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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

Learning with the internet of things in primary and secondary

Two students talking about the device they made

Learning with the internet of things video stories

The videos below describe a pilot programme that helped students develop a deeper understanding of abstract digital technologies concepts  – by bringing them to life with hands-on physical computing devices.

*The internet of things (IoT) definition from TechTarget

Overview of the initiative

For this initiative, a group of teachers, creative technologists, and facilitators wanted to build confidence in students and teachers from years 1–10. They developed a programme to support students and teachers to apply computational thinking skills to their own projects. The projects were designed to integrate digital technologies concepts with real world contexts – and solving real world problems.

So far, a team of more than 15 teachers has developed and 1,200 students in Dunedin primary, intermediate, and secondary schools have experienced the programme.


Learning with the internet of things in years 5–6

Andrew Wills and the students at Bradford Primary School describe how they used their new knowledge in electronics to solve problems in their school.



Andrew Wills: I love teaching technology, it’s a great subject to bring fresh to kids. So what picaxe has done, is it’s enabled me to go in, upskill the kids on basic electronics and then bring the Chromebooks out and actually start programming those circuits. I presented the kids with a bunch of modules that showed the inputs and outputs, so whether they were working with radio waves, or infrared, or measuring volume and then outputting sound, or light, or using motors, so I just showed them the range of what they could do, and then they had a think about what problems existed around their school that they could actually solve using that technology.

Student 1: We’ve been solving problems around the school and our problem was the bell. Me and Hannah have been working on the top field.

Student 2: Me and Jagers, we’ve been working on the staffroom because the people at the staffroom, the teachers, they haven’t been hearing us so they’ve been late getting to class.

Student 1: Same with the people on the top field.

Student 3: So this is called a transmitter and if I press this button, a speaker goes up in there and that light will flash.

Student 2: And this light will flash and it will go on at the staffroom because this goes on the wall in the staffroom and the teachers will know to go up to class now.

Student 1: And this goes on the flying fox at the start so people can hear on the top field.

Student 3: And this will go right next to the bell so when they ring the bell, they can press it as well.

Student 1: So Hannah’s got a transmitter and me and Tom have got the receivers.

Student 3: And inside we’ve got little breadboards.

Student 4: Me and Emma have been working on the interactive artwork where you hang it on the wall and when you go past, it will, the light will flash and it will make a noise.

Andrew Wills: Good, so what are your inputs and outputs.

Student 4: Our output is the sound and it makes noise.

Andrew Wills: Yep, good. And your input is, you call it a motion detector.

Student 4: Yeah, it’s a motion detector and it has a microcontroller and that’s the speaker that makes the noise. I chose the interactive artwork because I quite like art and I also quite like technology too and when there was a choice of putting them together, I chose it because I like both of them.

Student 5: Our one is, Taylor and I’s one is the noise monitor for in class and if it’s too loud, the red light will go off. If it’s perfect it’s blue and if it’s a little too noisy, it will be orange.

Andrew Wills: Okay so shall we see how noisy it has to be before the red light goes on, can you hold it up a bit? Okay everyone, let’s start off really quiet and count and get louder and louder. Starting at one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! Very good, the red light went on about seven.

Student 6: We’re the temperature group, Payton, Cassie and I, we’ve been working on a temperature project.

Student 7: So here we have the thing that does the temperature, the sensor, and then we have the LED. So when we press the button, it shall give us the temperature.

Andrew Wills: So how can you tell what the temperature is by the blinks?

Student 7: It’s 14 degrees, so the first blink, which is kind of slow, means how many tens, so that was one and then the fast blinks is how many ones.

Student 6: And there’s a gap between the tens and the ones.

Andrew Wills: The kids have great imaginations when it comes to identifying problems and also coming up with solutions, and then it’s sort of the teacher’s job to provide the technical expertise.

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Learning with the internet of things in years 7–8

Bill Boyes, Iain Cook-Bonney, and Tahuna Normal Intermediate School students talk about the wide range of digital technologies they can now make using their new skills.



Bill Boyes: For the final project, the main thing that I was focusing on was that, we have a large number of year 7 students and a large number of year 8 students, and I wanted every student to experience the project. And then we started in at the start of this year with our year 7 students and so we did an iCreature and so every student had a chance at programming, they had a chance at making, at using the picaxe chip, at putting a tune in and getting an LED to blink and so they had a wide range of experiences with the electronics. And so we were looking at how they could record those things in their eportfolio. They would take pictures, they would make descriptions, and they would take little videos of them recording their progress through their project.

The year 8’s were looking at measuring, and so we had our big-world problem, which for us is the rising water level underneath our school district. So we have our measuring equipment that they learnt to use, so they would learn how to programme the picaxe chip so that it would measure the light, or measure the temperature, or measure the moisture and they learnt how to do that, then they would go out in twos or threes out onto the field and they would actually do that and so they had that practical experience. They would come back in and they would put that information into their eportfolio. They would do their mathematics with the data that they’d gathered, they’d do their test on their science experiments and they’d have a lot of fun.

Student 1: So I really liked moving from really basic stuff to actual code, and I really enjoyed also making all the different things and making them work.

Student 2: I was thinking it’s really helpful for having a career and electronics and that sort of thing and building massive computers.  

Student 3: We’ve done the programming the robots and the last two sessions we’ve been working on the breadboards which is fun. We’ve had competitions of who can make the best noises and stuff like that so now we’re just getting into things like the sensor. So you can kind of send little messages to each other and that. So one person will walk out to the field with this and another person will have the computer and you can see how far you can go while still having connection. We did really well last time, we got from there to the edge of the field.

With coding I think it’s good to get the opinion of both, you know, genders factoring into the decision. Because a lot of in the past it was kind of the males in there so I think it’s good to get some female opinion in because they’re actually quite different.

Iain Cook-Bonney: So they start here with Bill and Andrew looking at picaxe basic and coding with that, which is a text-based language. And then from there, we can say, how can we take that and turn that into something they can do more with, or to do some richer stuff with? So we look at using things like Scratch and Blockly to do that. We can use both of those platforms, which are visual code editors, to code our picaxe to do whatever we want it to do and we go into other projects down the year. Our year 7’s currently at the moment are designing video games, so they’re designing video games based on a Māori myth, but they’re designing that in Scratch, so they’re taking that knowledge that they’ve gained at the start of the year and then they’re applying that coding knowledge now to make their video game. They’re also taking some of the learning that they’ve learnt with the electronics control too because you’ve got some of those students who are doing things like creating picaxe joysticks and things like that, so interfaces for their games. One of the things that we’re seeing with this new curriculum is that it’s not necessarily just knowing how to do stuff and how to use an app, it’s really understanding how all these tools work at that core level and that leads us into sort of a greater and richer understanding of what we do with digital technologies.

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Note that the programmes and/or resources used within this project are not officially endorsed by the Ministry of Education.

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