Tag Archives: Family & Parenting

The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years


If you were asked to name the most important innovation in transportation over the last 200 years, you might say the combustion engine, air travel, Henry Ford’s Model-T production line or even the bicycle. The list goes on.

Now answer this one: What’s been the single biggest innovation in education?

Don’t worry if you come up blank. You’re supposed to. The question is a gambit used by Anant Agarwal, the computer scientist named this year to head edX, a $60 million MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the web, free, to anyone who wants one. His point: It’s rare to see major technological advances in how people learn.

Agarwal believes that education is about to change dramatically. The reason is the power of the web and its associated data-crunching technologies. Thanks to these changes, it’s now possible to stream video classes with sophisticated interactive elements, and researchers can scoop up student data that could help them make teaching more effective. The technology is powerful, fairly cheap and global in its reach. EdX has said it hopes to teach a billion students.

Online education isn’t new—in the United States more than 700,000 students now study in full-time “distance learning” programs. What’s different is the scale of technology being applied by leaders who mix high-minded goals with sharp-elbowed, low-priced Internet business models.

In the stories that will follow in this month’s business report, MIT Technology Review will chart the impact of free online education, particularly the “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, offered by new education ventures like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, to name the most prominent

These ideas affect markets so large that their value is difficult to quantify. Just consider that a quarter of the American population, 80 million people, is enrolled in K–12 education, college, or graduate school. Direct expenditures by government exceed $800 billion. Add to that figure private education and corporate training.

Because education is economically important yet appears inefficient and static with respect to technology, it’s often cited (along with health care) as the next industry ripe for a major “disruption.” This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, the influential Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive technology.” In two books on education, he laid a blueprint for online learning: It will continue to spread and get better, and eventually it will topple many ideas about how we teach—and possibly some institutions as well.

In Christensen’s view, disruptive technologies find success initially in markets “where the alternative is nothing.” This accounts for why online learning is already important in the adult education market (think low-end MBAs and nursing degrees). It also explains the sudden rise of organizations such as Khan Academy, the nonprofit whose free online math videos have won funding from Bill Gates and adoring attention from the media. Khan gained its first foothold among parents who couldn’t afford $125 an hour for a private math tutor. For them, Salman Khan, the charming narrator of the videos, was a plausible substitute.

Khan’s simple videos aren’t without their critics, who wonder whether his tutorials really teach math so well. “We agree 100% we aren’t going to solve education’s problems,” Khan responds. But he says the point to keep in mind is that technology-wise, “We’re in the top of the first inning.” He’ll be pouring about $10 million a year into making his videos better—already there are embedded exercises and analytics that let teachers track 50 or 100 students at once. Pretty soon, Khan told me, his free stuff “will be as good or better than anything anyone is charging money for.”

Digital instruction faces limits. Online, you will never smell a burning resistor or get your hands wet in a biology lab. Yet the economics of distributing instruction over the web are so favorable that they seem to threaten anyone building a campus or hiring teachers. At edX, Agarwal says, the same three-person team of a professor plus assistants that used to teach analog circuit design to 400 students at MIT now handles 10,000 online and could take a hundred times more.

So where are we on the online education curve? According to a study from Babson College, the number of U.S. college students who took at least one online course increased from 1.6 million in 2002 to 6.1 million, or about a third of all college students, in 2010. The researchers, I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, found signs that the growth rate of online classes might be starting to slow. But their study didn’t anticipate the sudden entry of premier universities into online education this year. Coursera, an alliance between Stanford and two dozen other schools, claims that it had 1.5 million students sign up.

Even though only a small fraction of those will actually complete a class, the rise of the MOOCs means we can begin thinking about how free, top-quality education could change the world. Khan’s videos are popular in India, and the MOOC purveyors have found that 60% of their sign-ups are self-starters from knowledge-hungry nations like Brazil and China. Nobody knows what a liberal application of high-octane educational propellant might do. Will it supersize innovation globally by knocking away barriers to good instruction? Will frightened governments censor teachers as they have the web?

Technology will define where online education goes next. All those millions of students clicking online can have their progress tracked, logged, studied and probably influenced, too. Talk to Khan or anyone behind the MOOCs (which largely sprang from university departments interested in computer intelligence) and they’ll all say their eventual goal isn’t to stream videos but to perfect education through the scientific use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that maps an individual’s knowledge and offers a lesson plan unique to him or her.

Will they succeed and create something truly different? If they do, we’ll have the answer to our question: Online learning will be the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/08/education-technology/

Playing Catch With Grover Is the Future of Video Gaming


You would think after 42 seasons, the creative minds behind Sesame Street would run out of ways to educate and entertain kids.

