|Click above image to see landing of long range scientific sensor plane (Aerosonde) and here for its mission. Photo by David Zaks; video by Dennis Hipperson.||Live webcam image; click it for a larger view. Scene from NSA site in Barrow, Alaska. The time shown is UTC (Universal Time Coordinated), formerly GMT; see also Sun View.|
To sense, to receive information using one of our senses, is a very basic idea. To use data from sensors sfor decisions that result in actions is as basic as a thermostat in almost every building location that people meet. The merger of the idea of sensor with digital technology and the Net enables a smart phone user anywhere in the world to understand and compose actions through seeing a graph of trends, current data and direct changes in that thermostat. A company called Nest Labs has provided one example of the value of inventing such designs; it began making a Web/iPhone enabled thermostats and smoke detectors in 2010 and was bought by Google for $3.2 billion in January of 2014. A mobile collection of sensors, motors, gears and computer technology becomes a robot. Another example of the value of such design would be the well-known current examples of the robots collecting data and exploring the surface of the planet Mars. The common use of sensors and robots have long played a speculative role in science fiction that explorers the possible impact of such technologies and their impact on humanity and all life. Consequently, such technology has wide application to all areas of educational content.
At the top of this page are two scenes from Barrows, Alaska, in which sensors and robots play critical roles. Barrows is the most northern location of the United States, located on the Beaufort Sea which is connected to the Bering Sea separating Russia and Alaska. One scene, on the left, involves the mobile collection of data and the other, on the right, is from a sensor collection at a fixed location. The left picture at the top of the page is of a flying robot, the Aerosonde, that is having its flight plan and sensor activities uploaded before an auto-pilot flight of thousands of miles out over the Arctic Ocean and back, collecting climate data. The right picture at the page top is a "live" picture taken once every 10 minutes, along with temperature data. The camera should be thought of as a type of sensor that senses and records light levels and color, which are assembled and stored as pictures in a public Web folder and can also be put in time lapse movies, accessible from any Web browser. Both pictures are a part of the story of a community of scientists living in Barrow on this north slope of Alaska and collecting data to study the growing global climate change issues and invent solutions. The satellite map below is of their office building location, shown toward the bottom of the picture. Can you figure out which building they are in? This is an interactive map that allows sliding the map, zooming in and out and switching to different views. Using the same types of data used to insert this map, the GPS sensors in a smart phone can call up a map on a smart phone to display the person's current location. (How to insert maps in a Web page).
A sensor could be thought of as fact finder, a reporter of facts; it could also be thought of as a digital question constantly poised to determine and report an answer. There is an almost infinite number of possible questions, some of them personally practical. What is the temperature in the green house? Are my car lights on after the car is turned off? If so, honk! Are the fresh vegetables in the supermarket display getting a bit dry, mist them! Can't find something in your house? Use a wireless remote to activitate its attached buzzer! An electronic device getting too hot? Turn up the fan speed! Even though most sensors are reporting their data privately to their owners, a significant number of sensors report their data publicly. The number of sensors in use already connected to the Net is in the billions, with an exponential increase to trillions expected in the years ahead. The global collection of sensor data, private or public, is sometimes called the Internet of Things (IoT) or the Internet of Everything (IoE).
To more fully understand the widespread use of sensors, nothing succeeds quite like showing them on a global map. The map below from the Web site Thingful is a map of publicly available data from all kinds of sensors, just keep in mind that these sensors are just the visible tip of the sensor iceberg. Other maps focus on just particular types of sensors.
Web sites which provide maps and sensor descriptions come and go. Should Thingful disappear as other sensor maps have or there is interest in finding other maps of sensors, try searching for "sensors online iot index device data" or related terms. Visit the Thingful Web site and zoom in out, clicking sensors to determine their role; expect the number and type of sensors available on this map to grow significantly.
Some sensor maps focused on a particular type of data, notably Safecast maps that report nuclear radiation. The Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011 in Japan raised concerns about the ocean and air currents spreading dangerous forms of nuclear radiation, first in Japan and then to the rest of the planet. This in turn has led to the design of a new, more mobile and less expensive Geiger counter kit, the bGeigie Nano Geiger Kit, that can report nuclear radiation and GPS location data. Using volunteer or "vigilante" data collection and mapping also has raised a number of scientific and social issues (Brownstein, 2013).
