Another blog post from one of the many sessions at UBTech 2012. This one is called “Electronic Constructivism 2012: Ten Inspiring Technologies & Replicable Examples”. The audience is looking nervous and the woman who just presented the speaker announced that she’s out of her wheelhouse on this one, I think the title is intimidating. “Technology You Can Use Now” would scare people less (I’ll pitch it to them next year).

And here we go:

10. Gapminder

A very cool way to display and interact with statistics. They’ve got an online tool but the desktop version is slicker. The founder actually gave a great TED talk a while back (just happen to have the link here).

9. “The Flipped Class”

Students do what they would normally do in the classroom (watch a lecture) at home (lectures are video taped and posted to YouTube), and they do what they would normally do at home (homework) in the classroom. Here’s an article she references demonstrating how hot the topic currently is. From my own research it looks like it’s more of a hot thing for school districts where the kids have enough money to be able to afford their own computers and internet access, although as she points out the person who originated the flipped class initially just handed out his lecture notes and asked that the kids read them before class, no computers needed, and got the same results. Very interesting.

If your students do have laptops and broadband, however, they can take advantage of resources like The Khan Acadamy (if you don’t know it check out this 60 Minutes piece), maybe my favorite thing on the Internet. It started as one guy (Sal Kahn, see his TED talk here;  does everyone have a TED talk?) tutoring his cousin Nadia via video. Eight years later and with investments from Google and Bill Gates The Kahn Acadamy features more than 3000 instructional videos and is used by over 4,000,000 students a month for free. But that’s barely scratching the surface of what they do. The tools they provide are based on serious cutting-edge technology used to identify knowledge gaps, provide self-paced learning, and inform you of where you’re doing well and where you need work. In fact now that I’m looking at their site I think I’m gonna brush up on my microeconomics while I’m sitting by the pool this evening.

8. Document Cameras

These are the latest generation of those enormous humming green machines that would enable a teacher to project the face of a piece of paper up on a screen. The big difference? These are digital, meaning you can capture the document in the morning and display it later without having to have the actual document anymore. So why wouldn’t you just use a scanner and a projected connected to your laptop? She says these are only $69, that’s probably the big reason.

7. Digital Microscopes

Another old technology that allows you to digitize the image you see, and many of them have video capabilities. And they’re not just for science anymore; art teachers are using them to take pictures of Velcro and stuff. And of course they now come with Bluetooth, so instead of having to peer through a tiny lens to see your subject as in the old days, now you can take the microscope out into the field (this one looks more like a little gun that you hold in your hand and point at stuff) and view the image on your iPad. Slick.

6. Authentic Digital Content

Not just an essay by Teddy Roosevelt, but a digital image of the actual document itself. Apparently The Library of Congress has been staying up late at night and digitizing documents and they have an enormous collection of this stuff built up, including old drafts of the constitution where you can see the founding father’s notes in the margins. Recently they’ve been expanding their effort to include international documents like the Magna Carta which they’re including in a collection that they call the World Digital Library. It’s all available to you now and it’s all free. Sometimes I forget that the government actually does cool stuff like this sometimes.

5. The Wayback Machine

This is a repository of old web pages, actually a repository of every old web page ever. Why would you want this? Pick a historical event that’s happened since The Wayback Machine started collecting pages, then look at the front page of on that date and see how we were covering that event at the time.

4. Digital Pens

Records everything you write so you can digitize it later, plus it records audio too, so if you think you mis-heard your professor you can play back what she said later. Cheap, sold at BestBuy, most students should use them (so says the speaker). Meh.

3. Customization

Log into Gmail or Yahoo Mail and write an email about a trip you’re taking to Hong Kong. Save the email, then browse the web and notice how many ads are related to your email (luggage sales, flights, hotels, etc). These sites are scanning your emails for marketable opportunities and then selling the information to ad networks. Creepy, but this kind of customization can also be used to your advantage when you’re in control. StumbleUpon uses the same technology, except you tell it what your interests are it starts suggesting sites and content that you might be interested in. Kind of like a search engine but it remembers your likes and keeps suggesting new content to you every time you return. Completely addictive, you’ve been warned.

Pintrest is another example that she gives, a site I personally love. That one I’ll just let you discover on your own.

2. VoiceThread

This one is taking a shot as solving the problem presented in the previous session I attended. VoiceThread is a web-based application (like ASAP, hey!) that allows you to place collections of media like images, videos, documents, and presentations at the center of an ongoing conversation. A VoiceThread allows people to have conversations and to make comments using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. It’s a little hard to explain, I’ve watched a bunch of videos on the topic and this is the best one I’ve found. A number of universities are heavily involved with VoiceThread, very powerful stuff.

1. QR Codes

The new bar code, you see these everywhere now, and they’re simple to create using your computer and printer. How are they useful in education? You can append any content (a painting in an art gallery, a science exhibit, an article in a book) with a QR code which the student can scan using their cell phone, and the student can be guided to additional online content about whatever it is they’re looking at. The speaker points to an online slideshow entitled “50 Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes to Support Learning“.

And that’s it, great stuff. I love this woman’s enthusiasm and fearlessness regarding new technologies. Some of the above are fairly simple and some are quite complex but to her they’re all just tools to help enable learning. Fantastic :)