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Recent Blog Posts:

Why Today's Students Must Learn to Program

Exhibit Challenges for Small Town Museums & Nature Centers

How "Mountain Lion" can Revolutionize Classroom Collaboration

iPads in Education and House of Worship Settings

Apple's 1987 Vision of the Future Fulfilled Today


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Below are periodic blog entries about new and emerging trends in educational technology for museums and schools. Check back occasionally for updates and new stories.


3.10.13 Why Today's Students MUST Learn to Program...
Posted by Kevin Lockwood

I’ll never forget the day I read an article titled, “The New Literacy” in Edutopia Magazine, a resources for educators created by George Lucas. In the article, author Marc Prensky outlined a compelling argument for the need to teach students how to program so they could be successful in the 21st century. Prensky went as far as declaring that someday soon, programming would be the “new literacy” in our country’s education system. As a former science and technology teacher, I jumped on my chair and shouted “YES!” when I ready Prensky’s prophetic words.

It’s been over five years since that article first appeared, and in that time I haven’t heard a single other voice speaking out on this topic... except for maybe my own. One reason may be the fact that despite the popularity of smartphone apps, and those who cleverly develop them, the actual act of programming (also known as “coding”) is still viewed as something for reclusive 20-30 yr. old men who live in their mothers’ basements. Could that stereotype finally be changing? Could society be on the brink of accepting coding as mandatory skill in the modern era? The answers to those questions may very well be “yes”. Check out this video featuring will.i.am, Bill Gates, Chris Bosh, Mark Zuckerberg and others, then read on.

In my own classroom, I’ve seen the benefits of teaching students to hand-code HTML as early as 6th grade. In addition to the career possibilities, which are growing exponentially, there’s also a huge personal benefit. My students not only improved their self esteem, their attention to detail and their focus, but they also gained a new way to express themselves. And here’s my favorite thing to point out when talking to groups of educators about technology: our kids are already coding, and they don’t even realize it! Don’t believe me? Think about the prevalence of tags in social media (think of the infamous # hashtag on Twitter, or the @ symbol to link friends to a post on Facebook). And let’s not forget how many kids are embedding flash or streaming videos on various webpages and online profiles using raw HTML code. The point is, coding is already becoming second-nature to kids; they understand the “why” but just need us to teach them the “how”.

The video I included above is from a new initiative that I’ve watched gain traction in promoting this important cause. The group is called Code.org and their goal is to convince schools to start including programming lessons in the core learning standards. If they’re successful, the implications are huge! Not only will students’ lives improve for a variety of reasons, but they will also be more prepared for the coming wave of technology implementation in the workplace. If you haven’t visited already, drop by their website and sign the online petition, then checkout some of the resources and videos they have available. You can even take an introductory coding lesson!

If you have questions about including coding in your school or museum’s educational goals, please contact us.


7.31.12 Exhibit Challenges for Small Town Museums & Nature Centers
Posted by Kevin Lockwood

I’ll start this by admitting that I absolutely love small town museums and nature centers! They are organic in their approach and it completely inspires me. In my small, mountain community, there are lots of great examples. Our local museums don’t have big budgets (if any budget at all!) and yet theyscreen find creative ways to survive on donations and volunteer hours. Even though I frequently work with large museums around the world and am continually awed by their fancy facilities and cutting-edge exhibits, it’s these small, community-based museums that really get my attention with how they can connect on a much deeper level to their visitors. That’s where real education takes place, in my mind!

Despite the close-knit relationships small museums have with their visitors, the challenge is that they have a harder time keeping their exhibits up-to-date and fresh. Kids come year after year for field trips, visits with their families, etc. so the staff at these museums and nature centers have to come up with new, engaging ways to educate the same core group of visitors. So what can be done?

Today I’ll share one of my favorite solutions for small museums and nature centers: editable touch screen-based exhibits! For a reasonable cost to acquire the hardware and have it installed, a museum or nature center can implement a very modern, interactive exhibit that all ages will love. When the content has been used to it’s full extent, the staff can simply load new content and have a brand new lesson. This content can be custom developed for the museum at a reasonable cost, it can be downloaded as pre-made interfaces from other museums that are willing to share, or could even be something that is editable by the museum staff and volunteers.

In terms of editable touch screen content, there are many options available to allow a staff members with average computer skills to edit the text on their own. Depending on the individual’s skill level, this can be accomplished through editing some simple code, like a webpage, or it can be as easy as building a PowerPoint presentation. Most people don’t realize it, but PowerPoint can be used to create a self-browsed interface for use on a touch screen! In fact, back when I was a classroom teacher, I would do with my 6th, 7th and 8th graders for their science fair projects, and they found it to be extremely easy. With a little training, or even some remote-access assistance from an exhibit developer, a museum representative can easily build their own PowerPoint presentation and load it on an existing touch screen exhibit. Sure, it might not be as “professional-looking” depending on the individual’s graphic design skills, but it’s quick, it’s easy, and it accomplishes the purpose of reinventing an exhibit with minimal investment!

If you have questions about costs to implement a system like this as a new exhibit at your museum, or as a way to showcase student presentations at a school, then please contact us.


4.01.12 How "Mountain Lion" Can Revolutionize Classroom Collaboration
Posted by Kevin Lockwood

Apple recently previewed the upcoming Mountain Lion version of their Mac operating system. Among other enhancements, the biggest benefit coming in this new version is the full integration of AirPlay technology. While AirPlay already exists in various forms on the iPad, iPhone and in iTunes, Mountain Lion will add the ability to do full screen sharing/mirroring (when combined with an AppleTV device).

mountain lion

So how does this benefit the classroom? Well, without any special, third-party software, teachers, students, or guest presenters will be able to seamlessly share what's on their computer screen. Of course this will be natural for things like Keynote or PowerPoint presentations, but imagine other, more spontaneous situations. For example, a class is doing internet research on a particular topic when one student comes across a particularly useful site. The teacher acknowledges their find, then asks them to share with the class. At the click of a button, their laptop screen is instantly shared on the classroom projector, flat panel or IWB so everyone can view the information.

