I always look forward to Google’s I/O conference to see where the future of technology and innovation is headed and today, once again, didn’t disappoint.

This was the 10th I/O conference for Google. This is where Google shares what it’s working on so developers know where the platform is headed… and what they see as the future of technology.

daydreamsetThe theme of this year’s conference could not have been more clear. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was definitely the theme of this year’s conference. Whether it was their new device Google Home, their new apps Allo and Duo or their new Virtual Reality (VR) device, the future belongs to AI and machine learning.

Machine Learning, or where machines teach themselves, to me, has the greatest impact on education. The idea that a student could soon be sitting at home and simply ask their Google Home device “How do I solve this problem?” and instead of the device giving the answer, it talks the student through how to solve the problem. It will ask the student questions, respond to those questions and actually teach the student. Now….yes….this is what parents do (and should do) and I’m not saying I want students talking to computers all the time. But it does open up some interesting possibilities for the future.

As usual, it’s the stats that get me really thinking about how we in education will continue to evolve.

300 million people were online when Google was founded.

3 Billion people are connected via mobile today.

Think about these numbers.
When you think that roughly half the world’s population is connected via a mobile device, you can’t help but think what that means for education on a global scale.

Or, what that means for your students and their ability to connect with people from…well….anywhere. What are we doing in schools and classrooms to better understand that we need to be on mobile devices? Really grasping that these devices are where people spend the majority of their time.

Over 20% of Google search queries in the US are done by voice.
Over 50% of all search queries are done on mobile devices (both stats from this year’s keynote).

Take one second and ask yourself, how does this change your classroom?

Now, figure this layer: Google states that they translate over 100 languages and over a billion words a day. Many world language teachers are still frustrated with this technology. Is it perfect?

No. But it’s getting better…every day….and every time you use it.
It’s not going away. And it has forever changed languages globally.

So, how do we embrace this new technology and make it part of our teaching? Where do we use it? When do we allow students to practice with it? When do we discuss where it’s useful and when it fails?


What a great quote from today’s Keynote:

What if we can achieve a lot more in education with technology assisting us than we previously thought possible?
What if it changes the way learning happens? What if we had to rethink teaching and learning because these technologies exist today?

We need to understand in education that the world is adopting and adapting to these new realities. How are we doing? Are we taking time to step back and think bigger than this assignment or that activity to truly consider what is happening in our phones today?

We might not like it, but we live in our phones. Not just us…everyone! Students, parents, our community at large, everyone lives in their phones. Once we accept that, then we start to harness these devices to:

  • Remind students about upcoming school work and events
  • Engage parents in students lives
  • Inform parents about what is happening in the classroom
  • Engage and inform our communities about the work that educators are doing

If we are not in their phones, they aren’t hearing us.

Often I have conversations with schools about their new website and the thousands of dollars they spend in making it easy for people to navigate through it.

What I rarely see is a school website that truly engages people in the conversation of education, that connects the school community in social conversations that lead to deep links back to the website.

People don’t “go to websites”…they go to web pages…that they click on from a social update. If your website does not include social, you are not engaging your community and, in fact, I would argue, you are disconnected from it.

In the end, what today’s announcements meant are nothing more than we continue to march forward into an unknown future and breaking barriers faster than we ever thought we would.

In our lifetime we’ll see electric cars, self-driving cars, and even flying cars become mainstream. Things that were only seen on the Jetsons years ago. That is what we’ll see in our future.

But what about our students? What will they see?

  • The only phone they know is a smartphone.
  • The only car they will drive will drive itself.
  • And the only jobs that will be available are ones where people are working with computers or machines in harmony.

Their world only gets more connected from here.

And we need to prepare them for that future.

Not our past.

This post is cross-posted on the Eduro Learning Blog

“We have a choice, They don’t”

I’m stealing this quote directly from Ben Sheridan. Not sure if he’s the one that came up with it however that’s who I heard say it so he gets the credit.

flickr photo by Zach Frailey (Uprooted Photographer) https://flickr.com/photos/zrfraileyphotography/15712427278 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license
flickr photo by Zach Frailey (Uprooted Photographer)  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

It’s a good way to frame and point out where we are in these generation gaps. We (those of use over the age of 34) have a choice of how much of this new technology we want to adopt. Well, some choice. Nobody asked me if I wanted a chipped Credit Card.

But in the grand scheme of how we live our lives, we get to chose how much of this new connected world we want to be a part of. In almost every session I do there is at least one if not three or four teachers who either do not have a cell phone or have a non-smart phone and are completely happy with their lives. That’s great. There is nothing wrong with how you want to live your life. You are an adult that knew a different way before technology became part of what it means to live and work today. You get to chose.