Other Web site and/or sensor mapping efforts include: Smart Citizen Kit; ThingsSpeak; Air Quality Egg; International Soil Moisture Network; National Water Information System and the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Educators will need to spend some time exploring one or more of these networks to understand what kind of data they are producing and how that data might be used effectively in science and mathematics education.
As circled in the digital palette on the right, sensors and robotics are also a key part of 21st century composition. In fact there are two worlds of sensors, the new world of Net aware sensors that is rapidly expanding and the sensor world that has been here for some time. With some exceptions such as the Nike+ and related designs as discussed in the health and medicine reading for this chapter, the world of sensors with which we are already surrounded is largely invisible at the moment. Though current sensor technology is not limited to these, physical education, art, math, science and engineering all provide many examples of sensors helping to ask questions about the world around us, then acting on data collected. However, a new layer to the Internet, the Internet of Things, a Net of IP (Internet Protocol) attached sensors is rapidly working its way out of development labs and corporate design interests (Merritt, 2013). An entire collection of microprocessor, wi-fi antenna, rechargeable battery, solar cell, memory and data storage can fit on fingernail sized unit. These new forms of composition with Net aware sensors will change our world in ways that we can just begin to imagine.
Sensors also represent a distinctive category on the digital palette. In contrast to the more abstract and conceptual nature of words and media, sensors connect us firmly to the hard physical world, as they are designed to measure reality. They invite us to think about the creativity of engineering in creating new things in the world that will uses sensors. Further, as a key 21st trend is towards digital convergence, sensors are being combined with the other media of the digital palette to connect those other more conceptual elements of the palette to reality.
Read these two policy statements by the National Science Teachers Association: The Use of Computers in Science Education ; and Teaching Science and Technology in the Context of Societal and Personal Issues. The importance of enhancing math and science education is made even more valuable with the knowledge that over the last decade the number of those graduating with degrees in math, science, programming and electronic engineering has steadily declined. Exploring some 50 categories of sensor applications helps to communicate that significant need, opportunity and high interest of sensor technology.
Calculators come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and formats. They come built in to watches, toys and notebooks and come as separate items in numerous sizes, large and small. They also can come in models that can have different types of sensors or probes attached (e.g., TI calculators and Vernier sensors). Different calculators can have very different special functions. Every computer is a superset of a calculator. This calculation role was the first and primary use of computer technology for a significant portion of the history of computers. Classrooms now purchase sets of calculators with general functions such as add and subtract and graphing calculators at very low cost and calculators with much greater capacity are available at reasonable prices that challenge the features of desktop spreadsheet programs. The better one understand calculators, the more one can understand the additional value provided when sensors are attached.
Do not get locked into thinking of the concept of calculators as just computer hardware that is very small. Calculators can also be software applications. Every computer operating system has at least one built-in software calculator that is available (e.g., look for the calculator under Accessories on a Windows computer and under the Apple menu on a Mac) and much more powerful software calculators are available (e.g., see the free Graphing Calculator that comes will all Macs).Can you find the one on your computer? A spreadsheet program is just a way to use the computer as a general purpose calculator. The capacity to create formulas and use functions within a spreadsheet makes it "specific to a discipline" which could be seen as mathematics, but math has general application to every discipline.
The concept of software calculator is extended and magnified by computer networks. One of the original motivations for creating computer networks in the first place was to give scientists remote access to high-power calculation on computer machines too expensive for any single scientist or even a single company to afford. Today, any school can connect with their nearest university for access to the region's supercomputer center for educational activities. On a much scale than supercomputers, tens of thousands of people have created web pages that use internal computer programs to carry out special purpose calculations. If you can compose a question and collect the raw data, these online calculators can assist with this "evoke" or composition stage of the learning process when thinking mathematically. The computer systems sense your input from the keyboard using an input statement in a computer programming language and then uses specialized programs to calculate and then report the results back to your screen.
See Google's Currency Converter, but a search for Currency Converter will turn up numerous other examples. For more use the link in the left index to try out some of the thousands of online "calculators" at Martindale's Calculators On-line Center that apply to thousands of subject specific areas. Explore more of such web sites from links located in the Number sub-directory of the Evoke page of the CROP model.
