Thursday, May 6, 2010

Emerging Tech for Students

This week I am preparing for another Future Technology Conference presentation at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI on May 10th. This year's presentation will focus on "Emerging Technologies for Students to Transform Teaching and Learning."  This new presentation idea originated from the  inspiring 2010 Horizon Report findings and working with k-12 students this past year.  I have been actively listening and observing how students and teachers are consuming and producing information as self-directed learners, and my bystander and facilitation insights have left me in awe this past year.  A few of the tools below and many others will be showcased in my spotlight session at FTC.

Now- Cloud Computing and Collaborative Environments
The Horizon Report is accurate in stating that the k-12 sector is actively tapping into and utilizing "cloud computing" environments.  As outlined in the report, cloud computing “can offer significant cost savings in terms of IT support, software, and hardware expenses. It has become common for schools to use cloud-based applications to manage calendars, rosters, grade books, and communication between school and home.” Google Apps and integration for the k-12 classroom is evident in the Midwest.  With the high cost of renewing Microsoft software, alternative solutions have now been on the budgetary forefront to assist districts with cost effective measures to leverage their dollars with getting the same results.  Districts are "working smarter rather than harder" and collaborating between multiple districts to share knowledge, resources and PD trainers to benefit everyone's working knowledge-base and to ease the pain on the school districts' already tapped pocket books. 

The second technology, also likely to be adopted in 12 months or less is collaborative environments,  online spaces where people can work in groups and they’re typically used for collaborative creation of content and as social networking spaces. Teachers are finding they can connect their classrooms with classrooms across town or in another part of the country or world, and their students can actually work with these local, regional, or global classrooms.  Students can compare, contrast and analyze the differences between cultures or environments, and the students can work together to create digital products with individuals they may  never meet in person. The choice in the Midwest is a large creation of blogs, wikis and nings as a collaboration tool, but as a learning management system we are seeing a surge in the Moodle environment. 

Other alternatives that I have recently investigated more in detail are the LMS' or Edmodo and EDU20.  Both of these tools offer the best of both worlds of a LMS and collaborative networking environment.  These LMS' include the components of blogs and wikis, but offer the choice for online collaboration of dynamic groups and a full blown LMS of online and blending learning options for coursework.  The "cloud" makes the online learning environment very attractive to network admins for little or minimal network maintenance, but attractive to k-12 educators to create a dynamic online portals to offer blended learning opportunities to their students for FREE.  Yes, I said it- for FREE.  

Game-Based Learning and Mobile: 2-3 Years   The time-to-adoption horizon is two to three years for a specific category of game-based learning is open-ended, challenge-based, truly collaborative games — but they have tremendous potential to transform education, according to the report. “Games like these, can draw on skills for research, writing, collaboration, problem-solving, public speaking, leadership, digital literacy, and media-making,” the report states. “When embedded in the curriculum, they offer a path into the material that allows the student to learn how to learn along with mastering, and truly owning, the subject matter.”

Urgent Evoke is a game occurring right now and has the tagline “A crash course in saving the world.” It has over 15,000 players right now, and every week there’s a new theme for the quest. The quests are all related to major global problems such as hunger, poverty, women’s rights, water, sustainability, electricity, the future of money. Each week there’s a lesson where you have to learn about, teach and take action on the topic, and you have to imagine what the world would be like 10 years from now if these actions were carried out. This week, Urgent Evoke is helping to evoke change in the lives of women

When I have asked students at target grade levels of freshman through seniors in high school what interests them in a future career, 78% have responded to a career in gaming, creating strategy techniques/guides and game simulation software. They then respond- I wish this was a "real job" and I respond "It is!" and point them in the right direction to local and regional tech schools and universities with these career options.  They are then pumped and excited noting these career opportunities even exists. I beleive by many of their responses- that a career in gaming is frowned upon by many of their parents and guardians, and they turn to other career outs due to their "parents" do not see this an "acceptable career option."  Oh boy, I think we need to educate the adult parents all over again!!!

The fourth technology on the second horizon is mobiles, and an enormous number and wide variety of mobile devices are available globally. In fact, Smith said, “the cell network is bigger than the electricity grid globally.” And the range and number of educational applications for mobiles are growing at a rapid pace, according to the report, “yet their use in schools is limited — more often constrained by policy than by the capabilities of the devices they run on.”

When I presented in South Africa this past year, cell phone use in schools was an accepted practice to create student digital projects, and a tool to promote and extend learning in and out of the classroom.  "What a novel idea!"  Since in Africa they are limited to computer labs, they use the tools that are prevalent with their students, and focus their energy on the available resources- all the while instilling, modeling and promoting effective digital citizenship practices and skill sets. 

Five Years: Augmented Reality and Flexible Displays               Augmented reality is a term for a view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are enlarged or increased by computer-generated imagery, and according to the report, it “has strong potential to provide both powerful, contextual, in situ learning experiences and serendipitous exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world.” It does this by opening the door to discovery-based learning, and Missouri’s Flynn Park Elementary School is giving it a try: Working with the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center near St. Louis the elementary school participated in a National Science Foundation-funded grant program called Local Investigations of Natural Science ( LIONS) to build and play augmented reality games in science and history.