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Skype in the classroom

Skype has launched a beta version of skype in the classroom

Skype in the classroom is a new product inspired by the growing community of teachers that use Skype and video chat to help their students learn. It’s easy to see why: video chat can help students discover new cultures, languages and ideas, all without even leaving the classroom. Schools use it to bring speakers, experts and guest instructors into the classroom.

Skype in the classroom, a directory of like-minded educators, can help those teachers prepare and manage the new learning experiences more efficiently:

  • Cultural exchange: Introduce students to new ways of seeing the world with a cultural exchange between their class and another classroom anywhere in the world.
  • Language skills: Enable real-life conversations where students can practice a new language with a class of native speakers, or help English learners practice their skills.
  • Discovery: Try mystery Skype calls, where classes connect online and give clues to help each guess the other’s location. Or introduce your students to a classroom in the location of a book they’re reading or a subject they’re studying.

Although Skype has supported several educational initiatives before, e.g. Peace One Day, which uses video chat to produce intercultural cooperation lessons, Skype in the classroom brings the whole learning and teaching experience to a new level.

Skype in the classroom (beta) is still under development and for the moment basically a growing directory of educators. But Skype says it plans to widen the network and to support connecting classes with speakers and experts who are willing to Skype in to a class. Just imagine an astronaut skyping in from the international space station.

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B.

Big Edutech in a little package

Siftables aims to enable people to interact with information and media in physical, natural ways that approach interactions with physical objects in our everyday lives.

David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi of Sifteo first came up with a prototype for game cubes when studying human-computer interaction at the MIT Media Lab. During their research they realized that the way humans typically interact with physical objects is by picking them up to examine and arrange them. So they decided to create a digital gaming platform that incorporates the physical experience of playing a boardgame. They called it “Siftables” and David demonstrated their invention in an inspiring TED Talk in 2009.

“Traditional game consoles have lost the tangible and interactive nature of classic tabletop games like Mahjong and dominoes, that bring people together,” said Jeevan Kalanithi, co-founder of Sifteo. “Players tell us that Sifteo cubes reduce „screen stare?, banish tired thumbs and give families and individuals a more „natural? way to have fun,” said Kalanithi.

In January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas Sifteo got a lot of coverage in the media and won some nifty awards. Early Access packs have been sold out within a few days. You can sign up here for updates on when more will be available: www.sifteo.com/early_access

In my opinion these cubes may be the next big thing in technology and education because they let your ideas flow outside the box (or the screen). Watch the video from 2:23 and you will immediately see the great potential for mathematics education packed in these small cubes.

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T.

The Presidents’ Guide to Science

Scientists created the entire architechture of the 20th century: radio, television, X-rays, Radar, MRI; all of that sprung forth from the mind of a scientist. When people come up to me and say: “You’re a physicist. But what have you guys done for me lately?”, my answer is: “EVERYTHING!” (Michio Kaku)

A few weeks before the US presidential election in 2008, BBC horizon produced a 50 minutes documentary entitled “The Presidents’ Guide to Science”. BBC argues that science and technology in large part provide the immense power to “the world’s most powerful man” (war, health care, energy, …) while most US presidents – like most heads of government around the world – have no background in science. That’s why the BBC asked some of the big names in science to share some words of advice. It couldn’t be verified whether the US president watched it or not. But what the scientists have to say is smart, fascinating and interesting for all of us, not only for presidents.

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D.

Doing Homework with a Search Engine Optimized Brain

Mother: ”Turn off the iPod.” ”Stop with the video chat!” ”NO TEXTING while you’re supposed to be doing homework!”

Son: ”MOM! Stop. I can concentrate better with music on.”

Daughter: ”I need the video chat on. I’m going over homework with my friends.”

(debbiestier)

Sounds familiar? In the above CBS News video neuroscientist Gary Small explains how technology may be making us smarter and why it may be good to let our kids become internet savvy multitaskers. Hopefully, they never forget that communication isn’t concentration, and information isn’t education. Fortunately, so far no one bars a search engine optimized brain from reading a book.

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T.

Top 10 TEDtalks

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Here is a short list of what TEDsters liked most over the past few years. These are really inspiring ideas on education, motivation, mind, creativity and passion. If you can’t get enough of that you should definitely have a look at our complete list of 750+ TED talks.

1) Jill Bolte Taylor
My Stroke of Insight

2008
Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229

6) Dan Pink
Surprising Science of Motivation

2009
Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/618

2) Patti Maes and Pranav Mistry
Sixth Sense Demo

2009
This demo — from Pattie Maes’ lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry — was the buzz of TED. It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine “Minority Report” and then some.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/481

7) Hans Rosling
The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen

2006
The Swedish professor dances through a spectacular animation of world development. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/92

3) Ken Robinson
Schools Kill Creativity

2006
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/66

8 ) Benjamin Zander
On Music and Passion

2008
Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it — and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/286

4) Tony Robbins
Why We Do What We Do

2006
Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions — and high-fives Al Gore in the front row.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/96

9) Barry Schwartz
The Paradox of Choice

2005
Psychologist Barry Schwartz gives a profound, witty discourse on why more freedom doesn’t equal more happiness. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/93

5) Elizabeth Gilbert
Nurturing Creativity

2009
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk. The best-selling author bares her struggle to repeat the success of Eat, Pray, Love.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/453

10) V.S. Ramachandran
On Your Mind

2007
A brain scientist in a leather jacket tell us how “this 3-pound mass of jelly … can contemplate the meaning of infinity.” Vilayanur Ramachandran tells us what brain damage can reveal about the connection between celebral tissue and the mind, using three startling delusions as examples.

https://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/184

www.ted.com

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