Posted by: crudbasher | July 30, 2014

How Not To Do One Laptop Per Child

On Monday I talked about how difficult it was to give each child a laptop and make the system work. Here’s a story that perfectly illustrates that.

H/T Arstechica

One school district in Hoboken, New Jersey has decided to abandon its one-to-one laptop program for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Ultimately, the Hoboken School District decided the scheme was more trouble than it was worth—even when supported by federal grants.


Jerry Crocamo, a district network engineer, told The Hechinger Report that despite his colleagues’ best efforts to keep the laptops in perfect working order, there was an average of six new repair cases every day. The issues varied: cracked screens, dead batteries, malware infections, and more.

Also in the article was the revelation that there was only one user name and password to access the school network. This meant anyone nearby who had it could access the network.

Ok I have said this many times but let me spell this out.

Here is what you have to do to implement laptop in schools (in order of difficulty)

  1. Secure funding for laptops.
  2. Distribute the laptops.
  3. Create a robust and secure network infrastructure. (large corporations do this all the time)
  4. Create sufficient resources to maintain the devices and loan replacements.
  5. Create lessons based on apps and programs every student will have access to.
  6. Modify the way classes work from lecture based to a more flipped learning model where laptops in class are relevant.
  7. Teach something the students actually want to learn so they would rather use their laptops for the lesson rather than messing around in class.

Those are what you need to do. Notice though that once the first step (the easiest step) is done the politicians can pat themselves on the back and say they support education.

It’s nearly an impossible task. My hat is off to any district that is making this work.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 28, 2014

Chasing The Wave : The Ed Tech Problem

The rapid advance of technology creates some problems with adopting new tech for schools. Consider the humble cassette recorder.

cassette recorder

One of these was my first musical device back in the early 1980s. Mine had two players so you could play on one and record on the other. It made mix tapes practical. Most of this would consider this old technology and yet music companies still produce cassette tapes and even players. My point is though, a cassette tape purchased today can be played on a player purchased 30 years ago. When schools bought this technology it was a one time purchase. There was no real upgrade cycle. Oh sure you had to replace them periodically for attrition reasons but the basic technology didn’t change.

So take today’s technology. Do you think that an iPad purchased for school today will be able to do anything in 30 years? How about 20? No, the fact of the matter is these devices become obsolete very rapidly. My original iPad is only 4 years old but is pretty much useless for anything modern.

One reason is because the real innovation is happening in the software space. The hardware just evolves to keep up with that. Another reason is the acceleration of innovation. Things are being developed much faster. Now that these design tools are in the hands of individuals (and financed via Kickstarter and such) innovation is coming from everyone. This drives the wave of change faster and faster.

Schools who try to keep up find themselves spending a vast amount of money and seeing the technology becoming obsolete before they even get a chance to figure out how to use it. Meanwhile the students are leaps and bounds beyond the tech level of their schools and are riding that wave of change.

This isn’t likely to change any time soon. This is one of the reasons I believe the bring your own device movement is the best way for technology to be implemented in schools. Spend the school resources on network infrastructure and teacher training, and let the students figure out the devices.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 25, 2014

Video Interview With Elon Musk

I think that history will remember Elon Musk in the same breath as Edison and Ford. Therefore, I tend to listen to what he says.

Now how can we get him to revolutionize the way we learn? :)

Posted by: crudbasher | July 23, 2014

Wireless Virtual Reality

I’m a bit skeptical about this one.

H/T Gizmodo

Subjects in the lab wear markers and are tracked down to the nearest millimeter using infra-red cameras and markers with the same technology used in cinema for motion capture. The system knows exactly where they are, where they are headed and where they are looking. This takes it well beyond the capabilities of the current Oculus Rift.

The key to the immersive experience is that there are no cables attached to the person, who can wander freely through the room.

There is a video too.

In theory this can work. Our brains control our bodies based on electrical impulses generated by our eyes. If you can generate a perfect virtual world, then our brains can be fooled. The problem with the system in the video is it is far from perfect fidelity. I know this is just a prototype but you will have problems with people falling over. The headset doesn’t provide a wide field of view. Our balance is based in part on our eyes peripheral vision.

Even so, in controlled situations this can be an interesting tool. I would be very interested in seeing a multi player version. You can imagine a class of students using this to explore a virtual model of a car or other vehicle.

It’s a cool experiment but it will be very hard to get it to work effectively.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 18, 2014

13yr Old Creates His Own Google Glass

Heh I love stuff like this.

Thanks to my friend Amy Barnabi!

H/T Makezine

When Clay Haight was 8 years old, his grandfather bought him a book that explained how things were made and how to repair everyday appliances. He caught the bug and has been fascinated with making ever since. He’s tried his hand at electronics, robotics, and other DIY projects, many of which he found in Make: magazine.


Clay’s DIY “Google Glass” uses the sensors on the Arduino Esplora along with the Arduino LCD screen and a 3D printed frame. He can use voice commands to bring up a calendar with his schedule, local maps, and temperature and weather info. A headband on the back keeps it from tilting to one side.

What is happening here is the components are becoming very cheap to make and they can interface with each other via software. The result is what I have been saying for a few years. The Internet is going to empower the creative. This kid can make a difference because not only can he build this, but he can also send the instructions around the world for free.


