EdTech Trend: iBeacons

By Monica Burns 08.11.2014 blog

This summer I had the chance to try out an exciting new technology that teachers are introducing into their learning environments. iBeacons are being used in retail, marketing and now education. They give teachers the power to create opportunities for their students to interact with content as they move around a classroom, their school, or any space where learning takes place.

What is an iBeacon and how does it work?

An iBeacon is a transmitter that sends a signal to a smartphone or a tablet that is Bluetooth-enabled and has a compatible app loaded onto their device. An iBeacon is set up to push out certain information when a person comes close to it. The person who has programmed the iBeacon decides just how far away someone can be from it and still receive a signal. When someone comes into range they will get a notification on their device — just like an alert from a news organization or a notification that you received a new email. The iBeacon could give you a short amount of text to read, like instructions or general information. It might also ask you to follow a particular link or download new content.

Retail stores are using iBeacons to direct customers to sale items. They’ll also send out notifications if you are in a particular part of a store and they want you to check out a new product. You can probably already tell that iBeacons can come in handy, but might also be a nuisance if used incorrectly.

How are iBeacons being used in schools?

iBeacons are giving teachers the ability to create a variety of engaging activities. Students will need to have access to a bluetooth enabled device like an iPad. Teachers can set up scavenger hunts throughout their school to introduce students to content for an upcoming lesson. They can place iBeacons in different parts of the library to make students aware of what type of resources are available in each part of the room.

iBeacons can also be used to take attendance. Apps like BeHere use iBeacon technology to check in students based on their presence (or their device’s presence) within a space.  Instead of taking attendance, iBeacons placed in the front of a classroom can push “Do Now” or introductory activities to students as soon as they enter a room. The assignment will pop up on their screen as soon as they pull their iPad out of their backpack.

This video from Apple Distinguished Educator Paul Hamilton shows iBeacons in action. He takes you on a tour through his classroom to show how they can be used to create an engaging learning environment for his students. Students in his class will receive notifications on their device as they get close to different iBeacons. If you want to learn more about iBeacons check out Beacondo’s website. They offer special discounts to teachers who want to try this out in their school.

Do you think iBeacons have classroom potential? Share your thoughts below!

Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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