Sloan-C Emerging Technology Conference

One conference down, one more to go.  I’ll be heading out to NUTN 2009 next week.  But this past week I was at the Sloan-C International Symposium on Emerging Technology Applications for Online Learning.  Quite a mouthful.  I saw some interesting sessions on some new products that I plan on blogging about in the future.  I want to give each one of those their own post.  But for now, some issues that I pondered while at the conferences:

  • One general session had a panel with an author and representatives from Google and Microsoft.  While the Microsoft and Google people were speaking, I couldn’t quit thinking “Hello, I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC.”  I’m beginning to think that certain companies really do attract and hire certain personality types….
  • During one session, the presenter asked what people do to increase student engagement.  One gentleman raised his hand and declared “animated gifs!  Kids love them, and you can finds thousands of little ‘banging hammers’ and ‘flying birds’ out there for free!”  I had to strain to resist the temptation to smack my forehead so hard that they wouldn’t have heard it in the next session over.  Other people in the room actually began nodding and agreeing – “oh, yeah – students love media that moves!”.  A colleague even told me that the same man shared the same idea in another session. (We’ve had to ban animated gifs where I work for the most part, because students complain that they are distracting, boring, and make us look really, really ancient.)
  • I sat in a session about creating realistic avatars of instructors that speak to students.  Basically, you spend hours (or days) creating a realistic virtual image of a teacher, then have the teacher record some speech, and then spend some more hours or days syncing the words to the avatar, adding blinks and stuff like that.  Or, you can just spend an hour or two actually filming the teacher and be done with it.  Seriously – it seems like no matter how far technology advances, some people just can’t get away from the talking head we’ve had in education for millenia now.  Do we really need high tech cutting edge talking heads now?
  • Augmented reality made an appearance in a session (even though the session was about something else).  You don’t hear many people talking about educational uses for that, but they need to.  More on this on later.
  • Adobe always has impressive products, but they always seem to be off people’s radar for some reason.  But they really do some interesting stuff.  They are trying hard to get Flash working on all media devices from smart phones to HD television.  That could prove interesting.
  • One presetner asked “why should we pay so much for sales and marketing of textbooks, when we already need them in the first place?”  Or something to that effect.  70% of the costs of some textbooks goes in to those two categories.  But there are solutions for that – and many of the other problems that textbooks have – I’ll be blogging more about that later.
  • Bing was brought up a few times.  It was actually spoken very highly of.  “It has a gorgeous interface” someone said.  Actually, it just has a gorgeous picture prominently in the middle, surrounded by a hideous interface that hides in the glow of the cool picture in the middle.  Ed-Techers get criticized that we are so distracted by coolness and flashiness that we tend to forget functionality.  And here we go proving that criticism to be true….

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