Handheld calculators can have probes (sensors) attached that collect data, and then the calculator in turn connects to a desktop Mac or Windows computer system and uploads the data for further analysis and exploration. For example, dip the temperature probe in a stream at different times of day and use the data to create a graph from which to discuss the changes. Such efforts have been going on in classrooms for a long time, going back to the first Palm handheld computers Real World Digital Measurement Activities for Educators: CBL or PDA Based Labs and the Dora Nelson and Arctic Travelog links. Many sources of data come from what we can count and measure with our eye and our hands using rulers, cups, thermometers and other measuring devices. The use of computers that have sensors connected gives us additional power. More accurate measurements be taken. Measurements that cannot be done by hand because they must be done too quickly or at to great a distance can be done with computer sensors. Computers also allow measurements to be taken automatically for whatever number of times are needed, whether we are asleep or not.
Just as the first computers started out as calculators, then became general purpose, so has advancing technology turned the concept of a handheld calculator into a general purpose computer. Handheld computers were also called palm computers, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and pocket computers. Unlike handheld calculators which have been around since the 1970's, handheld computers have been around since the mid-1980's with a product by Psion called The Organizer. Such devices played an increasingly important role in not only putting a computer in the hands of every student, but in giving educators unprecedent computer lab portability. This has important implications for "in the field" observations in social studies and science. These devices have ports that can hook into other electronic devices, the same sensors or probes first used in calculator based labs (CBLs). They can be used in effective combination with laptop computers and wireless computer networking. Read this composition on PDAs and the implications of the wireless portable classroom. Data was moved back and for between a PDA and computer using a cable.
With the advent of the iPhone is 2007 and then smart phones from other competitors, PDA products without cell phone chips and phone access appeared headed for obsolesence. So far though, there remains interest in a device that can run smartphone applications that use Wi-FI for net access and thereby can avoid the high monthly charges of phone network access. The remaining PDA products with a large user base are the iPod Nano and the iPod Touch though there are challengers that promote their capacity to play a wide range of games: PlayMG; Samsung Galaxy Player; Archos 5 Tablet; and Microsoft Zune HD. The Nike+ system with a sensor embedded in a shoe to report exercise and health related data to an iPod Nano or iPod Touch is one example of the potential of such non-smartphone personal devices. One can also see the wide range of touch tablets in a variety of sizes as successors to the original pocket sized PDAs.
Others see the idea of a personal digital assistant evolving into other shapes that use sensors, concepts that work better on wrists and ankles than in pockets and purses. The personal health monitoring market has emerged, what some see as the "quantified-self movement". Its PDAs fit around wrists and ankles. This includes fitness tracker devices like FitBit Flex, Nike Fuelband, Jawbone and others. Using sensors that measure motion, acceleration, skin temperature, heart beats, oxygen levels, and acceleration, they report on the duration and effectiveness of exercise, calories burned and other data and then help with goal setting and rewards. Searching for "fitness tracker comparisons" can make it possible to find information from the medical community that reviews this rapidly changing technology (Kagan, 2013). The 2014 Consumer Electronic reported sensors being used with "hundreds of products, services and solutions that use technology to make workouts and outdoor activities fun, safe and effective" (Duffy, 2014). These devices uses a variety of possible methods to report the data to larger computer systems that can analyze and display this data.
Gardening and Agriculture
Farming, from windowsills to greenhouses to thousands of acres, has found a number of uses for sensors. One new product entering the marketplace in the summer of 2014 is Plant Link, whose moisture sensors can activate water flow based on the needs of particular types of plants and send text messages to cell phones.
There is a tendency to think of physical education just in terms of sports
and exercise routines. It important to note that the areas of
art, music and dance share interesting
technology agendas with physical education, health
and medicine in the use of probes and sensors. Sensors and probes play an increasingly important
role in all of these areas. For example, for the first time sensors enable
physical education teachers to measure the precise physical activity needs of
each child and to build curriculum activities tailored for each child.
