Introducing the Internet of Things in classrooms through discovery-based learning and physical computing

Z Lechelt
in Thesis / Dissertation


Interest in teaching children about computing is increasing apace, as evidenced by the recent redesign of the English computing curriculum, as well as the variety of new tools for learning about computing by making, tinkering and coding. The rapid emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), through which billions of everyday objects are becoming embedded with the abilities to sense their environment, compute data, and wirelessly connect to other devices, introduces new topics to the scope of computing education. However, what these IoT topics are and how they can be taught to children is still ill defined. Simultaneously, new handheld and tangible physical computing toolkits offer much promise for promoting collaborative, discovery-based learning within classroom settings. These toolkits provide new opportunities for learning about electronics and IoT, by enabling children to connect the digital with the physical. This thesis investigates how IoT topics can be introduced to primary and secondary classrooms through discovery-based learning together with a physical computing toolkit.

Specifically, this research addresses three core questions. First, what IoT concepts and topics are appropriate for children to learn about? Second, how can discovery-based learning be designed to facilitate IoT learning for beginners? Third, how can learning about IoT be made accessible and inclusive? This thesis describes the design and evaluation of novel learning approaches for teaching children about introductory IoT topics, especially understanding sensors, actuators and data, as well as critical thinking about their limitations and implications. The contribution is to provide a detailed, descriptive account of how children can first learn these topics in classroom settings through discovery-based activities, as well as of how discovery-based activities together with new types of tangible, physical computing interfaces can contribute to engagement, curiosity and collaborative interaction in computing classrooms and beyond.