8 Technologies That Will Shape Future Classrooms

Posted by Harshad

8 Technologies That Will Shape Future Classrooms

8 Technologies That Will Shape Future Classrooms

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 08:01 AM PDT

What does the future of learning hold? What will classrooms of the future be like? Emerging technologies such as cloud computing, augmented reality (AR) and 3D printing are paving the way for the future of education in ways we may have yet to see. At the very least though, we can extrapolate from what these promising technologies and predict how schools will adopt them in time to come.

However, just as the original intentions for new technology often give way to innovative and unpredictable usage, we can never be sure if a twist is waiting for these rising stars. As for now, let us observe their progress and speculate on how these 8 up-and-coming technologies could potentially change education for the better.

1. Augmented Reality (AR)

We’re still waiting for Augmented Reality to take the world by storm by way of Google Glass, gaming and awesome apps for astronomy.

It’s expected to wow audiences with its AR capabilities, which allow users to see additional information layered over what they see through the lens. Currently, however, access to AR technology for educational purposes is mostly limited to smartphone apps.

Apps like Sky Map lets you scout the night sky for constellations, but they are not fully integrated as a component of education as they have yet to reach the stage of seamlessness. The AR experience must be immersive enough to blend information readily with the reality.

With Google Glass and the other AR-enabled wearable devices that will soon follow, students explore the world without having to hold up a device which could distract from the experience. Created by Will Powell, an AR developer for Oxford, a simpler version of the Google Glass showcases how effortless this can be. Check out this video to enter a world with seamlessly integrated augmented reality.

A New Way To Teach

Virtual field trips are also possible with AR. Physics teacher, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, taught from inside the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, streaming what he sees through a beta Google Glass to his students thousands of miles away. They see him, and he sees them; it’s as if they are in the same classroom! The "Hangout" feature in use here is particularly promising for team collaborations in projects and assignments.

In other cases, students may be able to see supplementary and interactive information appearing on historical artifacts for them to get to know more about its history, just like how this AR advertising app can recognize images in the real world and interact with them.

2. 3D Printing

What’s a better present for your 10-year-old than a LEGO set? How about a 3D printer, one specifically for children? The 3D printer should really be a must-have in classrooms. Instead of being restricted to what they can play with, pupils in the classroom of the future can print out 3D models for various purposes, including show-and-tell.

Engineering students and teachers are prime examples of who could directly benefit from 3D printing technology. In Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in Minneapolis, the school’s Dimension BST 3D printer lets students create design prototypes.

The 3D printer produces working mini-models to test out engineering design principles, so students can perfect their design before making an actual prototype. Together with CAD (computer-aided design) modeling software, 3D printing allows these students to experiment freely with their designs without expending considerable costs and time.

Abstract Thought, Real-Life Models

As it will be for many other subjects that require some form of visualization, the decreasing cost of 3D printers means that more teachers will be able to reconstruct complex concept models to teach theoretical concepts. For instance, the concept of molecular structures and configurations may be hard to grasp, but by printing out physical versions of these structures, this can help students put a form on abstract thought, and aid in better understanding.

3. Cloud Computing

"My dog ate my homework" just won’t cut it with teachers in the near future. Cloud computing is buzzing these days and will most likely continue to change many aspects of our society, particularly education. In a bid to modernize education in China, the city of Zhuji in Zhejiang has installed more than 6,000 cloud computing terminal devices in 118 schools.

In the future classroom, students may just need an electronic device to access all their homework and all other learning resources in the Cloud. This means no more lugging heavy textbooks to school, and having constant access to your reading materials as long as you have an Internet connection.

Such convenience will provide students the freedom to work on their projects or homework anytime and anywhere. The digital library is accessible even when the campus library is not. In fact you can skip hitching a ride there, or to the bookstore or even to class (but being sick may no longer be an acceptable excuse to skip "attending" class from your bedroom).

(Image source: jakartapost)

An Online Learning Opportunity

Cloud computing seeks to virtualize the classroom. Schools can now leverage on cloud technology and set up online learning platforms for students to log on and attend classes in a virtual environment.

