Yes, it’s the start of a new year, and everyone’s posting their “Technology to Watch” posts, so who am I to buck the trend? I’m not going to make any claims that any of these will be revolutionary or a breakthrough for education. Frankly, I just think they’re cool and like to imagine what they’d look like in school.
1. Loaning Your eBooks to a Friend
I like books. I like eBooks. I’m just as comfortable reading from paper as I am the screen. There are two disadvantages, though minor, that eBooks have over physical books. One, is the lack of a visible bookshelf. When I walk into a colleague’s office, one of the first things I do is scan the titles. You can tell a great deal about a person by what they put on their bookshelf (here’s mine). I also like to loan books. It’s been frustrating not to be able to loan out my copy of Dan Pink’s Drive because it’s an Apple eBook. However, Amazon has just announced that you’ll soon be able to loan your Kindle books to your friends, and they don’t even have to have a Kindle! It will work on the iPad/iPod/Android Kindle app as well. Very, very cool, and great implications for school libraries!
Interface is everything. The computer is becoming increasingly invisible. I believe this is a good thing, because we’re starting to see the power that computer-based instruction can really offer to learners of all ages. You should see my three-year-old with an iPad! Sifteos are a perfect example of this. These little blocks are actually individual little computers. They sense each other, motion, and communicate wirelessly to your computer. You really need to watch the video on their website or see David Merrill’s demonstration at TED to grasp the concept. I see real potential here for the classroom, especially for lower grades and for students with disabilities.
3. The Rise of the App
The days of going to Wal-Mart or your local GameStop to grab the latest software or video game may soon be a thing of the past. The idea of apps (application software) isn’t new, but emerging platforms like the tablet computer and web-based operating systems like Google’s ChromeOS, are perfect for small, focused programs designed to meet a specific need. The ease of access to these apps is also a huge factor. No more discs to lose or scratch! We’ve already seen these in the mobile market, but now, these apps are coming to your desktop computer as well! Have you seen the Mac App Store? What about the education apps you can get for your Chrome browser? I see, in the near future, a situation in which a classroom teacher can choose and offer to students apps specific to their needs. Talk about individualizing instruction!
4. Media Streaming
Media streaming is nothing new, but what’s changing is accessibility. Take Netflx and Hulu for example. Now you can stream from a vast library of movies and television and you’re no longer confined to watching on your laptop! Gaming systems like the XBox 360 and Playstation are incorporating these services as features. You can also access via mobile devices like your iOS or Android-based devices. Add to the list AppleTV, Roku, and the Boxee Box and suddenly, the idea of a-la-carte media is a possibility! As Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), an #edtech Twitter contact mentioned, ditching his $70 cable bill and using Roku along with Netflix and Hulu+, will be lowering his media costs to $16! Many new TV’s and Blue-Ray players will have this functionality built in as well. Another very cool aspect of these devices is that they make Web-only broadcast outlets like TWiT.tv and Revision3 easily accessible. What are the implications for the classroom? Again, accessibility. Delivering just-in-time media to your students to reinforce learning is becoming a reality!
5. Augmented Reality (and QR Codes)
This one is still largely in it’s infancy, however, some aspects of augmented reality are usable in the classroom today. In short, augmented reality is when we use technology to augment information in the real world, in real time. Many smart phone apps like Layar allow you to superimpose a layer of information over what your phone’s camera displays (watch this video). For example, you might look through the camera to see the location of nearby Twitter users or to find a favorite local restaurant. I consider QR (Quick Response) codes a subset of augmented reality. QR codes are those square little bar codes you’re bound to see popping up around this year. What do they do? With your smart phone or a device like a 4th Gen iPod Touch, you can scan the code and be taken directly to related web-based content. There are tons of classroom applications here. I’m putting together a collection of resources here and Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) has assembled a great LiveBinder on the topic of QR codes.
6. XBox Kinect
Motion-based gaming hit the mainstream with the Nintendo Wii. Playstation has gotten into the market with the Playstation Move Controller. So, it’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to capture a portion of the active gaming marketplace. The difference? The Kinect doesn’t have a controller! This means no replacing batteries and no smashed flat screen TV when your controller flies out of your hand during intense tennis matches. However, surprisingly, my interest here isn’t particularly about gaming. What fascinates me is what people are doing “hacking” the Kinect. Yes, the Kinect will work with your desktop computer and Microsoft is OK with it. In fact, a robust community of Kinect tinkerers actively share their ideas on the OpenKinect.org wiki. How will this sort of technology impact the classroom? It’s hard to say. Gesture-based input is very promising, though. I’ll be watching closely!
2011 promises to be an exciting year for education and technology. It’s a great time to be in the classroom! So what technologies are on YOUR radar? Leave a comment!