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Posts Tagged ‘interactive

Most technology companies that manufacture computers and phones typically focus on hardware and have little or no say on software development.

There are exceptions like Apple that create and control both, i.e., Macs and macOS, iPhones and iOS.

Google used to only be in the online software business. Then it partnered hardware companies to create Chromebooks, and Nexus (and now Pixel) phones.

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So I was not surprised to read about Google’s new TV-sized interactive whiteboard (IWB) called the Jamboard. This device is designed for blended and creative boardroom meetings. It takes advantage of G Suite and Google tools to connect, share, and store artefacts.

I was disappointed actually. Or rather, I am going to be disappointed because this might be another round of IWB snake oil vendors selling to schools and education institutions.

I hope that schools and other education institutions have learnt the painful lesson that IWB means Irrelevant White-Elephant Board because it is largely a teacher’s tool.

If tools like IWBs allow teachers to just teach the way they were taught, the teachers do not get pushed out of their comfort zones.

If the technology is not in the hands, minds, and hearts of the learners, it will do little to change teaching. When this happens, the technology ceases to be mere tools and become instruments instead. When this happens, the rhetoric of paradigm shifts, 21st century learning, and empowered students becomes real.

I tweeted this while away at a conference earlier this week.

I did this because I had noticed the number of “interactive” and “smart” board vendors at the conference centre. I had also coincidentally read an article suggesting 5 Ways to Stop Using Your Interactive Whiteboard as a Whiteboard.

I can suggest better. Stop using an “interactive” white elephant board. You can do this is just three steps.

  1. Do not buy an IWB.
  2. Use the money to get shared slates or Chromebooks and a mobile Internet connection.
  3. Invest in learning how to design and manage lessons that require students to create and teach.

Without such boards you will not have items to show off to visitors of your school. Your teachers will also have to unlearn old ways of teaching, relearn what it is like to learn, and learn newer ways to teach.

So ask yourself who you serve: The visitors, the vendors, or your students?

Recently I downloaded The Simpson’s Arcade app onto my iPhone and my son’s iPod Touch. The free version of the game lets you play only the first level, but my son and I had a ball of a time playing it.

I think my son enjoyed it not only because of the gags but also because it was like a TV show that he could control. As he typically does, he learnt how to play it very quickly and then found ways to get Homer to perform. Literally. He not only found Homer’s special attacks but also discovered how to make him pose and dance.

This got me thinking about TV and video games.

My wife and I limit how often and how long our son plays on his iPod, a netbook or our Wii. We use a kitchen timer to allow between 15 to 45 minutes of game play depending the circumstances. He cannot move from one platform to another to get his fix nor can he play while in the car. Our primary concern is the health of his eyes, not the irrational fear that games will somehow turn him evil.

The games are certainly addictive because they are fun, but we use that to our advantage. They are a platform for promoting dialogue, language and mathematical development, strategic thinking, time management, etc. It’s an addiction to learning that I am trying to inculcate.

So ask me if I’d rather see my son play video games or watch TV and nine out of ten times I will choose the former. Even though there are “educational” programmes on TV, they are not interactive physically and you can’t really tell if they are interactive mentally. That is why we have the term couch potato.

But when I watch my son play games or when I play with him, I see him laugh and hop about. He comes over to me to show off something he has done. He talks aloud during the game, often narrating his thought processes. We also talk about our gaming strategies, like “buying low and selling high” or making sacrifices.

A creature my son created in Spore Origins

With a TV you consume. With a game you can converse or even create (think machinima or YouTube and other online walkthroughs). You could talk about a TV programme you just watched, but you cannot ask what-if questions and manipulate it in order to seek answers.

We don’t have a definite time limit on how much TV my son watches, which is not a lot to begin with. But maybe we should be regulating his TV time more and his gaming time less. 😉

One of the things that we are working on at the MxL is multitouch technologies. This means that users simply use their fingers to create and manipulate objects directly on the computer screen. There is no need for a mouse and keyboard. This is evident in the Apple iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface (video of the latter above).

Sadly, Microsoft did not highlight any educational uses of Surface. I think that such technologies can transform education in positive ways. This was why I was excited to read today that a UK university is developing multitouch desks for students.

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Both articles highlighted this:

Dr Liz Burd, Director of Active Learning in Computing at Durham University, said: “Our vision is that every desk in school in 10 years time will be interactive”.

My take? I think that it is unfortunate that the shorter article decided to show a photo of just one child using it and using it for what looks like drill and practice. This technology has the ability to facilitate true and real-time collaboration and to enable tasks that are more complex and worthwhile.

I wonder if we can beat the UK folks to it? We already have our own prototype in the MxL (see image above)! Technologically, we might if I can find the right collaborators from local universities and polytechnics. Pedagogically, I am certain we can if I can find enlightened and energetic teachers and school leaders.

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