Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Posts Tagged ‘future techology’

Engineering Design Enters the 4th Dimension

Posted by Duren_Thompson on October 23, 2013

3D chemical model - stick and ball  imageOK, this is really revolutionary!

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a polymer and a process which allows the production of an object fixed in one shape that can later be changed to take on a new shape given thermal, chemical or mechanical forces.  And these shapes are determined at the design stage – essentially adding a “time” component to the 3D printing/production process.

Their real life example:

“…a solar panel or similar product could be produced in a flat configuration onto which functional devices can be easily installed. It could then be changed to a compact shape for packing and shipping. After arriving at its destination, the product could be activated to form a different shape that optimizes its function.”
H.  Jerry Qi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU-Boulder

Read more  4-D Printing Technology for Composite Materials Developed

WOW!  So, consider the effects of this kind of production on the jobs of the future:

  • What kinds of skills would you need in order to be a designer? (4-dimensional visualization skills?)
  • What jobs would be changed or lost (fewer truck drivers needed, because boxes would be smaller?)
  • How would this affect consumers/users?  (What would you make with an in-home 4D printer? How about a tent or table that sets itself up?)
  • What are the effects on the environment – can these things be put in a landfill? Can this be recycled?

And, of course,

  • What implications does this have for education?  How do you assist students to think in 4 dimensions?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Futurism, Job Skills, Pace of Change | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Rise of the Machine

Posted by wrmcnutt on May 23, 2012

The ultimate nightmare for Tenured Faculty may eventually arrive.  Perhaps, one day, robo-teachers will out-perform flesh and blood instructors.  But that day is not today.  Quite.

In the most recent issue of Inside Higher Ed (May 22, 2012), Steve Kolowich reported out on an experiment at six public universities that randomly assigned students to statistics courses that “relied heavily on ‘machine-guided learning’ software.”  Although the instructor was not eliminated entirely, the participants did get “reduced face time with instructors.”  While the article and the study behind it make for an interesting read, the bottom line is this: the students in the machine-guided learning environments did as well as the students in the control group, and they did it in less time.  “’Our results indicate that hybrid-format students took about one-quarter less time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional-format students,’ report[ed] the Ithaka researchers.”

For a long time now, computer-assisted learning has been dismissed by traditional educators as a drill-and-practice tool, or at best a stopgap to be applied to learners unable to participate in traditional education models.  Until now conventional wisdom has been that traditional face-to-face training provides a superior learning experience.  This study, and others like it are showing that computer assisted learning is beginning to catch up with traditional teaching.

Do I think that the bell is tolling for tenured faculty?  Not yet.  But it is past time to take a good hard look at  systematically integrating technology into our instructional approaches.  It may be that the days of teaching off of those curling, yellowed notes are not only numbered, but the number is getting increasingly smaller.

Posted in Futurism, Technology In the Classroom | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Technology Applied to Unintended Uses

Posted by wrmcnutt on May 3, 2010

Dear AbbyThere was an interesting note in Dear Abby yesterday (4/29/2010).  The writer wanted to share an idea to get her children to read more.  Like many parents, “Proud Parents” would prefer their children to read.  The children preferred to watch more television.  The compromise that was reached was to turn off the audio on most programming, and allow the children to watch it only if they were willing to read the closed-captioning.

Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning

The result of this policy is that the childrens’ reading scores have greatly improved and the parents get more quiet time when the TV is on in the family room.  Abby rightly points out that closed-captioning, while intended for folks with disabilities, is a wonderful aid to people trying to develop ESOL skills.  I think that this technology would also be useful to adult learners working on conventional literacy issues.

Some teaching ideas/notes:

  • While many of you may have noted this before, adult learners may need some actual training on how to turn on closed captioning, and practice at doing so – you can provide this in the classroom.
  • Also note that you can have closed captioning on at the same time as the audio – great for those who are hard of hearing – and ESOL learners, and folks who are very beginning readers.
  • Even with the sound off, the visuals partnered along with the words on the screen can give struggling readers a boost – aiding in decoding and comprehension (building visual literacy?).
  • Another source of captioned materials – many YouTube videos are in another language and subtitled (see Medieval Tech Support!).
  • This again is a tool for practice, and should be partnered along with other reading instruction and practice activities in other formats – like online text, book text, e-mail, etc.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your Turn: The ELMO HV-110U Document Camera

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 30, 2010

Some of ya’ll might remember a bit of old tech called an “opaque projector.”  This was a monstrous piece of hardware about two feet tall, two feet wide, and three feet long.  It had an complex and expensive set of optics that allowed you to put a book or other printed material on it’s target platform, and it would project an image of it on the screen.  It took a lot of lumens to project that image, so the thing ran hot, consumed a lot of power, and ate expensive bulbs like they were popcorn.  Accurate milling of lenses is an expensive, labor-intensive process, so this was also a very pricey way to heat up your classroom.

