Five Ways the iWatch Will Revolutionize Education

After careful examination of features and uses of the iWatch, I think I have finally settled on the Top 5 Ways it will revolutionize education as we know it.

5) Increased Assessment of Boredom Cessation

Wristwatches seem to have disappeared since the rise of the Smartphone. Sure you can check the time on your phone, but how easy is that when you are in the front row of a lecture and your teacher or professor will confiscate your phone if you get caught taking it out? When someone starts boring you to sleep with DPPSR (Death by PowerPoint Slide Reading), the only way to combat that is with an accurate idea of how long you have to force yourself to stay awake. Having a watch again will give millions of students the tools to know how long to pinch themselves to stay awake and earn participation credit.

4) Better Indications of Social Stratification

We all know that we judge each other by our smartphone choice (Apple or Android). A few years ago, that was easy to do by size, even with phone cases covering the logo. But since Apple introduced their new face-sized pones, it is near impossible to know who is as cool as you are. With advent of the iWatch, you can now simply look at someone’s wrist to see if they are Apple or Android. Young Adult Clique Formation is the foundation of the high school and college experience, and the iWatch finally will help with split second social interaction decisions.

3) Historical Connections With Ancient Stylistic Conventions

One of the best trends that didn’t make it out of the 80s was the Swatch Watch. For those that weren’t around for this trend, you actually spent all of your money buying different color wrist bands and watch guards (yep, that was a thing way before Smartphones) so that you could switch them out daily (to match your Jams shorts). It was so popular that it burned out after a year and no watch maker has wanted to try and replicate it’s awesomeness for some odd reason. Now, of course, we can finally re-live history with the iWatch and its endless arrays of interchangeable bands and UIs. iWatch owners will be walking history connections.

2) Time Management Solutions Through Phantom Signal Claims

Do you lament the days when you could get out of any situation or conversation by pretending your phone vibrated because no one knew much about smartphones? We now know the sound of a buzzing phone, but it was great for time management when smartphones were new and mysterious. The iWatch will be able to bring back that mystery in many ways, since few will know much about them at the beginning. Just think of how much more control you can wrestle away from pointless conversations by claiming your watch is sending you all kinds of messages.

1) Advanced Creative Grade Enhancement Methodology 

Cheating is such an ugly and outmoded word. Everyone knows that today’s students need to partake in creative grade enhancement. Remember how easy that was when smartphones first came out and teachers or professors had no clue you could get answers right on your phone? Those days have been long gone due to instructors quickly catching on, but now with the iWatch they are back. Just store the answers on your iWatch a head of time and make it look like you just have a nervous habit of tapping your watch. This will increase your grades, and we all know that increased grades on test proves that more learning is happening. If instructors never cared that you might have randomly guessed some answers correct on multiple choice tests, then surely they don’t care about other forms of creative grade enhancement. As long as the school’s test numbers look good, everyone wins.


edugeek-journal-avatarI am sure there are many other great sounding reasons why the iWatch will revolutionize education. The iPhone and iPad have already made modern education almost unrecognizable from what it was before they came out, so the iWatch is sure to keep that tradition alive. I just can’t wait until we get the iOcculus in 2017 and then the iNeuralImpant in 2019 – we will just be injecting information straight into the eyes and brains! Just more proof that technology is the solution for all of Education’s woes.

Is It Really Rude to Use Your Smartphone in a Restaurant?

A couple of days ago we had a brief interesting conversation at the LINK Lab about people’s addiction to mobile devices in public spaces. You have probably heard this before: “people need to put down their cellphones at the restaurant (or other public spaces) and actually interact with the people around them.” For some, this is a clear cut case of people losing manners, but sometimes I wonder if it is so simple.

I think that the Clark/Kozma debate gives us some interesting insight into these conversations. I know that Clark’s point was more about instructional design, but it’s application can go beyond those limitations. When you really think about it, Clark’s point that “media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition” also applies to communication in some ways, because we have to communicate to deliver instruction.

