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Transforming learning spaces with iBeacons

Why use iBeacons in Education?

The iBeacon protocol was standardised by Apple and unveiled at the Apple Developers’ Conference in 2013. In December of that year, Apple activated iBeacons across its 254 US retail stores. By 2018 retailers are expected to have installed 3.5 million iBeacons. 

What is an iBeacon? 
An iBeacon is a way of of providing information that is location based, to mobile devices. 

How does it work?

Beacons themselves are small Bluetooth transmitters. With the relevant application installed on your device you can pick up the information transmitted from a Beacon and respond to it. This is usually via a simple graphic interface that allows you to browse content and download it. A lot of this happens automatically in the background. 

With the relevant application installed you could pick up information in a location on anything from a Science project in a school to the special offers in a Supermarket. 

The Apple website below offers some support regarding how iBeacon technology works with your device: 

https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT202880

As iBeacons lend themselves so easily to providing contextual localised information, commercial retailers and educators have been quick to spot the enormous potential of the this new and rapidly emerging technology, with many developers creating varieties of iBeacon compatible hardware transmitters (often called beacons). An Australian company, DKTOB were the first to implement iBeacons commercially for use in shopping centers, more information on this is available on wikipedia: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBeacon

It’s still very early on in the development and use of beacons.  Different models with slightly different features are being released all the time, and a range of test cases and imaginative deployments are appearing constantly. 

Searching for the hashtag #ibeacon in Twitter is one way of finding developers and spotting and following new trends. 

Why use beacons in education? 

If you are looking to: 

  • Make your students’ experience more engaging
  • Motivate your students
  • Create engaging spaces in your classroom and school
  • Attract student attention and increase their knowledge and awareness of different concepts and topics 
  • Facilitate students engaging through different techniques and media
  • Enable students to access and engage with varied and differentiated content

With beacons you can:

  • Make static areas come to life
  • Connect students to more information 
  • Save valuable school funds (using beacons as a distribution system)
  • Improve contact with parents
  • Gamify the learning experience 
  • Enable different points of contact for staff, students and parents
  • Support parent and student navigation in your school (great for open days and parent evenings)
  • Enable parents/visitors/students to find specific points in the school

For more information on how to use iBeacons in your classroom and school check out the book iBeacon Projects. It covers setting up your iPad, installing the Locly application, creating your first project and assigning it to a beacon before progressing to more complex projects. The book contains 20 projects with sample content for you to try out.