Futures of education

I love that so many different technologies are finally being considered for use in education.

First, let us look at Thin Clients and Blade PCs. If you go to any school today, they more than likely will have computers on a network. Thin clients make up a different kind of network: the computers don’t need extra software or hardware and don’t require lots of energy or maintenance because they connect to a server that has everything they need to run. Given the low costs, schools shouldn’t have a problem implementing this technology. Instead of having to purchase new hardware and/or software for every single computer every few years, schools would primarily replace the server. I think we will see this happening very soon.

Thin client. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org Thin client. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Next, we have virtualization. From what I understood, it simply means to keep your main operating system intact and then run everything else on a separate virtual or physical compartment. For example, you can have your Windows OS in one partition, and then have all your downloads and documents in a separate partition, or keep your data on a different computer altogether that you can access virtually, similar to cloud computing. You can even run different operating systems on the same computer. I believe this would only be beneficial for certain disciplines. For example, Macs are the industry standard for graphic design, but design students may also need to use Microsoft’s Office suite for work: virtualization could be the answer.

To be honest, I don’t think these IT innovations will impact my classroom directly. They will certainly make it easier for students to use computers for learning, but they are not necessary. College students usually use their own devices, set them up the way they want to, and know to back up their data in multiple ways.

Let us move on to innovations that affect education more directly. First, we have gesture-based learning. This is computing based on physical gestures such as tapping, swiping, touching or simply moving. This is much more intuitive than using a mouse or typing. The article from ZDNet explains that gesture-based learning can be used to “promote activities that improve social skills, involves team work, and allows users to solve problems through collaboration” (Osborne, 2012). For example, the Kinect software can be used to make learning more interactive by having student avatars go on a virtual field trip or do math calculations on the fly, as explained by Johnny Kissco in this video. I doubt K-12 schools would implement this anytime soon, but perhaps more specialized professions might (for example, medical students could practice surgical procedures).

Student using Kinect software on a computer for skeleton tracking. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org Student using Kinect software on a computer for skeleton tracking. Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Finally, we have learning analytics. Students are not adequately evaluated just by tests; we need to take into account their backgrounds, personalities, and learning styles. Learning analytics can theoretically double student achievement because we can collect and use all that data to give frequent formative assessments, identify problem areas and in general tailor our instruction to the students’ needs. The University of Phoenix has used learning analytics, and one of the biggest problems they encountered was figuring out what data was actually usable and what time frames to use. The process can become easier by putting all the data online to facilitate sorting and retrieval so that instructors can review the most pertinent information. I really like learning analytics in theory, but revamping the curriculum to allow for individualized instruction would be a herculean labor. It also feels somewhat intrusive; I’m not sure I want to know everything about every single one of my students. As long as analytics are restricted to academics, they’re a technology I can get behind.


Osborne, C. (2012, March 10). Gesture-based tech: A future in education?. ZDNet, Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/gesture-based-tech-a-future-in-education/15514


Week 9: Hybrid learning resources



Merlot’s section for Science and Technology offers thousands of resources such as simulations, virtual laboratories, and tutorials. Each listing has links to the resource, a description, and information about the primary audience, technological requirements, cost and copyright (in general, they are free to use for educational purposes). Merlot is the first place I’d stop by to look for a digital component to add to my classroom. Using the resources found in Merlot model digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3) because instructors exhibit fluency in the technology, collaborate with peers (Merlot allows users to upload instructional materials), and communicate content to students via digital formats.



Moodle is perfect for any educator wanting to have an online component in their classroom. Moodle is open source, so it’s available for anyone to use for free. Its features allow intructors to use it as a virtual classroom, with the ability to build lessons, host discussion forums, and ask students to work collaboratively in wikis and databases. I’ve taken a class on how to build Moodle sites, so I have good ideas on how to use it effectively to deliver content to students. A blended classroom is designed to promote student learning via a digital tool, so it covers NETS-T 2 (a). The environment uses collaborative ways to  promote student reflection, so it is also part of NETS-T 1, facilitating and inspiring student learning. Constructing a user-friendly Moodle site demonstrates the fluency of the instructor in the use of technology systems, and the site allows collaboration and communication digitally (NETS-T 3).



This complements the use of Moodle. In order to use all the tools offered by Moodle, they need to be on a website hosted on a web server. If your institution won’t allow it or doesn’t have the capabilities to do so, you can build your own Moodle site at Gnomio. Instructors get their own web address at gnomio.com and are able to allow access to their students only. Once again, when teachers exhibit fluency in the use of technology, they are modeling digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3); and we are incorporating digital resources in a technology-rich environment to reach NETS-T 2, “design and develop digital age learning and assessments”.



Jing is a free program that can be used to capture images and video from your own computer screen (a “screencast”). This tool is wonderful for making video lectures for a blended classroom. I have used it before with a powerpoint that I played on my computer as I recorded my voice via microphone. If you use it to capture images, you can easily label them with arrows and text. The only problem is that Jing videos only last 5 minutes unless you purchase the full version, known as Snagit. However, I find that breaking down the information into 5 minute segments makes it very manageable. Using this tool models digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3) because it’s used for communication and shows technological fluency. It can be part of a digital age learning experience if it’s incorporated into the classroom to support student learning (NETS-T 2 (a)).



Another option for a blended classroom is to create podcasts. It is easy to upload files to iTunes and have students download them so they can listen to, for example, a pre-lecture on their way to class. Audacity is a free tool that records audio, which can be saved in many formats. Audio files can be uploaded to a Moodle site as well, where mp3 files can be played directly. Once again, if this tool is incorporated into the classroom it can be part of a digital age learning experience (NETS-T 2 (a)), and shows the technological fluency of the instructor when it’s used for communicating information and ideas (NETS T-3 (a) and (c)).



