Editor's Letter Insights

The Embedded Classroom

Written by Sam Wallace
September 2023 – Issue #398
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#397 Table of Contents

When I was a kid, September meant back to school. That’s still true in many places in the US, but in Virginia, where I am currently typing these words, the first day of school was rolled back to mid-August sometime in the last few years. Nevertheless, September is hardwired in me as back-to-school month, perhaps especially so because of my years as a teacher. I still get excited at the approach of Fall, as if I’m going to see all my friends again after the summer break. I still experience the calendar year equivalent of Sunday blues in the last few weeks of August. I still feel an urge to buy pencils and notebooks I don’t need when I pass the school supplies section in a store.

Anyway, I’m thinking about school this month. Working as a teacher in the 21st century was a blessing and a curse, both. Every single class period began with a struggle to make sure all of my students had put their smartphones in their designated pockets in the organizer hanging on the classroom wall, and even then there was always one sly student who had somehow managed to hang onto their phone. The fight for everyone’s attention—let alone interest—in the age of screens is a never-ending battle, and woe is the teacher who dares give an assignment involving the Internet.
Still, I’m not ungrateful for the fact that the students and I had access to resources and information unheard of just 20 years ago, thanks to the Internet. Lesson plans were significantly easier to draft than they must have once been, and if I was short on ideas for communicating a certain concept, there were endless videos online to supplement our class discussions.

Yet I often felt that some of my colleagues were overly keen to technologize every last part of their curriculum. I thought there was something to be said for working with your hands, and for a good ol’ fashioned lesson once in a while. This feeling became especially pronounced during the first year of the pandemic, when everyone had to resort to remote learning. Social distancing needed to happen, but the quality of students’ learning experiences suffered significantly, despite our best efforts to pivot effectively to online classes. I came out of that experience deeply skeptical of the optimistic claims of education technologies’ proponents.

But there can be no doubt that technology will continue to present enormous opportunities to students. With the boom in AI and IoT technology, students in the near future will doubtless have their own set of remarkable advantages (and persistent struggles) that previous generations didn’t deal with. So my question to our readers is: where do you see embedded systems in the classroom of the future? How can we use technology to the advantage of young minds without it also becoming a hindrance to them?

Chris Cantrell has an answer in this month’s issue. He participates each year in the FIRST Lego League Challenge. His article details the construction of his latest Lego hat (complete with microcontroller) for the event, and you can feel his excitement for how FIRST brings science and engineering to kids in a fun and challenging format. Meanwhile, Matthew Oppenheim and Steve Hodges detail their versatile assistive technology interface—a solution that most certainly overlaps with the concerns of access to education for all students.

I know there are exciting embedded devices ready to be deployed in the classroom, either already on the market or as a spark of an idea in one of our reader’s brains. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What is the future of embedded tech in education? In the meantime, thanks for reading.

Issue Table of Contents can be found here,
as articles are made available online they will be linked.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • SEPTEMBER #398 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Editor-in-Chief at KCK Media Corp.

Sam Wallace - became Circuit Cellar's  Editor-In-Chief in August 2022.
His experience in writing, editing, and teaching will provide a great perspective on the selection, presentation, and clarity of editorial content. The Circuit Cellar audience will benefit from his strong academic background encompassing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors. His passion for learning and teaching is a great fit for Circuit Cellar's continuing mission of Inspiring the Evolution of Embedded Design.

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The Embedded Classroom

by Sam Wallace time to read: 3 min