Take for example, the concept of cloud-based virtual learning environment (VLE), which allows students to access learning content and participate in discussions in forums. Assignments or even tests can also be easily disseminated to the class, minimizing the need for students to be physically present, but to encourage interaction and discussion, educators require another channel.

4. Online Social Networking

Numerous universities have already registered themselves with the online virtual world, Second Life to provide students with an online platform to socialize with each other. As a big part of the cloud platform, such social networks allows students to share their ideas freely, while teachers moderate.

This is a very empowering notion because it will imbue learners with a new perception – that learning is a personal responsibility and not that of the teacher’s.

For Homework… Discuss

Furthermore, this many-to-many interactive learning where ideas are allowed to flow freely will be more aligned with real-world scenarios where collaboration is usually the norm. Social networking tools can be incorporated to enhance collaboration and team-building initiatives.

Still, if there is a need, teachers, lecturers and professors can lend some guidance in the form of responses to forum queries or by uploading useful information to the cloud community instantaneously. Another benefit is that It also serves as a great feedback tool, to help improve the courseware. A social-based approach to education will seem more than relevant to students of the future.

5. Flexible Displays

Note-taking on memo pads is still very much alive during lectures although there may be a shift from paper to laptops, netbooks or tablets. As educational settings become more digitalized, how will the future classroom reconcile the differences between pen and paper versus keyboard and screen?

The answer might just be flexible OLED-based displays. Just like regular paper, these displays will be lightweight, flexible and extremely thin. This means we can roll them up into tubes or fold them like newspapers.

Paper-Thin Smartphones

Unlike regular paper however, these plastic e-papers are not only durable ("unbreakable" is the correct term), but also provides interactivity. With swipes, taps and pinching (maybe), these flexible paper-thin displays can take over paper-centric industries.

Feast your eyes on this paper-thin, A4-sized digital paper prototype by Sony which weighs only a mere 63g. Laptops and even smartphones can’t hold a candle to that kind of portability.

(Image source: engadget)

6. Biometrics: Eye Tracking

One technology that’s been gaining recognition is biometrics. Conventionally biometrics are associated with the security industry, as it uses what is unique to each one of us to authenticate our identity: fingerprints, facial recognition, iris patterns, voice. In terms of education, some schools are only using fingerprinting to prevent truancy and for borrowing books from their school library.

However, eye-tracking can be helpful for instance, in providing invaluable feedback for teachers to understand how students absorb and understand the learning content. As a matter of fact, advertising research have been using eye-tracking technology to see how consumers respond to their ads and to determine what captures their attention.

(Image source: Lisa Hope)

Similarly, the same form of analysis can be conducted to ascertain course effectiveness or individual learning styles. Mirametrix is using its S2 Eye Tracker to assess how students learn by getting details of where they look during online learning sessions.

Cheaper alternatives are turning up in the form of Eye Tribe for Windows and Android, so it’s only a matter of time before this data is attainable by educators.

The data may then be integrated with interactive adaptive learning systems in a manner that adjusts the content to best suit each student’s learning style. Alternatively, the eye movement patterns may also guide the delivery of the content, taking into account concepts students might have trouble understanding evident in the longer time they spend gazing at that particular section.

7. Multi-Touch LCD Screens

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the transition from blackboard to whiteboard, to overhead projector and to video projector for computers in schools. If you’re guessing that the next in line will be something that is akin to our smartphones and tablets, you may be right. Specifically speaking, the next "board" is likely to be a giant touchscreen LCD screen which allows a greater amount of interactivity.

After all, we’re talking about a screen that will be attached to a computer capable of generating infinite combinations of images, sounds and videos, just like our smartphones. The major difference with this new "board" and our smart devices is that it will be capable of detecting multiple touch inputs from many students simultaneously.

