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Technologies such as IoT and wearable devices are among the best practices making it possible for schools to move forward with reopening plans

Wearable devices are increasingly central to a safe return to the classroom


Technologies such as IoT and wearable devices are among the best practices making it possible for schools to move forward with reopening plans

Technology has played a central role during COVID-19, enabling educators to continue teaching remotely, with both students and staff ensconced in the safety of their kitchens or living rooms. Remote learning technology has become mission-critical for education.

But as the pandemic stretches out far longer than we could have imagined, evidence suggests that remote learning is falling short in a number of ways.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, approximately 20 percent of students nationwide don’t have access to the technology they need for remote learning. Further, the Economic Policy Institute said that “children’s academic performance is deteriorating during the pandemic, along with their progress on other developmental skills.”

Related content: Could two pandemics (yes, two) change schools forever?

For these reasons and more, school systems across the nation have been returning to the classroom. Each district is charting its own path to keep students and staff safe in ways similar to what other industries have successfully done. They’re reducing class sizes, employing staggered shifts, alternate days and varied stop/start times, and are implementing self-reporting protocols when parents drop off children–all in an effort to reduce the number of people in close contact with one another.

Technology is also playing a role in this effort. Just as videoconferencing apps, laptops, and virtual textbooks have been conduits to remote learning during the pandemic, other types of technology are being deployed for the in-person classroom to ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff on site.

IoT can promote social distancing and contact tracing in the classroom

Advanced Internet of Things (IoT)-based wearable devices are finding their way into the classroom, on the school bus, and in other locations in K-12 schools and college campuses to help keep students safe. One way they are being used is to promote safe social distancing.

IoT wearable devices that can be worn by students and teachers in a number of ways can help meet CDC and ECDC recommended six-foot social distancing requirements, usually by emitting a sound when students or staff are in close proximity to each other. The optional alarm not only helps to mitigate unsafe practices, but it can also help educate students about safe distances and reinforce the right behavior.

These wearable devices could also enable digital contact tracing that can quickly help identify individuals who may have been exposed for precautionary quarantining, which may be critical to prevent a major outbreak. They enable educational institutions to meet the CDC guidelines of being able to identify close contacts for any individual testing positive for COVID-19. IoT wearable devices provide a documented paper trail to record close proximity interactions, enabling school administrators to identify – within minutes — all close-contact interactions of the infected individual and take action. That way only those who have been exposed need to quarantine instead of it impacting everyone.

Further, many schools are creating cohorts where students remain with the same group of students daily to limit their interactions. Yet, when they are on the school bus or in the halls, school administrators do not have the same control or visibility into interactions and behaviors. IoT-based wearable sensors can capture each interaction on the journey to or from the classroom.

Because privacy is a major concern when it comes to students, it’s important that the contact tracing solution is able to anonymize each student or contact in a database and IoT system. Ideally, only one administrator should know the identity for each assigned IoT sensor to carry out proper notifications in the event of exposure to an infected person.

Through data-driven insights into interactions, activities, and contacts between students and staff, school administrators can make more informed decisions about remaining open or changing protocols.

There are other technologies that are being offered to keep students and staff safe, including rapid COVID-19 testing technologies like machine learning breath tests, which are easier to administer than swab tests, and automatic temperature scanners using infrared cameras to detect the presence of fever–a key indicator of COVID-19. To proactively clean spaces and avoid the use of chemical disinfection in classrooms and shared spaces, there is a new UV light technology, UVC lighting, that is said to be effective in killing more than 99.9 percent of coronaviruses found in airborne droplets, according to a new study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

As schools across the country adapt to new modes of learning and work to keep classrooms open for students, technology is playing a key role. It is enabling safe learning environments through social distancing, contact tracing, wellness checks, and clean classrooms.

Because the need for such technologies was never as critical as it is today, schools must remain open-minded to the role that solutions such as IoT can play to keep students safe, while providing the best possible learning environment despite the circumstances.

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