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Three Game Changing Tools That Will Transform Education

I’m blessed with the opportunity to send my children to a private school that uses both the community and many of the creative and technological tools possible to educate. There is no resource they are not afraid to use and I love them for it. I’ve seen them ask a parent with DJ skills to teach music curation or deploy an Iranian Grandparent to further explore the conflict in that region. The school my children attend has everything they need to be successful through leadership that thinks beyond limits or boundaries.

I’m blessed with the opportunity to send my children to a
private school that uses both the community and many of the creative and
technological tools possible to educate. There is no resource they are not afraid to use and I love them for it. I’ve
seen them ask a parent with DJ skills to teach music curation or deploy an
Iranian Grandparent to further explore the conflict in that region. The school my children attend has
everything they need to be successful through leadership that thinks beyond
limits or boundaries. This spirit transfers to our own home where my wife and I
utilize a “surround sound” digital approach to compliment what my kids receive
during the school day..

With this as a backdrop I am constantly thinking about
non-traditional tools that I believe will have a significant impact on the
future of education. Much like my own kids’ school, I think about how to
educate my children outside of the four traditional walls of a classroom. What’s cool is that there’s some great technology out there that
allows for an expansion of the four walls of a traditional classroom. Here are three
tools to consider:

Microsoft Xbox

Microsoft’s best in-road into the hearts and most importantly
the minds of educating young people is to extend all the digital real estate
they now control in our homes. Truth is, the Xbox gaming system has the ability
to be so much more than a place to battle opponents or strum our plastic
guitars. As an effort to combat
the lack of students studying computing subjects, Microsoft launched Kodu Game
Lab
. Kodu is a visual programming language for kids described as an
“end to end creative environment for designing, building and playing your own
new games.” Kodu was originally launched for the Xbox but today has expanded to
include the PC. This new educational breakthrough from Redmond, WA obviously
makes Louise Dorrian happy. Miss Dorrian is a music teacher at Lodge Park
Technology College in Corby, Northamptonshire (UK) and she uses Xbox in her
teaching environment. “… I am very interested in how technology can be
used to engage students and to make learning fun,” she says via email. “One
particular project which I am involved in at the moment is using an Xbox to develop
students singing skills and also their confidence when performing in front of
their peers. The students have responded very positively to the project and are
very keen to sing using the Xbox! I think one of the reasons the project is
successful is because the Xbox is something students can relate to and
something they view as a fun activity, which releases the pressure of formal
assessment. This isn’t to say that the students aren’t learning and developing
their skills, of course they are, but this method seems to put students at ease
more and get the enjoyment factor whilst being a valid learning experience at
the same time.” Further details of the project can be found at louisedorrian.spaces.live.com

Promethean ActivBoard Mobile System

When I grew up and went to school at Palo Alto —
even though this area was becoming a tech hotbed, we still learned the
old fashioned way with chalkboards, permanently mounted to a wall painted a
dull green. Today my kids literally have the world at their fingertips with
these very cool interactive whiteboards they all call “Promethean boards” but
in fact are officially called “ActivBoards.” Rumor has it, the company, Promethean is about to come out
with a rolling version of these ActivBoards, the ActivBoard Mobile System. And
truth is, I can officially confirm the rumor as Promethean is a client of
mine! It’s like a technological adaptation of the one-room schoolhouse. Only this is a one-room-school house on
wheels. The new Promethean ActivBoard Mobile System allows a Spanish teacher to
switch hats in the middle of the day and become a Math teacher and not have to be
bound by the same actual classroom. Think of the opportunities when you have
the ability to open up the experience and become a mobile classroom.

One of the things that warms my heart is when I drive by my kids school and see them
outside, under a tree, with a teacher. During what they call “short term,” kids
are encouraged to take classes based on their passions. It is not out of the
ordinary to see an entire group of students, outside, practicing Tai Chi. The
Promethean ActivBoard Mobile System will allow all teachers, even those in less
open enviroments to be more mobile and creative with their classrooms.

Apple iPad

Since the moment the iPad arrived in my home, my
kids have been glued to this device. My 9th grader is already envisioning a high school
career with no heavy textbooks. Think of the kids backs that will be saved when
they can carry all their textbooks around in a 1.5 pound device!. For
publishers this sets up an opportunity for students and teachers to “rent” iPad
textbooks not to mention create books that literally “fly off the page.”
Starting in the fall semester of 2010 Seton Hill University in Greensburgh, PA
will give each full time student at the Catholic liberal arts college an iPad.
“Those big heavy textbooks that kids go around with in their backpacks are
going to be a thing of the past,” said Mary Ann Gawelek vice president of
academic affairs at Seton Hill said in Wired .
For Apple this marks a return to education; a space they had a 50% share of in
the 1980’s. These days they hover at only 20% and many say this product will be
their entry back into a very different market, but one that caters Apple. The
blogosphere is alive and on fire with iPad + Educational communities geared toward
creating the conversation around the iPad. There seems to be a genuine
excitement over this device despite some of the initial challenges we were hearing.
At George Washington University, students and faculty have been frustrated by
not being able to get on the college campus network. Seton Hill has had to
quadruple its bandwidth, extend wireless coverage and train staff. According to
The Chronicle, the new technology program will cost each student an additional
$500 in fees.

Despite what many would see as extreme and
disruptive measures to prepare for the iPad, Seton Hill is taking the right steps
to accommodate for a game-changing device. Sure they had to ramp up their pipes
but if it weren’t the iPad it surely would have been another device. The future
looks bright for students and faculty who will be a big part of the growth of a
new category in personal computing.

It’s hard to imagine what my daughter’s class of
2020 will be doing in their Senior year of high school. It is certain that the
introduction of digital and social technologies has developed an entire new
world of mind-blowing possibilities. I watch her whiz through my recently purchased
iPad with ease I hadn’t even seen with my much older teen. In one short week, she
has already read two books, drawn some great sketches and become a pretty
competitive scrabble player, all on the iPad. Her world in 2020 will look very
different and be full of promise. My only hope is that she continues to take
that spirit of technology and education and love of learning without walls to
the next level.

About the author

I spend my time at the epicenter of where digital/social content, conversations and culture all converge. As the founder of Social People I advise clients on how to tell stories and engage their customers via the use of online/mobile tools and the social web.

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