By Heather Kelly, CNN
Forget tiny iPads - the classrooms of the future might turn entire tables into interactive touchscreens.
Given that many children can sit rapturously before a glowing touchscreen for hours, such gadgets seem like a natural for the classroom. But as with any new teaching technology, it's important to make sure it actually helps students learn and teachers teach before getting caught up in its "cool" factor.
A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK took touchscreen tables into the classroom for some hands-on tests and found the technology (and training) still have to improve before they are fully effective. The researchers say theirs is one of the first studies of this type of technology in actual classrooms, instead of lab situations.
The tables were used in real classrooms over the course of six weeks for lessons in geography, English and history. The five teachers involved in the study prepared the projects based on what the kids were currently learning in class. Each table was used by two to four students at a time, though the table's creators say it can hold up to six students. On the screen were a collaborative writing program and an app called Digital Mysteries, which were designed specifically for large tabletop PCs.
These types of tables are already commercially available and can be seen in the wild in locations like museums. SMART Technologies, for example, makes a table with a 42-inch, 1080p display for $7,749. The prices for these interactive tables will likely come down in the future, but they will still remain a big investment for any school district.
And before schools invest heavily in these kinds of tools, the study's authors say that more in-class research and tweaks to the software should be done.
A few of the issues raised were the same that come up in most group work. Some students would complete tasks faster than others, while others would lose focus and fall behind. Teachers in the study found they couldn't always tell when students were working versus just pretending to work and moving items around the screen.
Suggested improvements to the tools included more detailed progress indicators for the individual students. Researchers also recommend that the apps add more flexibility so that teachers can control, change and pause the lessons. In an old-school twist, researchers also recommended that the programs include an option for exporting kids' progress so they can print it out.
Researchers also emphasized the need for more teacher-friendly features and control over the apps, plus proper training for any educator who plans on integrating these types of tables with their regular classroom curriculum.
"To make the most use of them teachers have to make them part of the classroom activity they have planned – not make it the lesson activity,” said Dr Ahmed Kharrufa in a statement.
In other words, even the most advanced technology won't be able to replace good teachers.
Do you ever feel like the place you live is just a dot on a map? Well, if you live in the U.S. or Canada, Brandon Martin-Anderson just made you a dot on a map.
The MIT graduate student has built an interactive online map that displays one dot for every resident of the United States and Canada, as counted by the most recent censuses. That's 341,817,095 dots. Hover over your town or city, and black smudges on the map gradually dissolve into dot clusters and then individual dots as you zoom in.
"The reason why it (the map) keeps getting shared around is that it intersects with everyone's personal narrative," says Martin-Anderson, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. "People want to be a piece of something larger." FULL POST
Editor's Note: Jim Newton’s full 30-minute profile airs on CNN’s “The Next List” this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. He is the founder and chairman of TechShop, a a membership-based workshop for do-it-yourselfers that provides access to tools, equipment and instruction.
Why you might know him: Newton is a serial entrepreneur, a maker and a hacker. He’s just opened a sixth TechShop, this one in Round Rock, Texas, so more tinkerers, artists, entrepreneurs and lovers of all things handmade can have access to the tools to build whatever they can dream up.
Why he matters: Newton is opening up a world of innovation by giving people the tools, the workspace and the confidence to make things they’ve always dreamed of making. He’s creating hubs for invention and creativity where people can come to inspire and be inspired.
Quotable Newton: “This is kind of innovation as recreation,” he says. “You just do it because it’s fun.”
TechShop by the numbers: There are six TechShops open right now: in Menlo Park, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Jose, CA, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Detroit, MI, and now Round Rock, Texas, near Austin. Three more are planned for Brooklyn, NY, Pittsburgh, PA and greater Washington, D.C. There are currently about 5,000 TechShop members nationwide.
In his own words: “Everybody has creative abilities but people just don’t express them. I mean, I see people come in here that are afraid to try anything. We give them some classes and some encouragement. And they have some success with their projects. And you see them just change. You see them light up. You see them say, 'Wow, I really can do this.' This is stunning. They’re stunned.”