Sesame Workshop has teamed up with Microsoft to create Kinect Sesame Street TV — one of the most innovative children’s video games we’ve seen in a while. With the help of the Microsoft Kinect sensor, it puts kids (and adults) into the game, letting them engage and interact with their favorite characters.

We were immediately impressed with the way the game offers simple instructions to help kids set up their position in front of the Kinect. Cooper, a new furry character on Sesame Street, created digitally just for this season, introduces himself and guides the user as they place themselves in front of a mirror. This is really helpful because kids have a natural tendency to creep closer to the TV as they play and talk to the characters.

And kids will play with them! There are eight interactive games that take kids through everything you would expect from a Sesame Street title. Elmo offers instructions on how to play with him and Paul Ball, another new character.

The characters introduce words; concepts like over and under, numbers, letters, and free play. But this play gets kids up and off the couch.

Our favorite game is playing catch with Grover. Typical Grover, he’s made a mess, dropped all his coconuts and needs help him picking them up. Kids make a throwing motion and toss them back, while he does silly things before catching them and putting them in his box. There’s no winning or losing here. If the child doesn’t respond, Cookie Monster simply comes along and picks up a coconut for Grover.

Elmo’s World is an augmented reality scene where kids are transported to Elmo’s play world, helping him water plants and touch the stars.

Kinect Sesame Street TV is available now on Xbox 360.

Check out the video to see it in action and let us know what you think about video games becoming this interactive. Does this make you more likely to let your kids play?

Photo courtesy of Microsoft.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/18/playing-catch-with-grover-is-the-future-of-video-gaming/

Mashable Weekend Recap: 65 Stories You Might Have Missed


The weekend started off with a bang, thanks to the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. That was spectacular enough to get everyone super-ready for the athletic competition involving our entire planet.

There were plenty of stories about the Olympics, and at the same time, your intrepid Mashable team discovered so much more — happenings in the digital world, tech innovations that felt like they were from a future world, and GIFs, comics and weekend fun that seemed to be from another world entirely.

Best of all, we’ve gathered all those stories here for you, in one big easy-to-peruse package. So take a look at the latest Weekend Recap, where you can catch up with the entire weekend of delightful news and views, right here:

Editor’s Picks

James Bond and the Queen Parachute Into the Olympics [VIDEO]

Please, NBC and IOC, Learn How to Share the Olympics

13 Surprising OS X Mountain Lion Facts [SUNDAY COMICS]

Top 10 Twitter Pics of the Week

Mountain Lion Vs. Windows 8: Which One Is Better?

Best Pics Yet: This Could Be the Real iPhone 5

How to Watch the 2012 Summer Olympics Online

Spoilers: Angry Olympics Fans Tweet Their Protests, NBC Responds

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

News & Opinion

Marissa Mayer Brings Free Food to Yahoo, Eyes Acquisitions [REPORT]

MTV’s ‘Teen Wolf’ Facebook Game Is Feast for Fans in First 5 Weeks

Where to Get Back-to-School Deals on Tablets, Computers

How Dictation Tools Can Help Speed Up Your Workflow [INFOGRAPHIC]

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Docks With Space Station on 2nd Try

Olympic Check-Ins: Hot Foursquare Deals and Badges for London 2012

Record-Setting Electric Plane Flight Almost Didn’t Make It [VIDEO]

Mysterious Billionaire Commissions World’s Largest Yacht [VIDEO]

Twitter Jokester’s ‘Bomb Threat’ Charges Dropped [VIDEO]

Olympic Popularity: Starcount Reveals Which Olympic Athletes Are Trending

Amazon Sales Tax — What it Means for You

Down to the Millisecond: All About Olympics Timing

Trioh! The Flashlight You Can See When The Power Goes Out

On Reddit, Rapists Say They’re Sorry

Latest Apple Ads Take a Turn for the Worse

Why the London 2012 Olympics Is the First Real-Time Games

The 9 Most Important Tablet Mysteries of 2012

Device Turns Eye Movement Into Handwriting

Apple Considered Investing in Twitter [REPORT]

Hidden Genius Project Provides Tech Mentorship for Young Black Men

What Higher Education Will Look Like in 2020 [STUDY]

Why Do We Keep Going Back to Mars?

