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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.

Technological Antiques

Ever since Paul Virilio coined the term ‘dromology’ (the study of speed) in the late 1970s, searching for the meaning of ever speedier change has become a respectable path of scholarship. “Everywhere life seems to speeding up: we talk of fast food and speed dating. But what does the phenomenon of social acceleration really entail?”, Hartmut Rosa asks in a collection of essays called High Speed Society.

Last year, French journalist Jean-Christophe Laurence took an interesting approach. He showed primary school kids old technology like floppy discs, a 1st generation Game Boy, a mouse from the 1980s or a telephone with dial plate and filmed their reactions. In the end he asks: “Not even 30 years old… And already antiques?”

In my opinion, the fact that mankind renews its tools within less than a generation should affect the way we teach and learn in schools. It becomes more and more important to teach our kids how to cope with change. Watching these kids discovering the meaning of stuff unknown to them, comparing it to things they know and finally giving it a meaning made me happy. Kids are explorers, and if school doesn’t destroy their curiosity and even helps them to develop such skills, “technological antiques” won’t be a problem at all.

(via rferl.org)

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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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