Something you might not know about Jim: He worked as a science advisor on the popular Discovery Channel show "MythBusters." He’s taught robotics and is a former Battle Bots competitor.
What they did on summer vacation: The Newtons (Jim, his wife Barbara and their three children) took a 60-day long car trip across America to visit iconic landmarks.
Surprising Fact: They are still speaking to one another.
Newton’s Dream? To open a TechShop in every major city in the country. That way he’ll have access to a world-class workshop wherever he goes.
Editor's Note: Watch Jennifer Pahlka’s full 30-minute profile this Sunday on CNN’s “The Next List” 2 P.M. ET. She’s the founder and executive director of Code for America in San Francisco. She lives in Oakland, California, with her daughter, Clementine, and their chickens.
Why you might know her: Her TED Talk has over half a million views for starters, and she is also founder of Code for America, which teams web developers, designers and entrepreneurs with local governments to help make cities more efficient and create positive change.
Quotable Pahlka: “We proudly use the word ‘geek.’ We call ourselves a Peace Corps for geeks… there’s just something about that word that most of us embrace.”
Why she matters: Pahlka has created a prestigious fellowship that pulls the smartest people from the tech world and has them work with local governments to make them more efficient. She believes that government should run as smoothly and as open as the Internet. A web site or app that might normally take a city several years to plan and millions of dollars to execute can be done by her fleet of geeks in just months at a fraction of the cost.
By Olivia Smith, Special to CNN
New York (CNN) - Imagine wallpaper that does work for you and for your electronics. Wallpaper that doesn’t only protect your walls, but also protects your health, equipment and data.
Researchers at France’s Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble have worked with the Centre Technique du Papier to develop Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper. The product, also known as metapaper, claims to selectively filter, reduce or reflect electromagnetic waves.
Metapaper not only protects against intruders stealing Wi-Fi from buildings, but also ensures that signals inside a building are more secure and stronger, the group says. Benefits include data security for companies or people that need dependable Wi-Fi. The wallpaper can also be used to create quieter spaces for places like hospitals and movie theaters. FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. legal drinking age is 21. Should Facebook have the same requirement?
Plenty of people light-heartedly say the 900-million-person social network is "addictive," since so many of us spend hours a day checking up on what our Facebook friends are doing.
But following a Monday story about whether Facebook should allow children younger than 13 to join the site - since stats show they're on Facebook anyway and Facebook reportedly is considering implementing parental controls that could allow it to lower the minimum age - some of CNN's commenters fired back, saying that the minimum age should not be lowered.
In fact, they said, it should be raised.
"No. Flying Green Monkeys. No," commenter AnneV99 wrote in response to our question about whether 11-year-olds should be allowed to join Facebook. "In fact, raise the age limit to 21. Why? Because many parents and teachers are already teaching their children to be irresponsible. But what is Facebook - It is all about ME-ME-ME. Facebook = Sickness (but not as bad as that evil-Twitter thing)." FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
When the company's hoodie-wearing CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced a new feature called Timeline in September, he proclaimed that Facebook would be the website - or social network or app or whatever - to catalogue life from birth to death. The site even created a place for users to upload their baby photos, to signify the start of their Facebook lives.
This, of course, has happened in Internet history before. There was a time when tech pundits thought MySpace, Friendster and AltaVista would be around (and relevant) forever, too. But what's strange about Facebook's audacious birth-to-death claim is that, to many people, it didn't seem all that strange.
Americans are known for being a nation of tinkerers – inventors with imagination, creativity and pluck. But despite that legacy, and the largest consumer market in the world, it’s nearly impossible for an average inventor to see their idea actually make it to store shelves.
Ben Kaufman is determined to change that. He is the 25-year-old founder and CEO of Quirky.com, an innovative startup that is turning ideas into real-life products.
Kaufman, subject of last Sunday's "The Next List" on CNN, says his mission is “to make it possible for all people to execute on their great ideas, regardless of their luck, their circumstance or their pedigree. To give everyone a chance.”
The Quirky process leverages the power of thousands of community members and the experience of top-notch designers to take an idea from the “what if” stage all the way to the marketplace. Members not only vote on the products they’d like to see, they double as built-in buyers. And everybody who influences the final product gets a cut.