While this type of screen sharing/mirroring technology is nothing new, the fact that it's soon coming as a built-in feature of a major operating system in huge. This is the stuff that people used to dream about when they envisioned classrooms of the future... students and teachers being able to share knowledge in the digital form without any technical hiderence.
As an experienced educational technology consultant and trainer, I can attest to the fact that unless a given technology is 100% easy and painless to use, it will be hard for many educators to adopt it in their day-to-day teaching style. And if an educator is hesitant about a technology, there will be even less chance that they'll let the students use it. This is the biggest reason I see the new AirPlay screen sharing option as being so huge for classrooms; it's drop-dead easy!

Check out the Mountain Lion AirPlay preview here, and if you have questions about adding AppleTV units at your school, or about using AirPlay to benefit classroom learning, please contact me.


3.07.12 iPads in Music Education and House of Worship Settings
Posted by Kevin Lockwood

While iPads have been successfully integrated into a number of core subject classes and corporate learning environments, there are some great uses for the technology in the area of music education and performance, bringing powerful technology to classrooms and houses of worship alike.

onsong logoOne product that I've found to be phenomenal is OnSong ($4.99 in the App Store). This music organization and display app has been widely accepted by music leaders in churches, but is also great for instructing students in education. While the product is most powerful when displaying chord-based music, it can also organize and display a variety of files including PDF sheet music. And while it's great to have hundreds and hundreds of pieces of music in a tablet device, there are numerous ways OnSong takes it a step further, such as...

- Automatic page turning based on a powerful, customizable metronome
- Optional foot pedal control for manual, hands-free operation
- Wireless screen sharing with other musicians (or students) in a group
- Powerful search tools that let you find music by composer, key, previous performance sets, or even topic
- Various options for exporting, printing and digitally sharing sheet music with others
- Dual-screen mode for lyric display on a secondary monitor, eliminating the need to control a separate PowerPoint with song lyrics for your audience or choir class
- On-the-fly editing options for modifying your chord charts instantly
- Automatic transposing functionality

But how does one hold an iPad while performing? Of course you can always set it on the traditional music stand, but many accessory manufacturers are developing innovative devices for supporting an iPad in a variety of performance situations. For example, check out iKlip ($39.99); it's an iPad holder that is made to mount to a microphone stand. And as an added bonus, the footprint of an iPad is much smaller than music stands, making your musical performers more visable to the audience, and reducing the chance of a restricted view of the conductor/director.

On the education side, there's always a variety of powerful music learning and composing apps including Apple's own Garage Band ($4.99 in the App Store). The latest version has some incredible enhancements for aspiring and experienced musicians alike.

And let's not forget all the new pro audio devices on the market that offer integrated iPad control via specialized apps. Any music teacher, choir conductor or worship leader can not only control the playback of canned music remotely, but they can also adjust sound reinforcement settings, operate stage lighting, record performances and more, all from their iPad!



10.4.11 Apple's 1987 Vision of the Future Fulfilled Today
Posted by Kevin Lockwood


Today at Apple's Town Hall event, the updated iPhone 4S with the all-new Siri automated assistant technology was unveiled. While some might feel that this new voice activated technology is not all that revolutionary (especially considering how many existing cell phones and computers already possess voice command features), the fact remains that Apple’s well-planned implementation of this technology has the chance to revolutionize the way we interact with computers forever. To illustrate this point, it’s interesting to watch a promotional video that Apple produced back in 1987... almost 25 years ago! The video was mostly science fiction back then, and was criticized by some in the tech world as being too outlandish, but it showed the vision that Apple had for artificial intelligence and the way humans could interact with computers.

In addition to the automated assistant, which is the main feature of the video, notice the other technologies that have recently been popularized by Apple products, including tablet computing (iPad), multi-touch software control (iOS), personal video conferencing (FaceTime) and file-sharing with a hint of cloud computing (iCloud). The last point is especially interesting considering that most Americans didn’t even know what the internet was in 1987... in fact, AOL didn’t release its first dial-up software until 1989.

Now, compare that video from 1987 with the various Siri demo videos released today, such as the one pasted below. Remember, this is main-stream technology available immediately; not some sci-fi look into the future. And assuming this technology becomes available for the iPad soon (which is inevitable) then we basically have the exact same concept from 1987 available today, minus the animated image of the "digital butler".

Another video showing the original “Knowledge Navigator” concept also exists. Follow the link if you want to see how Apple thought tablet computing could revolutionize learning tasks, such as reading. http://youtu.be/HntiqyNPtVc

Also interesting is the following video of a student using a high-resolution, iPhone-like device to give a class presentation. This video was also very prophetic considering that the new iPhone 4S released today can wirelessly share anything on its screen, not to mention the various apps that already let you control presentation software, such as Keynote. Finally, it's interesting to see that the futuristic classroom depicted in this video appears to have a widescreen, LCD-based display; again, something that wasn't even close to being possible in the late 80's or early 90's. http://youtu.be/XgZQhSESM-g

It is concepts such as the ones shown in these videos that are at the heart of educational technology. Technology should give us a revolutionary new way to explore and interact with data, or should provide individualized assistance to help students focus on the task of learning instead of interacting with complicated or cumbersome interfaces.



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