Subject specific digital tools for social studies were explored in earlier chapters. The ARC Voyager application made using digital maps and other maps tools such as ArcView easy to use in new and powerful ways. This mapping tool has particular value in social studies classes; mapping in general has application to many other all subject areas. The director of Hunter Library's Map Library is a specialist in the use of this program and is a great source of further help and assistance in its use.
The widget is a specialized application that can inserted into a Web page and other applications. The one below pulls data from resources provided by the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). One input option is to enter the campus's (28723) ZIP or some other ZIP code into the box produces a map of companies that must report their data to the EPA. Increasingly this data will be sent automatically via sensors and the raw data will become directly available to the public. It also helps students to learn and think about the geography of their local and regional area in new ways. EPA also provides a variety of other EPA widgets that work with environmental data.
Because we read, we constantly are seeing models of writing. Fortunately, school curriculum has seen the relevance of teaching writing to everyone. Writing empowers people to be creators and more capable thinkers, not just users of the work of others. We also constantly see and use the engineering of others, whether software programs, calculators, sensors, cars and radios. Unfortunately, school curriculum seldom teaches, let alone encourages, engineering. For obvious reasons of space and cost, building or manufacturing authentic houses, cars and motors cannot easily be done within schools. But that is the legacy technology of the industrial age and the last few centuries. Dealing with the most important engineering of the information age eliminates many problems with space and cost. Digital engineering is about small and often relatively cheap electronic parts and about computer programming. The cost is no greater than a software site license, well with school budgets. Further, the design and small scale engineering of various models of even manufactured items can fit into school budgets and spaces. Through the application of engineering, significant amounts of science and math can be taught in authentic or at least much more realistic settings. Giving math and science curriculum greater authenticity has been a major goal of national curriculum organizations for some time. When the nature of authenticity is examined in this context, its fundamental elements match those national goals of engineering organizations.
It is also worth noting that engineering was the first composition language. That is, before there was writing, and before there was speech, there were tool makers. The first "educational systems" would have made tool-making a significant part of the stone age curriculum. The more sophisticated a tool, the more sophisticated the spatial intelligence or awareness must become. The more steps involved, the more that long term memory was required. In our current curriculums, tool making skills have been marginalized to the point of disappearing from the common curriculum. A glance at the real culture though indicates that tool invention and making still plays a major cultural role, but that the types of tools found valuable have radically changed over the centuries and decades. Perhaps from the complexity of making their ever more sophisticated stone tools, the need for and the development of speech emerged. Perhaps it is time to reconnect the distant past with the information age and build on the synergy this would create in our common curriculum.
Students and teachers can learn to design and create software programs and electronic and other computer hardware, from computer games to thermostats to robots. This area of knowledge has been one of the most important new areas of knowledge and therefore should become one of the most important new areas of curriculum development in the information age. Regional economic councils throughout the country eagerly seek to attract companies with such knowledge workers. Having a strong collection of companies involved in information technology is considered very important in the near and long term growth of a community's economic development. Yet, an examination of the curriculum goals of many states would show that knowledge important to electronic design, including computer programming, is not required of all students in those crucial early years before high school when students are developing their awareness of different career tracks. There is little or no early exposure and positive association to these career possibilities. This may have something to do with the long term decline in the number of United States graduates from college with degrees in these areas and our country's increased dependence on hiring such workers from other countries.
Links in the left index column also explore K-8 curriculum options in electronic design, programming and robotics that need to become part of the standard public school curriculum standards in computer literacy. Visit the Circuit Sensetutorial. Distance education students should carry out these activities on their own though face-to-face classes will complete this work in class. Read through the web page on electronic composition with sensors: real world science and math. Use links in computer programming across the curriculum to the Web Turtle site to carry out some basic programming modifications using turtle geometry, and learn five major concepts about computer programming. Visit, however briefly, all the links for this chapter and be alert to possible integration into your unit plans such as some of the robotics curriculum materials.
Educators can take students to new levels of understanding and higher levels of motivation in math and science by actively integrating engineering activities, demonstrations and assignments. Engineering is just another form of composition, another way to evoke a response from ourselves and our culture. Computer literacy competencies can also make an excellent entry area for incorporating many engineering activities. If writing is composing with words, then think of engineering as composing with things. Often these things are the means to carry out important activities in science and math.