LCD Touch boards

Instead of the traditional big board in front of the classroom, it will probably be just like the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface, a giant tablet with its LCD screen lying flat atop a table-like structure. Students will sit around the table tablet, swipe on the board to manipulate and drag images around the screen, or type notes with their onscreen keyboards.

(Image source: theregister.co.uk)

Think of the possibilities if every pupil gets one of these desks. Along with the social networking feature, these multi-touch surfaces will also allow students to collaborate live with peers around the world by manipulating virtual objects in real-time. The Multi-touch project by SynergyNet in Durham University is a great existing example of how such technology can be used by school children.

8. Game-Based Learning

Growing up at a time when the world is connected by the internet, kids today seems to have very short attention spans. This is unsurprising, since their childhood revolves around YouTube, Facebook and smartphones that provide them with on-the-go 24-hours updates and the answers to all their queries through Google and Wikipedia.

To cater to such a fast-paced generation, schools will eventually abandon traditional teaching methods of rote learning to align themselves with the times. One great way to achieve that is to use what had always been considered as a major distraction to learning – video games.

Gaming For Grades

KinectEDucation provides a one-stop online community for interested educators and students who want to use Microsoft Kinect for learning purposes. As can be seen from their video, some of the best suggestions on how educators and students can benefit from the motion-sensing technology include enabling students to learn sign language and how to play the guitar by detecting their hand movements.

In another example, a professor from the University of Washington Bothell teaches mathematics to her class by giving them the first-hand experience of learning through their motions which are captured by Kinect. Along with successful devices like Wii Remote and PlayStation Move, the motion-sensing technology is believed to be able to provide the necessary level of interactivity for students to feel more engaged with learning.

Learning To Design Games

Another concept adopted by educators does not focus on the gameplay or interactivity; rather, it emphasizes on how learning the game design process can educate students. In Gamestar Mechanic, the idea is to impart students with basic game designing skills (without the complexity of programming) to create their own games and consequently help them develop broad skill sets such as language, systematic thinking, problem-solving (through simulation, trial-and-errors, etc), storytelling, art and many more.

School children from fourth to ninth grade learn how to design one by playing a game itself where they assume the role of a young aspiring game designer who’ll go through quests, missions, etc to be awarded with various Sprites to use in their Toolbox (an area for them to design their own games). This is not unlike the role-playing video games we see in today’s market.

This illustrates how educators are moving away from traditional classroom teaching to that of letting students have fun and learn while they play interactive games. It’s inevitable that students in the future who grow up with such technology will require much higher levels of fun and excitement before they see education as appealing and captivating.

Education Beyond the Classroom

In the future, education will no longer be restricted to formalized institutes like schools and classes. Using AR, cloud computing, online social networking and adaptive learning systems utilizing eye tracking technology, learning can take place outside the tradtional classroom.

Experimentations and mistakes will also be encouraged as simulations are made possible through 3D printing and game-based learning without actually incurring real-world consequences or costs. Chief among all, students will soon be imparted with the wisdom of seeing learning as not a chore, but as a critical and gratifying part of their life which requires their proactive involvement.

10 Best iPhone Training Apps For Runners

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 06:01 AM PDT

If you’ve felt like you’ve betrayed your New Year resolution to hit the gym and/or lose weight (again), take heart that you can easily redeem yourself by starting now. And what better way to hit the road than by running! It’s the simplest form of exercise, as there are no membership fees or extra equipment involved – all you need are a pair of running shoes and a willing heart.

To get you started, here are a few running apps for the iPhone which will turn the couch potato within you into a brand new road warrior. We’ll showcase 5 free running apps to start you off, and another 5 premium apps which may have more to offer.

From hooking you up with fellow runners, preparing you for a big marathon, or injecting some fun back into the simple exercise of a quick run, these apps will surely reinvent the way you view running apps.