This Is What the Olympians From 100 Years Ago Looked Like

Shedding Light on Mitt Romney’s Unexplained Twitter Surge

New Leaked Pics May Hint at iPhone 5 Design

Chick-fil-A PR Chief Dies as Company Battles Controversy

Hacking the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Romney Advisor Tweets ‘Follow Friday’ List of Potential VPs

Facebook’s Not the Only One Struggling With Mobile Advertising

Weekend Leisure

This Cute, Cubed Bamboo Speaker Packs Crazy Sound [VIDEO]

9 Nifty Laptop Feet to Keep Your PC Running Cool

Kickstarter Project Is a ‘Smartwatch’ for Your Smartphone

‘Fund Me Maybe’ Is Tech World’s Parody of ‘Call Me Maybe’ [VIDEO]

10 Stylish Onesies for Baby Geeks

12 Pictures of Animals Being Forced to Marry

It’s Official: This Is the Cutest Picture on the Internet

Twitter Doghouse Lets You Temporarily Dump Annoying Tweeps

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Boys Will Be Boys In This ‘Girls’ Parody [VIDEO]

10 Brits Snubbed from the Olympic Opening Ceremony

You Have Upset The Tetris God [VIDEO]

Sneak Peek: Justin Bieber Teases ‘As Long As You Love Me’ Video

If ‘A Space Odyssey’ Were Remade as a Hollywood Blockbuster

Forget Traditional Tours; Vayable Helps You Discover New Ways to Travel

Listen to Talk Radio on Your iPhone? You’re Probably a Liberal

You’ll Grin and Bear it With This Wild Live Video Stream

Mr. Bean Gets Carried Away During Olympics Appearance

Get a Bird’s-Eye View of 25 Olympic Stadiums

Top 6 Comments on Mashable This Week

Helpful Resources

Everything You Need to Know About Foursquare’s New Merchant Tools

How to Structure Your Daily Job Search to Help Land Your Next Job

50 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

6 Key Software Updates You Should Be Doing

The Beginner’s Guide to Socialcam

4 Reasons Why Recruiters Should Stop Accepting Traditional Resumes

The Anatomy of a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/30/weekend-recap-64/

LeapBand Is the First Activity Tracker for Kids


The LeapBand is the first activity tracker for kids.
Image: LeapFrog

Kids love to get their hands on the tech their parents have — tablets, smartphones, cameras, cars — so it’s only natural they’d want what every adult seems to be tinkering with these days: fitness trackers. And with the wearables market heating up, it makes sense that the toy industry is ready to ride the wristband wave too.

The LeapBand (manufactured by toy company LeapFrog) is a watered down version of what you might see in an adult fitness tracker — the Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike+ Fuelband (RIP) devices of the world. It monitors and rewards kids for the activities they do and has a Tamagotchi-like virtual pet baked in. The more a child moves, the more points they earn to unlock new games or win treats for their on-screen cat, dog, dragon, penguin, panda or unicorn.

The LeapBand ($39), which hits stores in August, is specifically designed for kids ages 4 to 7. It comes with a built-in accelerometer, a rechargeable battery and a high-resolution (128 x 128) screen, with backlighting. It will be available in three flavors (pink, blue and green) and is made of plastic.

LeapFrog is best known for its tablets for children (the LeapPad line), so it’s fitting that it’s among the first toy companies to enter the wearables space. Earlier this year, VTech announced the world’s first smartwatch for kids, the KidiZoom Smart Watch. Although it doesn’t connect to the Internet like its adult-counterpart smartwatches (so it’s not technically a “smartwatch”), the 1.4-inch touchscreen device allows young users to snap photos, take video and play games directly through the watch. The device will hit the market this fall.

The growth of toys like this comes at a time when wearables as a tech category is still in its infancy, but it’s believed that the rumored Apple iWatch will launch wearables into the mainstream.

The iWatch is projected to have a huge fitness component; not only will it have a heart-rate monitor and other ways to track your body in real time, it will likely come with Nike’s Fuelband software built into the device.

BONUS: The Reinvented Tamagotchi: Bright, Flashy and Just as Needy

At Age 11, This Girl Named the Curiosity Rover


On Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PST, a rover named Curiosity touched down safely on the surface of Mars, and I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat.

My name is Clara, and when I was in 6th grade, I won the essay contest NASA held to name its next Mars rover. The essay I wrote was not even 250 words long, but somehow it was enough to change my life.

I still remember that chilly December day, sitting in science class. I’d finished a worksheet early and decided to get a TIME for Kids magazine off of Mrs. Estevez’s bookshelf. It was the 2008 Invention Issue, but that wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye. In the magazine, there was an article about a girl who named the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

The article also talked about the essay contest NASA was holding to name its next Mars rover. Before I even knew anything else about it, a single word flooded my 11-year-old mind: Curiosity.

“Before I even knew anything else about it, a single word flooded my 11-year-old mind: Curiosity.”