(so how do you keep this child interested in school when he is forced to learn about things that are on the test?)

Posted by: crudbasher | July 17, 2014

Progress In Machine Generated Content

I am convinced that any future learning system will have to work on a global scale. It will also have to be personalized for each student. In order for this to happen, most of the content will have to be created by machines. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and others are all working on machine vision and various related systems. Amazon’s new Fire phone has a feature where you can take a picture of an object and it will tell you what it is (and how to buy it). Microsoft has announced that they have a system that can interpret what it looks at pretty well.

H/T Gizmodo

This morning at the annual Research Faculty Summit, Microsoft showed off a pretty impressive advancement in its AI tech. An app, entitled Project Adam, is poised to identify all of its surroundings just like a Fire Phone without the merch hooks. The app is still in development but shows promising results.

Here’s the demo video.

I cannot overstate how much of a disruptive innovation this can be. When computers can see as well (and then better) than human, vast amounts of jobs will be able to be replaced. It will be the merging of the digital world and the real world.

So how long will it take for an app to come along where you point your phone at an object and say, “teach me about this”?

Technology is moving forward in a thousand tiny ways, getting ready to be combined into new products and ways to enhance the human experience.


Posted by: crudbasher | July 16, 2014

Cameras Spreading Everywhere

Cameras are a godsend to teachers. Let’s face it, we can lecture about something and have students read textbooks about it but a picture speaks a thousand words.

With the rise of miniature cameras you can pretty much capture anything you want. With the advent of cell phones, you can live stream this to the world. I predicted we would see this in sporting events pretty soon.

Well, sure enough…

H/T New York Times

While it is still early in the experiment, it appears many professional riders, who generally are particular about adding anything to their bikes, are enthusiastic about doubling up as camera operators.

It would seem to make sense to live stream this but experiments with that seem to indicate at least for a long event like this people would rather watch an edited video.

Julien Goupil, the media director for the Tour, said that the organization experimented with live transmissions from a bike using a dedicated motorcycle to capture the signal at a small race in the Netherlands last year. On the whole, Goupil said, the result wasn’t as good as the edited product.

“If nothing is happening, the picture is nothing,” he said. “We need to make something sexy.”

Fascinating stuff. I still think streaming video could work for some sports. Now what will really be cool is a set of cameras capturing a full 360 degrees, coupled with a VR headset like Oculus Rift. It would seem like you are really on the bike. That however is a few more years off.

Here’s a video explaining how the cameras are setup and some actual footage.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 15, 2014

LeapTV – A Game Console For The Youngest

LeapFrog is a company that makes educational type devices for little children. They just unveiled a new game console that is designed to let little kids have a fun educational experience on their TVs.

H/T Gizmodo

LeapFrog says LeapTV will offer a library of over 100 proprietary games and videos available via game cartridge or download. Each game is curated by LeapFrog to offer age-appropriate educational fun. Assumedly, the killshot is a developmental target that lands somewhere after eight years old.

LeapTV will hit shelves in time for the 2014 holiday season at $150 for the system, $30 for each game cartridge, with downloadable games and apps starting at $5. With a wireless Wii-like remote and body-tracking camera, it tries to give younger kids the same sort of gaming capabilities that their older siblings likely enjoy.

So what can we learn from this? Well, it’s clear the cost of entry to the video game console market has significantly dropped. The potential market for this system is fairly niche so that means the business model can work even that that limited level. That makes sense though because even a midrange smartphone can power something like this.

Longer term this means that kids entering K-12 will have a different idea as to what it means to learn. Learning to them will be fun. How excited to you suppose they will be while cramming for their first standardized test?

Posted by: crudbasher | July 14, 2014

Ted Talk – 30 Years Of Predicting The Future

Here is a video of MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte reviewing his past 30 years of predictions about the future. (Spoiler alert: he was mostly right)

The money moment for me come right at the very end where he is asked to make a new prediction. He said that in 30 years we will learn things by swallowing a pill with the information which then becomes available in our brains.

So… what happens to schools then?

These are the sorts of things that interest me. Massive disruptive forces. Enjoy.

Posted by: crudbasher | July 10, 2014

Another Step Towards Smart Toys

I had heard about MOSS Robotics about a year ago but they are finally shipping.

H/T Gizmodo

MOSS is a modular building toy that allows anyone to easily build semi-intelligent robotic creations without the need for a computer, programming know-how, or any prior experience with building bots.

It may sound similar to existing robotic building sets, but the components that make up the MOSS sets connect to each other using metal ball bearings and magnets, instead of the traditional plastic interlocking studs. MOSS introduces a radically new way to build where the connectors not only hold components together, but also allow them to bend, move, and pivot, all depending on how they’ve been attached to each other.

What’s that mean in practice? Since all of the ‘programming’ is dependent on how you’ve connected the various MOSS components, experimentation and trial and error is made easier and more enjoyable. The process is part of the fun.

Note that last paragraph? Experimentation, trial and error and process? That is how we learn most effectively. I’m going to get a set of these in a few years for my son. I can only imagine what kind of pieces you will be able to get then!


Here’s a good overview of the technology.

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