1. C25K

C25K, or Couch to 5 Kilometres, is a popular training schedule for beginners unfamiliar with the running scene, particularly those who would like to learn how to sustain a run for longer than 5 minutes. It takes you on a very progressive running schedule which increases the intensity of running gradually to meet the needs of the self-proclaimed couch potato. The frequency of intensity involved is appropriately adjusted at each step of the programme – you will always feel as if you’re hitting your limit, but never like you’re pushing too far. [Free]


2. Strava Running

Strava Running utilizes the power of social networking to bring runners with the same interests together. On top of that it helps you log your running history and find running partners to run with in your area. Catered specifically towards the running community, it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect such as a timer, distance tracker and calorie manager. Definitely an app worth checking out. [Free]

Strava Run

3. Charity Miles

If you’ve always wanted to feel like you’re contributing to the society while you’re running, you can do more than just picking up stray garbage along your route or saving injured animals. Charity Miles is an app which donates money towards specific causes based on the miles you’ve logged in, so not only do you help yourself during your runs, you help others as well! Puts the saying, "Every Mile Matters" into perspective. [Free]

Charity Miles

4. Mile Mapper

Mile Mapper is similar to WalkJogRun. It suggests alternative routes for you based on your destination, but what sets it apart is that it calculates an ideal route for you entirely based on its own mapping algorithm and Google Maps, instead of drawing from a catalogue of existing routes. It’s extremely fun for creating random routes on the fly if you’re bored of running the same routes over and over. [Free]

Mile Mapper

5. Fitocracy

Fitocracy is another social networking app for fitness buffs, and has a section dedicated specifically towards runners. What is special about this app is its unique scoring system, where you can rack up points based on your performance over the week then tally them against other runners. It puts a whole new spin on the concept of having a partner to run with, and helps immensely as a shot in the arm for motivation when you see yourself trailing. [Free]


6. Zombies, Run!

Ever wondered what it feels like to be running away from a zombie horde? Well wonder no more, as Zombies, Run! puts you in the middle of one. Using audio cues from the perspective of a radio operator trying to help you reach a human base alive, the app instructs you to run through a pretend apocalyptic settings, switching between brisk jogs and sudden sprints, putting the fun back in running. [$3.99]

Zombies, Run!

7. WalkJogRun

WalkJogRun is a professionally running app which gathers the running routes of its many subscribers and stores it all in one central database. This can be useful if you ever find yourself in a new area you’re not familar with, but still want to bust up your miles. Even if you’re only using it from home, you can still use the app to switch up your running routes and keep your morning jog fresh. [$1.99]


8. Cruise Control

As the name suggests, Cruise Control learns from your running habits and tries to set up an ideal tempo based on your level of experience. It does this by analysing songs present in your media device and setting up a playlist of songs which are most suitable for a run, such as those with an upbeat tone or strong rhythmic beat. Best of all, it even adjusts the tempo of each individual song to coach you during your run, by speeding up when you’re slowing down and vice versa! [$4.99]

Cruise Control

9. Battlesuit Runner Fitness

Do you like video games? Well then, we’ve got just the perfect app for you. Battlesuit Runner Fitness throws you deep into an exciting sci-fi adventure, running in a tactical mobilized battlesuit a la Halo or Iron Man. The action is fast-paced and the narrative, exciting, placing you in the heart of the action as a soldier in an alien war story. The story is interactive so you get to make choices along the way, and you do gain a sense of immersion while running with this app. [$0.99]

Battlesuit Runner Fitness

10. Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program

Much like C25K but on steroids, Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program trains you to prepare for a marathon from the get go. Its 18-week training program aims to turn you from a complete couch potato into a truly qualified marathon runner. Many novice runners have vouched for the effectiveness of this program, so if you’re aiming to do a full marathon but lack a personal coach or mentor, look no further than this app. [$9.99]

Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program

What To Consider When Localizing Your Website Into English

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 03:01 AM PDT

Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Emma Bertouche, the Head of Digital Marketing for Capita Translation and Interpreting. Capita TI have a wide range of website localization customers, including MyProtein. You can contact them at Twitter or Linkedin.

For a lot of businesses the thought of expanding is appealing but the move can be fraught with concerns over cost and straying into the unknown. It is all too often the case that businesses find themselves in a catch-22 situation; the ROI of localization is an unknown, however it will remain unknown unless you take a leap of faith.

