Real-life technology

By Andy Lyon. Posted

Originally published in Hello World Issue 19: Sustainability and Computing, June 2022. All information true at the time of original publishing.

How can we capture our students’ imaginations? Andy Lyon outlines how educators can relate lessons to practical uses of technology in everyday life

When trying to inspire the students who sit before me, I find nothing grips their attention more than when I relate what I’m teaching to things I have done in my personal life. I have also noticed, when I have mentored non-specialist computing teachers, that bringing in their own practical uses of technology can be incredibly beneficial to their pedagogy in the classroom. On the one side, students become far more engaged and inquisitive, and on the other side, teachers start seeing the many links between teaching computing and the digital world.

In the ‘Real-world examples’ below, you will find some experiences of ‘technology in the wild’ that I have previously drawn upon in my classes. As I’m sure you’re aware, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, and none of this was possible just ten short years ago. What will become possible in the next ten years? I for one am excited to see the progress!

Real-world examples

Travel cards

Travel cards can be used for more than just travel. I use them to gain entry to local public parks across the city — a unique and novel use for them. They just need topping up and then swiping at an entry gate, which is all very efficient.

  • Computing topic links: Digital literacy/becoming a digital citizen

Live webcam footage of tourist destinations

You can view live webcam footage of many tourist attractions to see how busy the area is, which can help you decide whether or not to visit that day.

  • Computing topic links: Digital literacy/becoming a digital citizen

Car park payment via WhatsApp

I’m sure we are all up to speed with the increase in the use of mobile apps to pay for parking. However, I recently discovered that you can also pay for parking by sending a correctly formatted WhatsApp message to the number of the local authority. Mind-blowing! In general, I have seen a vast increase in the number of businesses using WhatsApp as more than just the messaging platform most of us know it as.

  • Computing topic links: Communication and networks

Automation apps

When the sun bears down brightly in my classroom and makes the projector screen too difficult to view, automation apps come into play. Blinds can be lowered from the ceiling at the push of a button on a school tablet (or on a daily schedule), which really helps to quash the excuses when students say they can’t see the questions on the board to complete the displayed exam questions!

  • Computing topic links: Algorithms and programming

USB ports on public transport

While using contactless payment for local transport is quite commonplace in today’s connected cities, other transport perks are not as well known. We rely on our devices, so it can often be a saviour when we find USB ports on modes of public transport across the city, including metros, trams, and buses. They have saved me, and many students I teach, numerous times!

  • Computing topic links: The bigger picture

Digital loyalty cards

Let’s not forget that teacher staple — coffee! On many mornings, I use a digital loyalty card stored in my phone’s wallet to collect as many points as possible in the hopes of a free coffee in the near future!

  • Computing topic links: Digital literacy/becoming a digital citizen


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