Everybody Makes The School is an exciting collaboration between The University of Edinburgh and Newbattle Community High School.

What’s covered in this session:

  • What is Internet of Things technology and how is it used?
  • Hands-on Activity: Build your own IoT using BBC micro:bits.

In case you missed it: Everybody Makes The School: Introduction to Data Science (Session 1)

Session 2 Part I: What is an Internet of Things?

Get the slides with teacher notes as a PDF
Get the slides as a PPT


Start by a recap of Session 1: An Introduction to Data Science. Did anyone impress their friends with predictions about smarties? Did they start to notice any data science practices in their own lives? Remind them of the project brief.

Introduce the next session about the Internet of Things.

Work on IoT is being done at Edinburgh University by Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh http://www.de.ed.ac.uk/ Many of our slides come from this work.

Explain how it used to be about computers connected to the internet communicating with each other or us communicating through the internet by email. A “thing” in an Internet of Things can be anything or anybody connected to the internet. What things can be connected to the internet nowadays?

Ask for examples of “smart” devices.

Discuss the different types of connections over an IoT e.g. human to human, human to machine or machine to machine. Discuss how these things are connected and “talking” to each other.

People to People: Give example like WhatsApp and Facetime – technology that connects people to people.

People to machines / machines to people: A person uses technology to search for a TV show on iPlayer. Shopping websites like Amazon sends an email to a person when their order has been dispatched.

Machines to machines: An alarm clock goes off and this signals your kettle to turn on. When your milk runs out more is ordered for delivery. Your home security system detects an intruder, phones the police and sends you a message. A sensor detects movement in your livingroom and turns on the lights

So what exactly is IoT?

Using sensors to collect data and using that data to drive some kind of technology, and to develop some kind of activity.

Explain that each “thing” has to have some way to collect data, using a sensor as the input. This could the sensor on the buttons of a keyboard or a light or motion sensor:

Ask what sensors are used to detect heat or sound? What sensors does your TV use (infrared) or carbon monoxide detector (chemical/electrochemical)?

Ask what other types of sensors there are:

  • Temperature
  • Proximity
  • Pressure
  • Water quality
  • Gas
  • Smoke

Explain that the “thing” takes the data that it has collected using the sensor,
and it can then do something with the data itself, or share it with another “thing” on the network.

If someone rings the doorbell then place a video call to your phone.

If it’s getting cold outside then turn on the heating

Can the learners think of other useful technology using if and then commands?

Show the learners the BBC micro:bit and explain how it is a good example of a “thing” they can easily use to practice building an IoT:

  • A micro:bit is a pocket sized device you can control with code.
  • It’s a micro controller – you write code on another computer and then upload it onto the micro:bit. It can only run one program at a time, but you can reprogram it as many times as you like.
  • Ideal for an IoT project as it’s small
  • Has various sensors; temperature, light, bluetooth, accelerometer

Show the front of the micro:bit and point out the LED lights and buttons.

Show the back of the micro:bit and pint out the processor, ARM and sensors.

Hands-on Activity: Build your own IoT using a Microbit

Explain that the learners will now create their own IoT network using Micro:bits by using the bluetooth function to send text or image messages to each other.

  • Direct the learners to https://makecode.microbit.org
  • Get micro:bit to display your name when you press A
  • Decide a group number with another pair and use the “radio set group” block to make sure you are on the same radio group
  • Use the radio blocks to send your name when you press the A button
  • Use the radio blocks so when you receive a string with someones name you display it on the screen

Make sure every group is using a different number.

Finish off by getting everyone onto the same number we decide as a class.

This should get them thinking about how a “thing” like a micro:bit can be used to collect data then pass it on to other “things”.

Getting Feedback from Learners

When it comes to collecting data about learners it is important to be open and transparent. After all, the workshops explore the power and value of data and how it might be used.

I added a disclaimer at the start of the feedback form. This let them know all questions were optional, and all responses were anonymous. I also made it clear the data collected would be shared with the project partners: University of Edinburgh and Newbattle High School.  Your feedback form should be adjusted to suit your needs and uses.

I chose to use a paper feedback form rather than a digital version. I felt this was quicker to fill in rather than asking students to navigate to a website. The downside was I had to type the results into a spreadsheet manually, but that didn’t take long as it was only a small number of forms.

On the feedback form I only asked 4 questions:

  • Circle the emojis that best describe how you felt about the session
  • What did you learn today that you didn’t know before?
  • What did you enjoy most about the session?
  • What did you not enjoy? What would you change?

You can download the feedback template for Everyone Makes a School here as a Word document, or as a PDF.

Author: Craig Steele, Digital Skills Education –https://craigsteele.com/

Next Steps: Try Part 3!