I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could get started on my essay. That afternoon, I raced home from the bus stop, sat down at the computer, and typed until my fingers ached. It turns out I was just in time. A few days later, and the contest would have closed.

Five months later, shortly after I had turned 12, I was watching a National Geographic special on mammoths when the phone rang. My mom answered, and immediately, a wide smile spread across her face.

When she told me that I had won, I was happier than I could ever remember being. I screamed and ran up and down the stairs and all around the house. I completely forgot about the mammoths and did not even remember to turn off the TV until it was really late.

Curiosity is such an important part of who I am. I have always been fascinated by the stars, the planets, the sky and the universe. I remember as a little girl, my grandmother and I would sit together in the backyard for hours. She’d tell me stories and point out constellations.

Here in the heart of the country, my grandmother would say, there were no bright city lights to compete with the brilliance of the stars. There was just the chirping of the cicadas and the soft summer breeze.

My grandmother lived in China, thousands of miles away from my home in Kansas. I loved the stars because they kept us together even when we were apart. They were always there, yet there was so much I didn’t know about them. That’s what I love so much about space. No matter how much we learn, it will always possess a certain degree of mystery.

In the past, space exploration may have been a competition to see who got somewhere first or the fastest. But now, it is one of the few things that bring people together. Science is a language that needs no translation. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you look like — you just have to have a thirst for knowledge and a passion for learning in order to succeed.

People often ask me why we go to faraway places like Mars. Why do we explore? My answer to that is simple: because we can. Because we’re curious. Because we as human beings do not just stay holed up in one place. We are constantly wondering and trying to find out what’s over the hill and beyond the horizon.

The Curiosity rover is more than just a robot. It is more than just a titanium body and aluminum wheels. Curiosity represents the hard work, passion, love and commitment of thousands of people from all over the world who were brought together by science.

Science is so awesome. It is breathtaking and mind-blowing, intertwining and unifying; and sometimes, it’s just a little bit crazy. The discoveries we make about our world are incredibly humbling. They move us forward and have the potential to benefit all of mankind.

This December it will be four years of my life that have been tied to Curiosity in some way. I’ve met so many amazing people through this experience, from scientists to engineers to administrators to volunteers. Their dedication and fervor inspire me immensely. My journey with Curiosity and the MSL mission team has shaped the person that I am today, as well as the person I would one day like to become.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who made it possible for me to have this amazing adventure.

And to you, I hope your curiosity takes you far.

5 Ways to Use Humor as Incentive for Homework

5-ways-to-use-humor-as-incentive-for-homework-8caace7ee3Beth Blecherman is the founder of TechMamas, a community that engages its followers in discussions on technology, social media, and consumer electronics. Follow her @TechMama and on YouTube at TechMamas.

5 Ways to Use Humor as Incentive for Homework

It was one of those defining moments as a parent where I was pushed to the limit and came back smiling. One of my sons was tired after a long day at school and didn’t want to do his homework, even though an important assignment was due the next day. I started out with a hug and positive reinforcement, suggesting a skateboarding break to gather his thoughts and get a second wind. Nice try, but no dice. Next, I reminded him that he earned his cell phone privileges by completing his homework. This discussion of reward and tech consequences also fell on deaf ears. Nothing was working, and I was about to lose my cool. As a last resort, I tried humor. Not juvenile “pencil up the nose” humor, but something high tech. It was at that moment that I started down the path to find tech solutions for using humor to inspire my kids to do their homework. Here are some of my favorites:

Use Funny YouTube Videos:

What I did to defuse the standoff between my son and me was use a video he had showed me a few weeks earlier. It was a song by Korean rap star Psy called ”Gangham Style.” Just as my son thought I was going to yell at him, I quickly whipped out my smartphone (a mom’s best friend) and brought up the Psy Gangham Style video. The great thing about that video beyond the catchy tune is that it’s a satire of that music genre. My son and his friends always laughed while watching the video. He was so shocked that his mom was holding up the Gangham style video and playing the music loudly that he started walking away. I followed him, increasing the volume until we both started laughing so hard we were tearing up. Tense situation abated, and my son finally said “OK, I’ll do my homework”. Which is good because the next step of my strategy was to threaten him with a TechMama Gangham style dance. I am not the only mom that knows the Gangham Style dance moves.  

Use Therapeutic Humor:

I also looked into other uses of humor and learning and found information online about Mary Kay Morrison, an independent consultant who works in the field of humor studies and brain health. Her website Quest For Humor helped me find ways to offer humor homework breaks including telling jokes or riddles and silly jump breaks on a yoga ball for movement. She also recommended others sites such as Funny Literacy by Steve Wilson, Jokes and Riddles for Children and Giggle Poetry. But it was the video from Therapist Kimberley Clayton Blaine that helped me realize that “children learn best when the experience is positive, that laughter relieves stress and loosens muscles.”