But what if there was an easier way? Did you know that you can initiate your expansion plans by targeting English speakers across the globe? Rather than worrying about producing content in a language you can neither produce or proofread yourself, there is potential "low hanging fruit" which can kickstart your expansion plans without the headache.

So You’ve Been Told To Export…

Since the recession, businesses have been repeatedly told that the road to recovery is to export, businesses localize their product offering and send it out into the wider world. But there is a message that has been undersold, which is that you do not have to localize your website into 5, 10, or 20+ foreign languages to capitalise on this growth.

Things you will need to consider (but probably haven’t even begun thinking about) are:

  • Your web platform — Can it support localized content?
  • Is your systems and technology integrated enough — Can you handle transactions in alternative currencies?
  • Is your current operation scalable – Can you meet the needs of other markets?

Where To Begin

As with any new project there will always be elements that you had never even considered, but you are not alone, help is at hand.

Converting your prices into US or Australian Dollars, Euros or Pound Sterling might seem easy enough. But if you want to really maximise conversion for these customers you need to consider that the tone and subtleties in spelling are correct in your chosen target language.

These implementations will also help you to identify any modifications that are needed to your technology in order to cope with your international expansion without the confusion of dealing with on-page copy that you don’t understand.


Free programmes such as Google Analytics provides your company with access to enormous levels of data on website performance, but the challenge is knowing what to do with the information before you.

Description: analytics map.png

There is still a sizable number of businesses that struggle to understand how to analyse the information at their disposal or have no tracking on their site – which means that they are immediately handicapped in understanding how effective their website can be.

No matter what language your website is in, you will find that you generally attract traffic from traffic across the globe, albeit to a lesser extent than the countries which are their primary targets i.e. USA, UK, Australia, Ireland.

Even without tracking your website traffic you may already know where all your converting customers are coming from because of the details you gather from them when they complete a call to action. But how many conversions would you gain if your site was tailored to the customer’s expectations?

Localizing Businesses

It’s well documented that visitors are far less likely to complete the sales process if they don’t understand the information before them — bit of a no brainer! But how many people are turned off by the idea that their purchase has got to cross the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean? In a world where people expect next or same day delivery, this could definitely be a factor.

What if you were to create the illusion that your business is in the same country that the purchase is being made? OK, if the buyer is savvy enough, they will be able to find out that your business is based elsewhere, but the majority of visitors probably won’t dig that deep, and even if they do, who’s to say they won’t buy your products regardless because you’ve gone the extra mile to present information to them in their plain English?

Points To Consider

Here are a few points to look into:

1. Getting The Product There

So, how do you win over as many visitors as possible? Firstly, make sure you can deliver! Identify how easy it would be to get your product to that country. Are there areas that might cause problems e.g. they’re remote, there are political issues, the cost of shipping outweighing product value, etc. (For UK businesses the UKTI offer a great business checklist or for the US the Office of the United States Trade Representative also has a wealth of information.)

2. Availability of Products

Are all your products going to be available to all countries? For example in the case of pharmaceutical or nutritional sites, there might be ingredients in some products that are banned in other countries. If so, you need to develop collateral omitting those products to avoid causing customer disappointment.

3. A Local Site

Format your site information so it looks local. This involves currency information, telephone numbers, even localized domains and email addresses. There are obvious details such as spelling differences and use of language; for example in the UK something that is customised can be referred to as bespoke, whereas this is not a term that people in the US would ever use.

Also make sure your pricing is competitive, taking into account shipping costs; you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste just because you’ve priced yourself out of the market when you could have easily avoided doing so.

4. Customs In Making A Sale

Lastly, think about the user journey; this might not be such a deal breaker as the previous points, but it is worth considering. Just because two countries broadly speak the same language doesn’t mean that their cultural ideologies are the same.

Some buyers are comforted by customer testimonials being displayed throughout the buying cycle; others prefer the checkout process to be as clean and simple as possible.

