Parent Teacher Conference

Cross posted here: Parent Teacher Conference

Mrs. Johnson, thank you for meeting with me today. As you know, I have some concerns about your little Johnny. Yesterday, whilst we were visiting the Old School. It’s a module in our history of the 21st century. You wouldn’t believe some of the things they did back then. All the children in a room together, all those germs and infections. It’s a wonder any of them survived it, frankly. Anyway, we entered the computer lab. Remember those from the history vids? Desks again, and each one had a box, a computer, and on the box was a monitor, an actual physical display. Get this, they each had a physical keyboard. Qwerty, if you can believe it. Just imagine. So to get to the point, Johnny reaches out and picks up a mouse, one of those input devices? I didn’t even know the sim allowed for that kind of interaction. So Johnny picks up the mouse, and all of a sudden he starts looking pale, and his avatar wobbles a bit, and then he flips off his vid feed. Poor dear starts retching. I can hear it. The whole class can hear it. He forgot to mute his audio. This type of  physical reaction is rare, but it might indicate an underlying allergic condition to digital environments. We’re all very concerned about Johnny and think you should send him to a specialist for an evaluation. I know it’s a bit of a shock; please don’t cry. I’m sure he’ll be alright.

Powering the Next Generation of Classroom Devices

At a minimum, in order for classroom devices to be effective, they need to be portable, easy to manage, connect to a network, and stay powered for a whole day.

Portable is easy. We’ve had laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks for many years now. Pick one up and take it to anyplace in the room. We are definitely in a post-desktop era for classroom devices.

Easy is hard. While there are solutions for any class of device, there is still an overhead of management, and that usually means people, which are expensive. In my district, Chromebooks shift most management to the district level, which is helpful from a classroom perspective. The less a teacher or school has to do to use classroom technology, the more likely the classroom technology will be used. This is one knock against current VR solutions.

Network is hard and easy. There are many considerations for classroom wireless networks, and faster, more reliable, standards are helping to provide a robust network for classroom devices. Lots goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen, but we’ve cut that ethernet cord for good.

Power is also hard. Charging carts are helpful, and batteries are getting better all the time when they aren’t exploding, but we need to cut the cord on power, or sidestep the need to plug in devices at all and find other sources of power. Two recent developments (for future possible deployments in actual products) might move us forward toward the day when devices stay powered up on their own without us unreliable humans having to plug them in. See one idea for a panel that could provide wireless power for a classroom, and another idea to improve induction charging.

Power is the weak link in the chain, at this point. In order for classroom devices to reach their potential, we need better solutions to keep our devices up and running anywhere at any time.

I’m Feeling Old

https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/previouslists/2016/

Always an interesting list. The ones that jumped out at me:

  • A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.
  • Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
  • Gene therapy has always been an available treatment.
  • They watch television everywhere but on a television.
  • Pulp Fiction’s meal of a “Royale with Cheese” and an “Amos and Andy milkshake” has little or no resonance with them.
  • Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.

What changes have you seen that your students have always taken as the way things have always been?

Super Duper Computers

News this week comes of a new record set for supercomputer class processing power. A Chinese computer with running on 10,000,000 processing cores now runs at 93 petaflops per second. More info here:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/06/10-million-core-supercomputer-hits-93-petaflops-tripling-speed-record/

Also this week comes news of a single chip boasting 1,000 cores that can be powered by a AA battery. More info here:

http://www.futurity.org/kilocore-chip-1000-processors-1185992-2

Not sure which is more impressive, but it occurs to me that in very short order people are going to be seriously underpowered when it comes to processing power. That’s going to be interesting. I hope we don’t get to the point where we question our own decision making ability when we have these super duper computers around in a ubiquitous fashion. Yes, I like using the word ubiquitous.

What do you think?

Do The Blockchain

Bitcoin chartNice TechCrunch article explaining the blockchain. If you haven’t heard about it yet, think bitcoin and distributed computing. Then read the article to get a better explanation than I can provide.

The idea of distributed and immutable trust got me to thinking about the implications for education. Can a blockchain be leveraged for student data, and better yet, if you could tack student data this way, should you? At what point is information about our students too much information?

Something to think about. I hope you’ll take a moment and learn something we’ll likely all need to know more about: blockchain. It’s in your future.

http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/11/the-blockchain-is-the-new-google/ 

Amazon Education

What does it mean when a company the size of Amazon (okay, in this case it actually is Amazon, but extrapolate to any corporation – Pearson – that seemingly prints their own currency) decides to ‘revolutionize’ education? While there aren’t a lot of details available, Amazon seems to be positioning themselves as the platform for education, whatever that means.

Here’s a quote from the sign-up page if you want Amazon to contact you when there is more info:

The future of education is open. Someday soon, educators everywhere will have free and unlimited access to first-class course materials from a revolutionary platform.

Previously, Amazon bought TenMarks, a popular math education resource, and they’ve been active in pushing their e-readers into the education space, as well as their e-books, but do we (teachers/education in general) benefit from tying our course materials to a company like Amazon? If our stuff is ‘free’ but only within the Amazon platform, is it really free?

For further consideration, maybe I’ll follow-up this post with some thoughts about ‘course materials’ but if you have any thoughts or reactions to this, leave something in the comments.

More information can be found here: http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/11/amazon-eyes-up-education-plans-a-free-platform-for-learning-materials/