Math and science increasingly emphasize real world or authentic data collection. This may require lesson plans that address safety and training issues in handling equipment and chemicals that other content areas need not address. Physical education's use of heart monitor probes to measure and manage appropriate physical activity needs for each child requires specialized training and equipment lessons not needed in other subject areas. ARC Voyager's digital approach to maps requires lessons that integrate the study of paper maps with the computer lab based study of map and database information. Though word processing and web composition options are examples of a broad set of needs that are common across all subjects areas, each discipline or subject area is increasingly learning how to tailor technology to its own special needs.
From a K-12 student point of view, in inventing and writing this set of lesson plans, you should put special emphasis on the computer integration possibilities for students so that they incorporate the themes of this course, events which include the major concepts of each of the advanced teacher technologies as they are addressed in the remaining chapters of this class. Look for new ideas that will continue to be presented in class and then reconsider the lesson plan ideas and incorporate some element of those themes in the lessons. Determine where and what aspect of some part of these competencies will be addressed by the lessons being developed.
Section four of the unit plan represents the lesson plan activities to your Unit Plan. Add to section IV a lesson plan appropriate to your teaching situation. There are many forms or models for lesson plans provided with this chapter, including. (a current intern model for lesson plans with modification; a six point lesson plan template, a lesson plan table template; and an example of a completed lesson plan table layout). Each of these lesson plan models includes specific listing of different models and associate school costs for integrating computer technology. Section six will incorporate the culmination activity of the unit. In the next chapter, you will be asked to add a 6 point lesson plan to section six of the unit plan.
The number of lesson plans in section V depends on your timeline. In general, if your timeline section (section X.) calls for ten days of activities to meet your objectives, then section V. should have a list of eight lesson plan topics in the sequence in which they will be covered. (Since sections 4 and 6 represent two lesson plans, section five is two less than the total required.) But you are not required to write complete lesson plans for all of section five. Instead give just the objectives of the lesson plan while mentioning the computer related activities for that lesson. A high degree of computer integration is expected overall across this unit.
What are the odds of you being in an actual classroom or computer lab in Western North Carolina and able to carry out such lesson plans? The spring 1998 analysis of the data from our college survey of all 193 school buildings indicated that we had some 186 schools with Internet linked computers and that 50% of all buildings had an Internet linked computer labs at that time. Community colleges have always been well ahead of the public schools in providing access to computer technology. Things have continued to improve since that survey. Whether Internet connected or not, our region averages one computer per classroom with Internet connection and at least one computer lab in the building. Certainly computers which can use painting, word processing, database and spreadsheet applications can be made available in almost any location in which you might be teaching. A small but increasing number of classrooms however have greater availability to computers than this local and national average. In 2005, all classrooms and school computers labs have Internet access, but each student does not have access to one during their school day at their own desk. These overall local trends of slowly expanding cyberspace technologies match national trends.
The problem with the more common current setting is that a working definition of classroom adequate computer access has not been created. One definition of adequate access might be immediate availability of computer technology for any and all students as needed. A more practical and quantifiable definition might be an Internet-connected computer on-hand for each student. This ongoing problem is further covered in the essay on "Effective lesson planning that integrates computer technology: what it going to cost us?" The goal is ubiquitous computing, computer technology as available as paper technology is today. Financial considerations will delay meeting these definitions for years. The good news is that costs continue to drop and the technology continues to improve. As of March, 2004, the cost of ubiquitous computing is probably around $6,000 per classroom assuming that handheld computers prove adequate to teacher needs. Further research into such a figure is needed. Though this is beyond state, school district and community college budgets to support at this time, that figure is well within the range of teachers that seek grant funding for special initiatives in this area.
Do lesson plans have to be 6 point lesson plans? No. If your cooperating
teacher and University supervisor have approved or prefer some other lesson
format during your intern work, then use that format. For extra credit,
you may turn one or more of your listed lesson plan topics in section V.
of your unit plan into web linked fully developed 6 point lesson plans.
