Turn your overhead projector into a musical instrument

An overhead projector can be found in probably every classroom and caused a lot of students falling asleep during eternal presentations. Blair Neal from New York converted the most unglamouros educational technology into an interactive music-making machine.

Watch his installation that uses an old projector, a camera, some markers and a laptop and turns it all into a playful art piece. It is essentially an inverse color organ that you can play like a player piano. You can draw crazy things for fun or make more complex songs if they look more MIDI-sequencer like. Developed in Max/MSP and Jitter.

(thank you MAKE and Blair Neal)


Teachers Shock Students in 1938

Teacher shocks student
Teacher shocks student (1938)

I found this picture at the Library of Congress. It is entitled: “Teachers shock students at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., Aug. 2”. The photograph reminded me that the use of technology in education sometimes gets really weird. The so called shocking machine, invented by Dr. Willard Hayes Yeager, Head of the department, was intended to take the “ahs” “ers” and “ums” out of the diction of public speaking students. Yeager is shown putting on the shocker to Jane Hampton, 17. When the student made a mistake the professor at the other end of the room notified her by a gentle electric shock. Maybe this took out some “ums”, but it put in some other “ahs” for sure. Will people look back in 70 years from now and wonder, what we were doing when introducing new technology in education? They probably will.


American Education in 2030

Take 10 men and 1 woman to think about American Education in 2030. That is what Standford’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, a public policy think tank, has done. The result is an ebook and a website with the author’s video comments: www.americaneducation2030.org.

First, one could argue that the group of authors isn’t the best example for gender equality. Second, the essays aren’t covering a wide range of educational issues as I expected beforehand just reading the title. The articles are clustered into Curriculum and Instruction (five), Standards and Testing (two), Governance and Finance (four), and Privatization and Choice (two), with a lot of overlapping territory, e.g., technology or national standards and testing. The best read is probably the conclusion by Chester Finn, a recapitulation of what actually changed in American education from 1990 to 2010, as a form of evidence of what is possible within 20 years.

American Education in 2030 - Not much time left

Most of the essays are written in past tense travelling to 2030 and looking back. This Back-to-the-Future-Part-2 approach is quite entertaining and a good read.

Some authors cite Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle and a cliché in American education: “Had Rip awakened in a classroom 20 years later, he would have noticed no changes at all.” Hopefully this won’t be true for American education in 2030. And most of the authors are convinced that change will happen. However, I would not agree with Paul E. Peterson’s top-down suggestion that “changes will move from the college level downward through high school into middle school.” In my opinion, the only starting point is “the best part of the twentieth-century school” (Peterson), the elementary school. Otherwise it would lead to a future, that President Obama described recently: “Information becomes a distraction, a diversion, rather than a tool of empowerment.”

Many authors stress the benefits of computer access, new teaching materials and computer adaptive testing. In my opinion, one has to be very careful to get the use of technology in education right. Everything depends on the people teaching and learning, and how they use technology. In “American Education in 2030” I missed that perspective. Nevertheless it is a good starting point to discuss a more responsive, efficient and effective education system than we have today.

For further reading and downloading American Education in 2030 (2010), edited by Chester E. Finn Jr., visit: www.americaneducation2030.org


Socialnomics – Nice Video, crude Statistics

Erik Qualman says: “Statistics Show Social Media Is Bigger Than You Think”.

I would say: “Social Media Shows How Flexible Statistics Have Become!”

  1. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old – That is right.
  2. 96% of Millennials have joined a social network – In this context, it is wrong! The truth is slightly different: Trendspotting found in a surveys on the US young generation that 96% of online teens/tweens report ever having used any type of social networking technology including IM/chat, text messaging and email.
  3. Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. – That is right. https://www.hitwise.com/us/datacenter/main/dashboard-10133.html
  4. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web – That is right since 2009. https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/01/social-media-po.html
  5. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media – I could not find the cited McKinsey study. Everyone on the web cites McKinsey but no one links to the source.
  6. Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)… – I could not verify these numbers but the authors cite https://cyberschoolbus.un.org/
  7. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year – That may be right, but only in the 6th year of facebook’s existence. If really compared to Radio, TV, Internet and iPod (point 6), it would be right to say: facebook (4 Years). Facebook reached 1 Million in 2004, 5.5 Million in 2005, 12 Million in 2006, 50 Million in 2007, 100 Million in 2008 and 350 Million in 2009. https://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?timeline
  8. iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months. – 1 Billion what? Apples? However, one billion Downloads from the Appstore, to be honest. What is social about downloading an app for iPhone and iPod touch? https://www.apple.com/itunes/billion-app-countdown/
  9. “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.” – Another question is how well we DO statistics.
  10. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest ahead of the United States and only behind China and India – That might be true, but obviously facebook isn’t a country. Would you compare your TV to a country? Or your Mobile Phone? Otherwise you could say: Mobile Phones are the world’s biggest country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_mobile_phones_in_use Read more

Ellen and Eleanor try out iPad and iPhone

Maybe these two videos explain why the iPhone may not perfectly fit educational needs, but the iPad does! The touch screen and intuitive usability were already there from the very beginning. But for Kids, and not only for them, less is more! The iPod touch was a great step in this direction. I remember my son playing with an iPod touch from the age of 1. But now, the iPad’s bigger screen is the latest development that was still needed to be able to develop real educational Apps. What do you think?

Ellen’s iPhone parody

Eleanor, 2, tries out an iPad


(thx Ellen and Gizmodo)