But what is the impact of communication? A recent Facebook discussion I was a part of centered around how people felt bad when they found out they had been defriended by someone. Many people in the conversation tried to say that this is just digital communication, that Facebook is just a website, that these things really aren’t real and don’t matter, and other points along those lines. But I disagreed. If someone was to come along and write a really nice, long compliment on your Facebook wall, you wouldn’t just ignore it and say its not real. You would feel pretty good about it. Therefore, since you would feel good about a digital compliment, its not wrong to feel bad when negative things happen digitally (and not to mention all of the studies that have found that cyber-bullying really hurts people in real life). You could probably therefore say that “media are mere vehicles that deliver communicative actions but do not influence the impact of those actions any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition.” We assign importance or meaning to various forms of communication regardless of whether the communication is in person or digital.

But let’s go back to the “cellphone in the restaurant” issue. Is it really rude to look at your cellphone in public? I would say we have not yet socially constructed a standard for that, mainly because we don’t have a clear historical standard to tie into.

First of all, let’s talk about what people really do in restaurants. I waited tables for about 7 years in the 1990s (before smartphones for you young-uns out there). This idea that everyone was having great conversations around the table for every meal they ate out is a weird glamorization of the past, at best. I would say that on any given shift, maybe half the tables were engaged in conversation over a meal… on a good day. You would be surprised how many people sit in silence after ordering. Even more so after the meal comes.

Now then, think about what happens when you are eating at a restaurant and someone you know walks by your table. Do you ignore them because social convention says it is rude to not talk to the people at the table with you? What you probably do is stop the table conversation (if it is even happening) and greet your acquaintance. Maybe you make plans to talk later, or they ask you a quick question about a previous conversation. But when that type of communication opportunity arises, we usually don’t see it as rude to stop one conversation, engage in another, and then come back to the original. Does it make the situation any different just because those communication opportunities are digital instead of in person? Does the medium of communication change the social rules or keep them the same?

I’m not sure either way, to be honest. I would say that we don’t have a clear historical construct to guide us and we will be deciding this issue as we move forward. Does a text on the phone equal running into an acquaintance in person? Maybe or maybe not – I’m not sure. If my neighbor texts me that my house is on fire, I would place a pretty high importance on that text over any other conversation that is happening in person.

I am also reminded of how home phones relate to this issue. When I was a kid, before answering machines and telemarketers became a big thing, you would pretty much stop whatever was happening in your house and answer the phone. Then, of course, telemarketers came along and we started thinking twice. If you were busy, you would say “if it’s important, they will call back.” We all knew that if there wasn’t an answer but you needed to talk to someone, you would call back a minute later. Then we all got answering machines and were able to screen calls. But we would often stop conversations to hear who was on the answering machine.

So, in other words, we filtered communications that came to us to engage with the important ones and put the less important ones off until later. The media or timing of the communication didn’t matter – the importance we placed on it determined how we engaged with it. Think also about call waiting and the debate that people had about when it was appropriate to switch over and check the new call. There really wasn’t one standard that applied to every time that little beep happened while you were on the line.

So now that all kinds of communication media can follow us where ever we go – what rules of social etiquette apply? Do we treat texts / Tweets / Facebook notifications / etc like we would a situation where we running into someone we know in person… or do we treat digital avenues like second-class communications that must be ignored until the “right” time? What if there really is something life-changing in one of those tweets? Is there really any difference between you responding to a Facebook conversation and two people starting a side conversation in a larger group of people at the same table? Either way you have a smaller subsection of the larger group in a different conversation, so why is it okay if both of them are at the table but not okay when one of them is at the table and another is miles away?

I don’t have any definitive answers to these issues, but we need to think about what this issue tells us about our attitudes towards digital communications. If you automatically hate that people are on their phones in restaurants, does that mean that maybe you have relegated digital communications to a lesser status? Does that reveal a personal bias against digital communications on your part? Does a text or Tweet automatically make something less important, or should we look at the actual content of the communication as the important part?

Then there is, of course, the whole debate over whether constantly looking at our phones is causing more harm than good. If that is the case, then I have been in trouble since before there were even affordable home computers. I always had a book or comic or magazine with me to read when I was bored in line somewhere or stuck without anything to do. Does looking at skateboard articles on a phone make a distraction any different than reading through Thrasher magazine?

edugeek-journal-avatarWhen you really look at it, smartphones have just enabled us to do the same things we always did in the past, just in a smaller more portable format. Is our problem really with what people do with them or the devices themselves? I don’t think the answers are as simple as many make them out to be, but if receiving communication on a mobile device is so much different than face-to-face communication that we automatically relegate it to second-class communication, what does that say about online learning in general (which uses a lot of communication)? Nothing positive I would say. Or maybe is it time to take a more nuanced view at how we engage with mobile devices in public than “all bad” or “all okay.”