Here’s the thing….a student today in our schools doesn’t get a choice. They don’t get to chose. There are very few trades that will exist by the time they hit the workforce that will not require some technology skill. There is not one university today that does not expect a student to know how to use a laptop and at a minimum know how to access work online and turn in assignments online. That’s the minimum expectation.

See in their lives…their future, not having a cell phone is not a choice. It’s the only phone that will exist. Cars will drive themselves, things will be shipped to your door in under 24 hours and all your bills will be paid online using your phone.

“They’re just so connected”

Yes they are! And so are you! Do not put the connected world we find ourselves in on this generation. If you have a cell phone, if you use that cell phone as an alarm clock, then the first thing you touch in the morning and the last thing you touch before going to bed is a connected device. You are just as connected as they are. The only difference is you remember a non-connected world. They don’t.

flickr photo by francisco_osorio https://flickr.com/photos/francisco_osorio/8424402083 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by francisco_osorio  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Recently I had a teacher tell me how happy her students were to read a book. A real, paper book. They enjoyed being able to focus on reading without notifications going off on their screen, or that feeling of being distracted because you have a connection. Of course they enjoyed it….the same reason I enjoy camping at the beach with my wife with no internet connection. We enjoy being disconnected. So where are you having that experience in your classroom as well? The experience of being hyper connected and the experience of being disconnected and, here’s the important part, talking about the different “feelings” we have in those two places.

There’s a reason why the new Kindle Paperwhites are still selling. Who would buy a device that only allowed you to read? Why would you do that? Why do people buy a device that in today’s world doesn’t do 100 other things? Who would buy a device that allows you to “just read a book.”

Not only do I want students to read hyper connected text and content, I also want them to read disconnected content in books as well. But more than that, I want every teacher to have a reflective session with students on WHY we need both. On when do you use one over the other? This is the conversation we need to be having with students.

I wanted to share this documentary that I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of. Nate Becker, a high school student in Marysville, WA, asked me to sit down one day while I was there doing work as part of our Eduro Learning contract with the district, to talk about technology and education. I had no idea what the questions were going to be or where he was going with his line of questioning. Below is the documentary he created based on his own knowledge and research and how he views the use of technology in his own school system and life.

When we talk about creating meaningful stuff to share with the world. This is the type of stuff we are talking about. This isn’t an assignment that can be done in a class period or even a week. This type of learning and creative works takes time and a lot of energy.  Kudo’s Nate….I hope this is the first of many documentaries in your future.

Each year I like to try and predict what might be the technology that affects us both in our daily lives as well as education. Predicting the future is fun…if you’re right people think you’re amazing….if you are wrong…nobody really cares. 🙂

 Here’s my other predictions….I’ll let you decide if I’m any good at it.

2007: The Year of the Network (Can we say Twitter and Facebook)

2008: The Year of the “Live Web (Ustream.tv and other services take off)

2009: Bringing Social Learning to the Masses (Education goes deeper in understanding social connections)

2010: The Year of the Mobile Web (iPad, Android, iPhone do I need to say more?)

2011: The Year of the QR Code (These little buggers start showing up everywhere)

2012: Mobile and Integration (Chromebooks, iPads, laptops, tablets, phablets, phones…yeah the list goes on and on)

2013: Opps….forgot (Check out these 10 Innovations in 2013 that improved the world)

2014: Preparing for Wearable (Which leads us to 2015)

 Last year I wrote:

As I wrote a few weeks back, I do think we are in a pause at the moment and 2014 will probably be the last year of it before we start up that next big adoption curve of wearable technology.

Monitoring my heart rate after a workout.
Monitoring my heart rate after a workout.

Yes…the pause is over 2015 is here, wearable is here and becoming mainstream. Between things like Fitbit and watches wearable is only getting better, cheaper and has a real place, I think, in education starting this year.

What I am most interested in, and what I feel has the greatest benefit to education, is the health data that these devices help track for people. That’s where wearable is going to start and what it will disrupt and I think there is some huge benefits to the health curriculum in schools.

A class set of the cheapest fitbit for example would cost roughly $3000 (though I bet schools can do better). What if we were to give these to students to help them better understand their personal health? Think of the data analysis that could be taught in Math class as well analyzing personal data, whole class data, whole grade level data, and whole school data. All of a sudden the “fun run” the PTA puts on has a whole new curriculum meaning to it.

Also there is a social element to health I really want to explore with wearable. We know social plays a key part in motivation. Especially during the middle school years. What kind of effect could we have on student health by connecting classes socially around health? Could a kind of “positive peer pressure” have an effect on both the short term and the long term health of students?