While you can still find opaque projectors today, mostly marketed to artists, they have largely been replaced by the document camera.  This is a specialized video camera with a short focal length that is suspended over the book or other material the instructor wants to project onto the screen.   With far smaller optics, it runs cooler, takes up far less space, and in general is handier than the old opaque projector.  The problem is, they cost about the same as opaque projectors used to.  In general, they start at around $1200.00 and go up from there.  Without a lot of effort, you can spend $5000.00 on a document camera.

Well, I’ve found one for under $800.00.   It’s called the ELMO HV-110U.  As you can imagine, I’m skeptical of the quality of the image that’s going to come out of a camera that’s this cheap, and to make things worse, the only two reviews I’ve found are quite negative.  But that’s only a couple of guys’ opinions.  I thought before I make a commitment to this piece of hardware one way or another, I’d ask you guys.  Have any of you worked with this particular document camera?

Posted in Technology In the Classroom | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

More Changes – Although This One Came Slow

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 28, 2010

Just the other day, Sony announced that they would be ending domestic (Japanese) sales of 3.5 inch “floppy” disks.  The latest and most efficient versions of this medium, the High Density disk, would hold 1.44 megabytes of data.  And they’re very, very slow to transfer data.  Now, Sony holds 70% of the market share for 1.44 MB floppies in Japan, so this is pretty much the death knell for this ancient and venerable storage medium.  It will take a little longer for this to roll out into the United States, as we hang on to our computer hardware longer than the Japanese, but the writing has been on the wall for a while.  Apple abandoned this medium several years ago, and as of last fiscal year, Dell no longer provided them as standard options on it’s commercial-grade computers. (Source: CNET – Sony delivers floppy disk’s last rites )

Introduced in 1987, the 3.5″ floppy had a twenty three year lifespan as a standard.  And that’s a pretty darn good run.  The 5.25 floppy, it’s immediate predecessor wwas introduced by Apple around 1978, and only lasted nine years.  The 8″ floppy, used before that, only lasted seven years. 

Today’s preferred portable media is the “memory stick.”  Also called a “thumb drive” or “jump drive,” 512 MB versions can be had for under a dollar, for the careful shopper.  For a dollar, you can buy a media stick that will hold three hundred and fifty five floppy disks.  Or, if you’ve got a little more money to spend, you can get an 8 GIGAbit drive for about $24.00.  It will hold the same amount of data as FIVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED and FIFTY FIVE floppies.  For $24.00.  I remember being shocked when the price of floppies dropped below a $20.00 for a pack of ten.

SO – teaching learners to use floppy disks or even CDs/DVDs is probably not a good way to spend the tiny amount of time we have for technology training.  I would be very surprised to discover a computer in use with a floppy drive in another five years.

Posted in Futurism, Job Skills, Pace of Change, Teaching Tech Skills, Technology in the Workplace | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Skinput – Using Your Own Hide as Both Projection Screen and Keyboard

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 8, 2010

I constantly run across innovative ideas that never seem to get past the prototype stage, and I’m not sure if this one’s any different, but I think it might be.  Today’s Science Daily web site has an article on a prototype device developed by a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon that has great potential.  And if not potential, at least a big coolness factor.

Today’s smart phones, MP3 players (iPods), smart phones,  and assorted media devices have massive amounts of computing power.  The biggest limitation on their utility is the ability to put data into them, get data out of them, and manipulate the data while it’s in there.  Our fingers are large and the screens are small.  If the designers make the screens and keypads big enough to be really useful, the device becomes bulky and hard to carry around.

Skinput proposes to resolve the input and control part of this problem.  The prototype devices projects a control menu onto the skin of the user and uses commercially available acoustic sensors to listen to the sound of your fingers tapping on your arm.  The sound does not travel through the air, but through your skin and through your bones.

The prototype is, naturally enough, large and bulky, but if the concept were exploited commercially it would be easy enough to shrink it down to the size of a wristwatch.  It would be trivial to use this interface to control simple devices like MP3 players (iPods) and cell phones.

Like most concept devices, this one has a long road ahead of it before it becomes commercially available, so it’s very hard to imagine what the impact of it may have on Adult Education.  I’ve seen many cool concepts stop at the prototype stage because the inventor found it impossible to sell the idea to someone with enough capital to develop it.  Will we be asking our students to please deactivate their skinput devices when they enter the classroom so that they can stay focused? Or will this become so ubiquitous that we can count on using it as an educational resource?  One of the trends that I think I have spotted over my career as a technologist is that simple devices tend to become successful. For example, the first “first person shooter” game, Doom, could be played with four basic controls: turn left, turn right, go forward/backward, and shoot.  The runaway technological success story of the 00’s, the iPod, had very few controls as well.

So this, like many others, is a concept to watch.  It’s hard to tell if this sort of thing will make it to market, or the impact it will have.

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