the participants?

Jasper Schmidt: The openness of the AppHaus definitely played its part. This kind of surrounding (too few people actually know about) helps to subconsciously let go of old patterns. The possibility to move freely establishes free space for the essential and different engagement approaches with topics.

Oliver Rack: The infrastructure is very important. Plenty of material is needed, especially enough wall space for posting and clustering ideas.

We thank our three interview partners and are excited how the topic develops in the future.


Curious about ‘Scenes’?

Download the free do it yourself (DIY) version here and get started with your own storytelling session.


Curious about the topic?

The Open Knowledge Lab Heidelberg/Rhein Neckar is a platform for projects concerning related to “open data.” You can find more information here (German only).


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