And if you do use customer testimonials, use customers that are relevant to those regions. If all your testimonials are from people in Australia this might not inspire buyers in the UK, or vice versa.

The Future And Beyond

The buying cycle doesn’t end once the goods are bought and paid for; your product might require repeat purchases, and if not, you might want a testimonial from that customer to spread the word about their fantastic experience.

Therefore it is important to consider your after-sales care. Do you need customer service representatives to be available over a more diverse range of time zones? Do you need to localize the content of your automated emails, invoices or receipts?

It’s these small things that could make a big difference.

How to Create a Blog with Jekyll – A Beginner’s Guide

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 12:01 AM PDT

WordPress, which humbly started as a blogging platform, has now transformed into a full-fledged and a very popular CMS. With WordPress, you can build (almost) any kind of website, from a portfolio to an e-Commerce website.

But what if you only concern about blogging, and you do not need jam-packed features in WordPress like custom taxonomy, user management, comment moderation, and a nice media uploader?

In short, you just want to be focusing on writing and publishing your content. If that is something you have in mind, let’s meet Jekyll, a static blogging engine.

About Jekyll

Jekyll comes with the idea of creating a static (same old HTML) blog, one which is easily maintainable. In comparison to a dynamic blogging tool, like WordPress that is built with a server-side language like PHP, a static website has 2 key advantages.

First, it serves and perform faster. Second, it consumes less web resources namely memory and database I/O. Additionally, if you use Jekyll, you can host your blog in Github Pages for free.

Install Jekyll

First, let’s install Jekyll in our system. Launch Terminal and type the following command line:

 sudo gem install jekyll 

Once installed, run this command to ensure that jekyll command is functioning.

 jekyll -v 

The command should show the Jekyll version, like so:

Create a Jekyll Site

To create a new blog with Jekyll, type jekyll followed by new and the name of the site in Terminal. For example:

 jekyll new jekyll-blog 

In this example, it created a new directory as specified, jekyll-blog, as well as the following stuff within:

Type this command below to activate Jekyll server.

 jekyll serve 

You can also run the the server using the --watch flag; that way it will automatically update the blog everytime we made a change.

Go to the browser and type http://localhost:4000, or as shown in the Terminal screen to open the blog.

The Document Structure

Jekyll applies a specific document structure that we have to follow, so the blog could function properly. Let’s take a look at what we have in our blog directory below:

 |-- _config.yml |-- _layouts |-- _posts |-- _site |-- css `-- index.html 

First, we have _config.yml; it is the the blog’s configuration file written in Yaml. In this file we can specify the blog name, the permalink format, host, Port number, and etc.

_layouts is where we put customized layout for page or post.

_posts is the directory where we save all our posts. All the posts should be written either with Markdown or Textile. They will be compiled and save the output in _site directory; this is the directory where Jekyll will serve the posts in the Browser.

Lastly, we have css and index.html.

For now, we will leave them as they are, with no custom configuration. Let’s start writing our first post.

Writing a New Post

As mentioned above, in Jekyll, we either write the post in Markdown or Textile. We have covered in the previous on how to write with Markdown; you may want to check that link first before going any further.

Naming Convention

To create a post, we also create a new file that must follow this naming convention year-month-date-{post-slug}.{file-extension}, for example: 2014-03-11-hello-world.md. Save the file in _posts directory.

Post Front-matter

Before we begin writing the body content of our post, we must first define the post front-matter namely the title and the post layout. We can also define the post categories and the tags, but these are optional. The most important thing is that the front-matter must be set within triple-dashed line. Here is an example:

 --- layout: post title: Hello World! --- 

Then we can write the content:

 Hello world! Welcome to Jekyll. This is your first post. 

Save the file. We will see the psot generated, and appear on our blog. Nice!

Wrap up

In this post, we have shown you how to install Jekyll and write your new post, which are the basic things that I think you ought to get to know before going further with Jekyll. There are a lot more things to explore in Jekyll, and we will discuss them in future posts. Stay tuned.


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