(image credit: Mirjana Novakovic, obtained from

Remix and Mash-up Course Textbooks

The idea of remixing textbooks and mashing up various sources has been around for a while. Most of the companies offering these services sound great, but just didn’t catch on in a big way. But that may change – Pearson announced today that they will be jumping into the textbook remix/mash-up arena with Project Blue Sky.

You can read the details about this project also in this article at The Chronicle. Gooru Learning is also a part of this partnership.

Of course, instructors have been doing mash-ups with photocopying machines forever, with many of them switching over to scanners and PDFs once they take their courses digital. My prediction is that the price point on these “mash-up” textbooks will be the make-or-break of this project. Students have already grown tired of over-priced digital textbooks.

Another issue to consider is what else can be mixed into the content. What about interactive activities? Videos? If you are going to put these on a mobile device, will you be able to insert blog posts and other websites into the content? Will the authors of these websites be compensated for their inclusion?

I am also curious to see if there will be some kind of bulk rate for entire schools. Most schools purchase access to journals and other electronic research materials… why not just buy access to textbooks also? Then you can mix in journal articles with the chapters from the text book you want, and the students don’t have to pay extra for textbooks on top of fees. Or maybe they just have a low, flat textbook fee each semester? If they focus Project Blue Sky on individual instructors, it will basically just become as convoluted as our current textbook system is – just a bit easier on the back. But focus it on entire Universities – you might have a massive, customizable tool right at your fingertips.

Turn in Your Glasses at the Classroom Door

At one point teachers had to collect bubblegum from students before they walked into classrooms. Then it was calculators. Now we are having them take up cellphones. The next thing will probably be their glasses once Google Glasses become affordable. And when they move on to contact lenses? Implants in their heads?

At some point, we will realize that you just can’t keep technological aids out of the learning process. Some day (soon), entire countries will guarantee Internet access and a device to access it with for every person living in their borders. It probably won’t be too long before someone creates the technology to sustain a global 12G bubble around the entire planet.

So when connection is everywhere, and devices to stay connected are a part of our glasses/contacts/body – will we finally see the end of the fight to keep them out of the classroom?

Probably not. We will most likely see school leaders creating technology to block, scramble, or filter the connection.

So what is the solution? Go back to the basics. Not with technology – with teaching. We have known for decades and even longer what teaching strategies work. The kicker is that these age-old concepts will still work even if students become constantly connected to the Internet: teaching them to apply concepts, to think critically, to actively engage instead of passively soak up knowledge, etc. If we change teaching now, we will be ready for anything that technology throws at us.

(FYI – This change does not start with the teachers. They are forced to teach to the test or lose their job. We have to start with ditching the requirements and admins that force teachers to teach that way.)

All I have to say is – I should have patented my “computer in a pair of glasses” idea a long time ago. I could be rich! Oh, wait – Google Glasses aren’t for sale yet. Well, I could have the possibility of become rich someday in the future….

What Could The Next Big Thing In Technology Be?

One larger thread in the conversations I have been in about the future of Apple without Steve Jobs centers on “what will the next big thing in technology be?” Jobs was responsible for so many game changers through the years that it is hard to imagine the technology world without him. But to be honest, there have been many game changers through the years from many non-Apple companies.

Will the next big thing be a fundamental re-design of a the phone as we know it? Tech crunch has an interesting article on a bendable phone that is controlled by kinetic movements as much as touch. An interesting concept even if you hate the shape (which some seem to – I kind of like it). Some think the phone will also become implanted in a pair pf glasses, with an interface that virtually floats in front of your eyes.

The bigger concept to realize is that the iPhone is not going to be the last major re-think of cell phones as we know them. Computers themselves may one day “disappear” as they become so small that we no longer notice their presence – just their interface.

