Ian Burkhart, a 24-year-old from Ohio, was left a quadriplegic after a diving accident while on holiday five years ago.  His severed spinal cord effectively blocks messages being passed from the brain to his limbs.

But a pea sized chip inserted into Burkhart’s head to read brain signals is now facilitating communication by a device called NeuroLife, which reroutes messages from his brain to his hand, wrist and finger muscles, effectively bypassing the spinal cord.

The development of this computer software has the capacity to transform the life of quadriplegics like Burkhart and give them back a degree of independence lost.   With a computer plugged directly into his brain, Burkhart is now able to grasp a bottle, pick up a spoon and perform other fine motor skills that he never thought he’d be able to do again.

Watch the video and read more about this amazing application of technology.

347 years after his death, this painting was unveiled in Amsterdam just a week ago.

Titled ‘The Next Rembrandt’ it is not, as you may think, a long lost work by Rembrandt which has just been discovered.  Instead, it is a computer generated painting based on an 18 month study of Rembrandt’s works.

In the words of Ron Augustus:

We’re using a lot of data to improve business life, but we haven’t been using data that much in a way that touches the human soul.  You could say that we use technology and data like Rembrandt used his paints and his brushes to create something new.

The painstakingly process involved in studying Rembrandt’s technique is as fascinating as the process put in place to create the painting.

For art lovers the world over this is a fascinating development and offers a challenge to those of us working in schools to inspire and challenge students to explore the never ending ways in which technology can be used.

I very rarely look at the stats of my blog.  Quite honestly, I’ve better things to do.

But the other day, I was poking around on the NovaNews dashboard looking for something and came across an incredibly high number of hits for a post I wrote back in late 2012:  Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers.

I was amazed to see that in just the first three months of this year – 2016 – there have been a total of 962 hits on this post, a figure which equates to 43% of the total number of hits on the same blog post last year.

Learning to learn - 10 essential skills for teachers!

So I’ve been sitting here for a while puzzling over why this post should be generating so much interest.

Perhaps my post may be garnering some attention via Twitter, but a check of recent stats on my WordPress analytics suggests not.  Most of the ‘referrers’ to this blog post are in fact coming from search engines which suggests

that many ‘out there’ must be searching for ways to improve their own teaching skills and that is the really interesting finding in all of this!

Inadvertently, it seems, I’ve discovered that my thoughts are being read far more widely than I’d previously thought.

Ah, I say with a smile on my face:  the power of blogging!

We certainly do live in exciting times.  The future of technology seems quite limitless when looking at the new release of HoloLens by Microsoft.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so have a look at this video and then read more about it in this article which I read last week.

My mind buzzes with the many applications to which this can be applied in the education sector.  When you look at this, it really throws up the question of how our classrooms will look in the not too distant future!

Cheating Watches

An article I read on BBC News this week highlights teachers’ complaints about the online promotion of “Cheating Watches” by Amazon.

Incorporating an emergency button to quickly switch from hidden text to a clock face – a process that mirrors the alt/tab phenomenon already rampant in schools and the workplace – the promo for these watches differs greatly from previous practice in that it openly encourages students to cheat and get away with it!

The rise of small wearable devices are creating new opportunities for us to monitor ourselves in ways never thought possible just a short time ago.  The reality though, not often considered anywhere near as deeply, is that these same devices allow others to monitor us.  But in this case, are big companies taking advantage of what many would consider a young, inexperienced and  vulnerable market?  Is greed, by big companies, a dominating factor?

With easy access to stored materials and to the internet, not to mention the ease of sending and receiving text messages or having a quick chat with another, smartwatches are setting students up to be caught out.  Clearly, such devices present an enormous headache for school administrators and has already lead to students being required to remove their watches prior to entering exam rooms.  Such a logical next step was reported on by the Sydney Morning Herald last year:  Apple watches banned from VCE Exams.

But, a considered argument by Ritesh Chugh was presented at the end of an article reporting on this same issue:

In order to use portable and/or wearable technology effectively in exams, it would be worth considering their merit  in researching opportunities, collaboration and convenience. However, to effectively  use these positive qualities, exams will need questions that demand students to research, collaborate and think critically in a short period of time in order to frame their responses. Designing exam questions that require students to apply knowledge and skills in new and unfamiliar situations rather than relying on rote memory might be something worth considering.”

(Is it cheating to wear a smartwatch into an exam?  June 9, 2015)

It wasn’t that many years ago that I had teachers in my school raising their concerns of students using the internet rather than books to locate information for projects and assignments.  With an ever increased dependence on easily locating information online, teachers feared that students would fail to learn the age-old skills of locating information in books.  As I collaborated with teachers on the design of their assignments, teachers soon realized that they could incorporate requirements to use both books and the enormous wealth of resources available on the internet into set work.  Teaching moments on how to authenticate and acknowledge materials sourced on the internet were created and put into practice by many a teacher librarian.

Rather than running scared of this new technology, maybe we should, as Chugh suggests, grab the bull by the horns and see how this new and evolving technology can be incorporated into assessments.

Smartwatches and wearable devices are now part and parcel of life, so how about educators stop futzing around and just rise to the challenge of thinking outside the traditional ‘assessment’ box?

There are so many inspirational people in the world.  TED and TEDx talks are replete with them.

This TEDx was published less than a month ago.  In it we hear Roei Sadan talk about his latest challenge and along the way he shares advice which is not only meaningful but is very moving.

You may have heard of Roei Sadan previously.  He received world wide media coverage as he completed his solo journey cycling around the world.  It took him five years to complete.  In that time he traversed 66,000 kilometers, 42 countries and six continents. An amazing feat.

Six months ago Roei embarked on his next challenge – climbing The Himalayas.  But he slipped and fell over 500 meters.  Roei was very badly wounded, injured in every body part, including his head.

Roei set himself a goal to present at this February 16, 2016 TEDx to share what he calls ‘The Dreamer Toolbox”.  They are four simple tools he used daily when climbing mountains and still uses today.

  1. The Mountain Always Looks Bigger From A Distance
  2. Be Grateful For Challenges
  3. Not Every Dream Needs To Be Fulfilled
  4. Put Your Ego Aside

Take the time to listen to this man sharing his advice.  What he has to share applies to each and everyone of us and provides such valuable lessons for the students in our schools.

It’s hard to believe that Pindex hasn’t been developed before now because when you stop and think about it, the idea has almost always been out there.

Launched just a month ago, its premise is simple and its design is very appealing.  Its four person team aims to curate educational videos and infographics for teachers and students.

In short it’s a pinboard for learning or looking at it another way …..  a Pinterest for Educators.

More information can be extracted from the Pindex website:

Pindex is a pinboard to collect and discover the best educational material. It’s not just for teachers and students. Anyone can create boards to share their passion and enjoy the adventure of learning.

Take a look at this video which gives a glimpse of what’s available on Pindex

or explore a guide to Pindex to figure out how best this new resource can be used in your school or shared as a resource through your library.

Be quick to request an invite.  I’m anxiously awaiting mine so that I can have a more in depth peek at this fabulous new resource!


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