Use Funny Apps:

Instead of nagging, I tried to shake it up when I needed to “remind” my kids to do their homework. For maximum giggles, I picked one of the funny designs from the Mouth Off app and put that over my mouth as I said “homework time.”

Use Tech To Read Humorous Books:

My 4th grade twins need to read each night as part of their homework. For fun we like to read books that use humor such as Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of The Origami Yoda. One of my twin fourth graders likes to read paper books. But I found the other would rather either read the book on the family tablet or listen to the audio book version while building Legos. I chose to do what works for each child.

While one of my favorite things to do is read with my kids, it’s difficult to consistently find the time. So I am also investigating the new Immersive Reading feature of the Kindle Fire HD that offers the combination of an e-Book, professional narration and real world highlighting. Any Whispersync for Voice-ready Kindle book and any Whispersync for Voice-ready Audible book can be used for Immersion Reading on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Kindle Fire HD. This would allow me to do homework with one of my sons while the other can get a good Halloween laugh while using Immersive Reading to enjoy Barbara Robinson’s Best Halloween Ever.

Show Age Appropriate Funny Posts Or Photos Online As Laugh Break:

When I have writer’s block, I like to visit my favorite funny sites including The Bloggess or get a laugh at Shttymom.com. While it is hard to find age appropriate humor sites for kids on the web, there are young bloggers such as Ruby Karp of Hello Giggles who are fun to follow. I find that using Bing or Google’s Safe Search features help find age appropriate humor sites on the web. I also make time to watch any online humor I find before I show it to my kids to make sure it’s family friendly.  When all else fails, there is always Cheezburger.com’s cat pictures. The kids enjoy seeing that even cats don’t like math homework.  

What age appropriate humor websites, apps or technology do you recommend? I am always looking for new laughs for my family!

Image courtesy of iStock Photo, NickS

This post is part of a series on the digital dilemmas of raising digital kids. We’d like to hear some of the parenting issues technology has raised for you. Please let us know in the comments, or on our Mashable Lifestyle Facebook page. You can also follow and tweet us @mashlifestyle.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/12/humor-homework-children/

Deaf Man Hears Daughter’s Voice for First Time

Here’s one Christmas present you won’t find just wrapped under the tree.

Ken Stehle, a 50-year-old father from St. Peters, Mo., has been deaf his whole life, meaning he could never hear his 15-year-old daughter Ashley sing — until last Sunday, that is. Ken recently received a new hearing aid that requires him to wear a receiver around his neck and Ashley to wear a special microphone that transmits to the receiver.

With the hearing aid, Ken received the Christmas gift of a lifetime when he heard Ashley’s voice, for the first time, during her high school concert.

Ashley surprised her dad by singing “Daddy Please Come Home For Christmas” solo.

“It’s amazing, I had goose bumps all over me. I’m very proud of my daughter,” Ken Stehle told local news station KSDK.

Sounds like a Christmas miracle if ever we’ve heard one.

BONUS: 50 Inspiring Videos That Warmed Your Heart in 2013

Twin Baby Girls Rock Out to Daddy’s Guitar


These twin baby girls just can’t resist jammin’ out to Dad’s guitar, in unison.

We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw these two girls as full-on, popping-and-locking, Janet Jackson back-up dancers in the near future. But for now, they seem pretty happy in their high chairs bouncing to the music.

Double the flavor. Double the fun.

What’s your favorite cute kids video? Tell us about it in the comments below.

BONUS: Top 5 Viral Videos of Week

10 Adorable Clips of Sesame Street Satire


Bear Grylls Proposed to His Wife While Naked in the Ocean


Image: PRNewsFoto/Discovery Channel/Associated Press

Contrary to popular belief, romance is not dead. Bear Grylls just took all of it.

The survivalist and reality star revealed his unique proposal to his wife of 14 years on an upcoming episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.

The tale goes something like this: Grylls and then-girlfriend Shara Cannings Knight were skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean when the adventurer attempted to propose.

“I pulled out the ring from my butt cheeks,” Grylls said, according to The Daily Mail. “She was standing there going ‘what are you doing?’… A massive Atlantic roller came in and I went, ‘will you’ — and it went —- took me up the beach.”

Holding his butt ring and covered in seaweed, Grylls said he then tried again. His girlfriend said yes — and the rest is history.

The couple was married in 2000, and the two have three sons.

BONUS: 23 Adorkable Wedding Rings for Geeks in Love