I’m still thinking that 3-D printing will be a major game changer in ways that we can’t image yet. Think of how it could change online learning if you can email actual physical objects. Even face-to-face learning could be greatly enhanced by the ability to print objects. A spontaneous question from a student could be examined in a matter of minutes rather than waiting until the next day (after the teacher has had time to go home and find what is needed to answer the question).

Or will the mysterious Google X lab come up with something so crazy that we can’t even imagine the possibilities?

I still think there is also great potential in virtual worlds. At some point in the near future, some one will crack the interface issues and steep learning curve that Second Life is infamous for and we’ll have Star Trek holodecks before you know it.

The times they are a-changin’…

The Long Road To Re-Thinking Everything In Online Learning

As many of you know, I have been trying to come up with something new. I’m not even sure what it is supposed to be. I just know I haven’t seen “it” yet. I see parts of “it” here and there, but I still just don’t know what “it” is I am looking for.

But the LMS-based mentality of online learning has got to go. Even the newest version of Blackboard still makes me feel like I am in AOL circa 1995.

I’m not necessarily talking about course design or structure. There are some great ideas out there, everything from MOOCs to information foraging are popping up all the time. The biggest hurdle for all of these great open / social / connectivistic / whatever you want to call it designs is that technology is just not there yet to make them work perfectly. You can do a lot of great things with the whole DIY mentality… but often I get the feeling there could be so much more if we could just stumble on the right technology.

I read today about Google possibly starting another “structured web programming” language called Dart. Some are thinking that it will be just a language that solves “Googlecentric” problems.  In some ways, maybe this something that education needs – education-centric technology to solve educational problems.

Maybe not our own programming language… but that is not a bad idea either. I used to dabble with Moodle extensions, and it was always frustrating to figure out how to “trick” php and javascript into doing what I needed it to do.

I have previously discussed how Rockmelt made me wonder if we could make a similar browser for education… basically, make the LMS become a browser instead of a web silo.  That could be interesting, but kind of leaves mobile learning a bit out of the picture in some cases.

Does the technology behind EdTech need to go the app route? Does the LMS need to leave the confines of “website” and evolve into a new form of technology? I’m not sure yet.  But whatever happens, we need this new idea to meet several criteria:


  • Integrated. It needs to integrate into our everyday web activities. When we have those a-ha moments on Facebook, or find a great article that would be useful for our group project, or whatever the case make be… sharing it with our class needs to be just few clicks or swipes away while we stay on the object. Not a few clicks, surf to a different site, log in, copy-and-paste, click, click, click, submit, log-out, surf back to reality.
  • Open. Education is going the open route. You can’t share what is closed, and surprise… people like to share!
  • Flexible. Every feature that you use on a desktop would also be available in a tablet, a smart phone, or whatever comes along next.
  • Search-able and Easy To Organize. I know some would say that we could just use Facebook or Google+ for all of this. The problem with those approaches are that it is really hard to find anything older than, say, 2 hours there. With learning, you need to go back and examine what you have shared and tagged. you need to dig into it and see what else you can find. There are a hundred reasons why… but you need to be able to go back and find everything. That is tedious at best on social networking sites.

There are some interesting projects out there that I think are doing great work in many of these areas, but no one has a product (or even a DIY solution) that meets all of these criteria.

What If All The Devices That Students Bring Into a Classroom Could Easily Communicate

The good news is that we are starting to see more openness to mobile devices in classrooms. Teachers are more open to leveraging mobile devices and administrators are starting to relax their knee-jerk reactions to the dangers. The bad news is that you still have to cobble together systems and websites to start using mobile devices – and those tools might be different from one classroom to the next.

But what if all of the mobile devices – as well as laptops, desktops, and other devices – could communicate with each other, no matter what they are or what software they are using?

Apparently, this is a problem that emergency responders have also had. So researchers at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (in partnership with many other universities) have developed a set of tools that will let people communicate with each other using whatever device or operating system they want.

The details are in the article and they sound promising. This is what we will need in the classroom of the future – the ability to connect all of the different devices students could bring in and let them communicate with each other. Even if the Internet connection goes down, students could still connect and network. Obviously, future web apps and programs will need to be able to adjust to this new technology seamlessly. But the educational potential is very interesting.

Transparent Screens Means That “The future is now-ish!”