The sensor is just one element, though a key element, in many digital creations. These designs or electronic compositions include wires, switches, actuators, transmitters and sensors. The design might also include computer chips and mechanical parts such as gears and motors. Combine enough of these components together, and multiple forms of robots are born. Once standards are set for attaching sensors of a particular size, designers could quickly construct a wide range of basic sensing systems much like children assemble Lego bricks. In fact, as Lego has been among the early adopters of sensor technology in their products, such as the highly popular WeDo and Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits, their developments hint at the future of sensor compositions. Another instructional robotics design being widely adopted for educational STEM purposes is called Project Lead the Way.
Rapidly dropping prices, sizes and increasing capacities also hint at enormous changes that will be coming as electronic composers use these new systems in their designs (Hardy, September, 2003; for more, see Dust, Inc). Complete sensor units combined with a CPU, data storage and medium range wireless input and output are rapidly shrinking towards the size of a grain of sand, approximately 1 mm on a side, and will sell for around a dollar. Units currently the size of a 9 volt battery sold in in 2007 in the $50 to $100 range. With very low power consumption designed to last for many years, the wireless signal range of a single unit ranges from slightly longer than the length of a football field (100 yards) to a mile or more. Because such units will self-organize, passing information in bucket-brigade style from one sensor to the next, then quickly shutting down to save power, a handful of such units could report data from many square miles for years. What remains to be seen how soon an easy to use plug-and-play market will develop which does not require a programming or engineering background for basic design and composition work. Predictions about the future of sensor development are relatively clear about size. Sensors will continue to get smaller. Nanotechnology points in the direction of even smaller systems, sensor systems the size of dust particles. Smith and Nagel's review of nanotechnology-enabled sensors (November, 2003) provided a review of where current research is heading.
Though sensors can report their data through wired and wireless design, the market for them not only lacks universal standards for easy connectability, like a 110 wall plug for electrical systems, but the sensors themselves do not have standards for their immediate connection to the global Internet. Current sensor nets use a variety of network protocols. That is, sensors do not come with the built-in technology to have Internet Protocol numbers, or IP#s for short, as our smart phones, tablet, netbook, laptop and desktop computers do.
Standards for sensor Net use will be changing rapidly. Daily Channel News (Ho, 2008) reported on the observations of one of its leaders. "We've been working on IP in smart objects for two years and when we started to look at these kind of networks, there was a plethora of proprietary protocols and a lack of standardized protocols of where I can use IP in smart objects," said Jean-Philippe Vasseur, distinguished engineer at Cisco and chairman of the IPSO Alliance's Technical Advisory Board."
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) announced technical guidelines in the summer of 2009 that give a sensor its own unique Web location, enabling the data from any sensor to be just as accessible and referenceable as any document or media composition that has a current Web address (Meritt, 2008a^). The Internet Protocol for Smart Objects Alliance (IPSO) (2009^) announced in the spring of 2009 that they had "successfully demonstrated interoperability with standards-based IP networks and Internet test servers", sensors and several varieties of wireless communication (Yahoo! Finance, 2009^). The chair of the IPSO Alliance, Geoff Mulligan, noted that wireless Internet technology can be put in an under $2.00 device (Meritt, 2008b^). Market analysts predict that current trends will have a major impact. "By year end 2012, physical sensors will create 20 percent of non-video internet traffic" (Gartner, 2009).
At the same time that the Internet of Things has raised the visibility and value of sensors embedded in things, the equally significant digital fabrication movement discussed in the chapters on 3D, has popularized the ability to use digital technology to make things. These things are "printed" in desktop-sized robot factories like 3D printers. These two enormous movements are beginning to merge. Sensors can and increasingly will be printed within and as an integral part of the thing being created, not added later. One promising technology is carbomorph, a plastic like material that enables the creation of electronic sensors using low-cost 3D printers (3Ders, 2012) such as flex sensors and touch sensitive buttons. At a next higher level of design, the 3D printer would use one of its nozzles to add electrical circuits and then a circuit board is added later. As prices fall and technique improves with advances such as nano-scale assembly, the entire circuit board will be printed as well (Emrick &Pentzer, 2013).
The implications are endless, from the mundane to the serious. Given past history with the current Web and the immediate value of sensor data, it is possible that Internet based sensor use will have as stratospheric an impact on culture as has the growth of the Web to date. Searching Google for the Internet of Things is one way to stay current with the Web sites and News stories that are tracking this rapidly progressing development.