This tool can be used to make presentations. The usual tool seems to be Microsoft’s PowerPoint, but those files can take up a lot of space. Prezi presentations are more dynamic, “freeform” and lightweight. Prezi can use images, video, and animations, and put them together in a  3-D environment. Students can go through slides at their own pace. The Prezi environment encourages creativity and inventiveness as suggested by NETS-T 1 (a). The learning experience incorporates a fun digital tool (NETS-T 2 (a)) as the instructor demonstrates technological fluency (NETS-T 3 (a)). Both students and instructor can communicate using this digital format (NETS-T 3 (d)).

Online exhibits at Koshland Science Museum


Particularly, the infectious disease webquest and the inherited disease activity. They are interactive, interesting, and up-to-date with the latest scientific research. I could use either of these activities after covering basic content and before a hands-on laboratory, or to replace a hands-on lab completely. This resource is particularly appropriate for distance learning. The museum even includes a teaching guide with worksheets, suggestions for critical thinking questions and group activities. The resources in this website facilitate and inspire student learning because they promote innovative thinking, engage students in exploring real-world issues, and proposes collaborative activities to further their understanding of the topic (NETS-T 1). In a blended environment, we are incorporating digital resources that promote student learning, helping us fulfill NETS-T 2 (a) and (b).

Bio-Alive Biology and Life Science Video Share


Bio-alive lists video lectures, seminars, conferences, simulations, virtual labs and even videos of surgical procedures. Many of these videos are hosted on YouTube, but some of them are hosted on their own institutional websites. Basically, this is a community where users link to relevant scientific video resources; users are forbidden from posting copyrighted material. These videos are a great way to introduce new material to a blended classroom or reinforce what we’ve covered before. Since this is a community, instructors and students must follow etiquette and exhibit ethical use of the technology and intellectual property of the video resources (NETS-4 (a) and (c)). The variety of media offered is a great way for instructors to model digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3 (c )).

DNA from the beginning


I was so excited when I found this resource. We often cover the history of science and the experiments that changed the way we saw nature over time (like Sir Isaac Newton said, “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”). This website shows all the classic genetics experiments animated; plus videos, images, biographies of the incumbent scientists, quizzes and links to other relevant resources. I’d love to include this in my classroom for a more engaging way for my students to appreciate everything that scientists have done over the years. According to NETS-T 2 (a), these resources contribute to a digital age learning experience because they are a contemporary tool to promote student learning. Teachers are able to communicate the content thanks to a variety of digital media (NETS-T 3 (c )).

NOVA Education


NOVA provides some wonderful videos to complement the blended classroom. Not only that, but they also host interactive activities that act as virtual labs, in a similar way to the article I reviewed. One activity that I would add to my hybrid classroom is “Create a DNA Fingerprint”. Another one is “Extract your own DNA”, a video tutorial that guides students into extracting their own DNA at home, using household products. Thanks to these resources, students would be using simulations to explore complex scientific issues (NETS-S 1 (c)), and practice procedures for solving real-world problems (NETS-T 1 (d)).

Article 2: Hybrid learning for undergraduate students

Title: Designing Blended Inquiry Learning in a Laboratory Context: A Study of Incorporating Hands-On and Virtual Laboratories.

Author: Eva Erdosne Toth, Becky L. Morrow and Lisa R. Ludvico

Journal: Innovative Higher Education

Publication date: 2009

This quarter I have been learning about theories of teaching and learning, and a question that came up was “how would you design your ideal classroom?” With all the technological innovations that I’ve learned about in Internet for Educators, I definitely want to integrate some sort of digital component into my ideal classroom. The paper I’m reviewing today is a case study on the use of virtual laboratories in addition to regular, hands-on laboratory work; I have toyed with the idea of implementing this environment for some time.

Toth, Morrow and Ludvico identify a common problem in teaching biological sciences: experiments are often carried out in order to learn experimental protocols, but do nothing to support student’s “active, inquiry-based discovery”. They define inquiry-based discovery as a learning experience based on building essential scientific skills: asking questions, using evidence to address these questions, connecting the answers to prior knowledge, and communicating the results to the community. The goal of their study was to determine if the combination of hands-on and virtual labs would provide these learning benefits.

It turns out that the virtual lab had students focus on the specific mechanism of the experiment, allowing them to internalize the knowledge without any external variables affecting the core of the process. On the other hand, the hands-on lab allowed the students to refine their manual skills, measuring skills, and practical reasoning through troubleshooting. The students commented that they enjoyed the virtual lab’s ease, speed, and illustrative nature; and they preferred to complete the virtual lab before the hands-on lab.

Hybrid learning is based on many of the NETS standards. The environment helped students explore a real-world issue and improved students’ conceptual understanding of the material (NETS-T 1) thanks to the digital experience of the laboratory (NETS-T 2). The instructor exhibited fluency in digital tools that support student success (NETS-T 3). The instructor improved their own practice, and this study can be used as a model for future classes, so it is contributing to the effectiveness of the teaching profession (NETS-T 6). This article is a perfect example of why a blended environment is ideal for advancing learning in the digital age.


Toth, E., Morrow, B. L., & Ludvico, L. R. (2009). Designing Blended Inquiry Learning in a Laboratory Context: A Study of Incorporating Hands-On and Virtual Laboratories. Innovative Higher Education, 33(5), 333-344.

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