There seems to be a lot of attention given recently to transparent displays – basically, monitors that you can (some what) see-through.  Despite what CSI:Miami would have use believe, they aren’t here yet – but close.  Seems that LG is in the lead with 47″ 1080 HD touch screens that you can see through.  The prediction is that these screens will take augmented reality to a new level.  This quote from an article on caught my eye:

In ten years, we may no longer have cell phones in our pockets, they will be built into our glasses and perhaps even contact lenses.

Sounds familiar to me :) But it looks like we are going to see augmented reality sooner rather than later – so I am going to start saving up for the iPhone 10 now….

Create Mini-Websites On The Go

An interesting new website called Zapd has popped up recently.  The idea is for you to create mini-websites on the go based around specific ideas or topics that are maybe too small or focused for creating a full-blown website or blog. I am not sure if there has been much buzz on this one or not – I actually found it while killing time in the iPhone app store.

The basic idea is that you get some content (probably some pictures on your phone), pick a theme in Zapd, add your content, and then save it all as a mini-site. You then share the link with just the people that you wish to share it with – you can post it to Facebook or just send it to a few colleagues.  The website mentions everything from travel pictures to small businesses to  portfolios. The only thing I don’t see is a way to keep your link out of the showcase on the front page on the Zapd website.

And about that website – you can’t sign up or do anything other than look at created sites on their main website.  Many websites let you sign up and do everything from their app, but this is one of those that has to be set-up completely through the app.  An interesting concept.

This could be a simple tool for educators to use.  Send your students out around town or school to take pictures for a project and have them create their portfolio on the spot.  Art, history, politics, social studies, music, science, and whole host of other subjects could use something like this to make it easier to apply the concepts from class to the world around the students, all the while giving students an easy way to share their learning.

I created a quick zap here: (yep – seems like all links look like they are straight from some URL-shortener). I can go back in and edit or even add text entries under the pictures for more details. But it was pretty quick and easy. It also would have let me take a picture on the spot and use it – they didn’t have to already exist.

It would be nice to see videos added (like a YouTube embedder). Maybe even some mash-ups with Google Maps for location based sharing.  But it is still new and I am sure there will be other features added soon.

Mobile Pedagogy And Mobile Devices

As much as I see written about mobile devices in education, I rarely see anything that includes what I am calling mobile pedagogy (for lack of better words).  There are little snippets here and there – but nothing that really seems to leverage the possibilities of a mobile device.

To me, it would seem that since the learner would be mobile, you would want to have them get out and interact with their surroundings, and not just send existing content to a mobile device.  Watching a lecture video on an iPhone might be a great way to save time for busy commuters – but you can also pretty much accomplish the same educational goal on a 50 year old television.  Where are the courses designed specifically for mobile learners – ie, learners that are mobile – and not just re-formatted for mobile devices.

So often it seems that when people talk about mobile learning, they are talking about mobile devices and not mobile learners.

Here are just a few ideas that could be possible:

  • Instructor-guided tours of physical locations – a walk through the city to talk about civil engineering, or a tour of a local zoo that explores the political climate of the countries that certain animals are from. Why not make lectures more interactive? A political science lesson at a zoo? Why, you ask?  Well, just because it makes learning interesting and different – mixing subjects just for the heck of it. I loved doing that when I was a teacher.
  • Have learners collect “artifacts” through out the day that relate to the week’s topics – pictures, voice memos, videos, notes, etc.  Students then sit down at some point and assemble an analysis of these artifacts into an interactive report.
  • Augmented reality tests – students go to a Biology lab or Art museum whatever, and as they walk around questions pop-up that require them to examine what is in front of them and then answer.  You know – real world application and not just disconnected multiple choice questions. And there would be no set order or numbers of questions – you keep going until you have proven that you understand the topic and can aply it.
  • Then there is the whole range of projects where students would create projects, tours, etc for other mobile learners – those possibilities are endless.

Wouldn’t it be great if your LMS had an app that helped your students do this, instead of half-baked blog and wiki tools?  Just make sure your school has a good supply of lower cost smart-phones to loan out to students that can’t afford them, a good set of back-up plans for accessibility purposes, and a good contingency plan and you are ready to roll.

Oh, if only I had the money to do all of this on my own.

(I would probably go bankrupt in no time…)