Health and exercise is a personal thing and we know that forming good health habits young leads to good health habits later in life. I learned to take my own heart rate in middle school and think we need to still teach that…..but at the same time a click of my watch (Moto 360) gives me up to the minute stats on my “Heart activity” today. If I’ve been inactive for too long I get a gentle reminder to maybe go for a walk, get up and move around, or my RunKeeper app reminds me I haven’t ran in 3 days. The new water drinking app Drink Well I installed now gives me nudges via my watch to remind me that I need to drink water. Using research that it’s better to drink small amounts of water throughout the day rather than large amounts at one time…can this app help me: sleep better, be more productive, be in better all-around health all because I’m drinking enough water? We’ll see.

googlefitThen there is sleep tracking. The fitbit is great at this (I don’t have one but know many that do) and how can this information help inform students about their lives. High School teachers and counselors are constantly on students to get enough sleep. What if we could track that with kids, show them that yeah…you got 4 hours of sleep last night and now you’re not functioning well in Math class…gee…I wonder why? We help them understand not only the data but themselves and show them the importance of health and the new data we all have available to us.

Health curriculums are already trending in this direction. Moving to health/holistic based approaches and away from being sports and games centered. Not that sports and games are bad…anything that helps us move and be active is great…but the curriculum is already leaning in a way to help students form good healthy habits later in life by exercising and eating right. This technology I feel has real potential to take health curriculum to a new level.

I’m running an experiment of my own around this. For Christmas my good friend’s 11 year old daughter got her first cell phone (not saying who bought it for her but it could have been me). When she opened it her eyes went wide and she started jumping up and down on the chair…. “I feel I need to go outside and scream!”. I spent some time with her setting up her new phone and one of the things I had her download was the Google Fit app as well as RunKeeper. Her mom, my wife and I all use it to track our own running. So we set her up with an account and become her “friend” within the app. Everytime we run she’s notified that we have completed a run. Everytime she runs we’re notified of it. She can give us likes and comments and we can do the same for her. Even though we don’t live in the same city we can encourage each other in running and being healthy. RunKeeper syncs with Google Fit and Google Fit also will track her steps when walking and I showed her how she can add other activities. Although “recess” isn’t an activity within Google Fit that you can add we talked about what activities might best mirror what she does during recess. I wish there was a way to share your Google Fit stats and make that social…there isn’t (that I know of) at this time so we’ll see if she continues to use it and adds her activities to it. Of course she’s 11 and what she really wants to do is download all the games she wants to play on her new phone. Which is fine…that’s part of the process but I’m really hoping in my secret experiment that she starts to see being healthy is something we do as adults and how the technology can help us help each other.

So PE/Health teachers….if you have room in your budget this coming year for these little devices I really think there is something here to explore….and if you do….please let me know about it. I’m really interested to see if these wearable devices can help to change/enhance the health curriculum in our schools.

Fort Campbell combat engineers learn Nashville District’s ‘civilian missions’CEO of Intel Brian Krzanich took to the Internet last week to encourage engineering students to stick with their programs and to shed some light on the fact that America and American companies are desperate for engineers. Not just in the tech sector but in other sectors as well.

On my recent trip back from visiting ISG in Saudi Arabia, I sat next to an Agricultural Engineer on his way back to Seattle. He had been out for 3 weeks traveling Europe, India, and 3 countries in Africa. As he talked about his traveling adventures I couldn’t believe how much he was traveling…so I had to ask him why the company didn’t hire others. His answer:

“There aren’t any Agricultural Engineers to be had.”

That’s worrisome really…..we all need food and as our population grows we’re only going to need more. Here is someone who has dedicated his life to helping the global community produce more food for our growing population and the company can’t find anyone trained to help him out or replace him when the time comes…he’s hoping to retire in 5 years.

Forbes predicts that there were 1.7 million Cloud-Based Technology jobs that went unfilled globally in 2012 and the outlook and predictions moving forward aren’t any better. So this isn’t just an American problem….it’s a global one.

At a K-12 level what are we doing to prepare students for these jobs? We can’t force students to be engineers but are we giving them the experiences they need in K-12 to even be in a place to think about engineering as a career?

Kalyani Mallela, 29, said engineering is a foundation applicable to all industries and fields, enabling people to do anything from build chips and wearable tech devices to fix flood problems and innovate medicine.

“It’s the ‘why’ and the ‘curiosity’ that make me a good engineer,” she said. (Fox Business)

Are we teaching the ‘why’ and tapping into and fostering the intrinsic ‘curiosity’ in students?

Programs such as DiscoverE’s Future City competition, which asks U.S. middle-school students to imagine, design and build cities of the future, have become crucial to these efforts.

“There’s a whole bunch of kids that have creative ideas but might struggle initially with math and get left behind,” Shaddock said. “We need to do more of stimulating kids’ interests in how things work, how to solve problems in the world around them and build on that stimulus and curiosity.”

studentengI think of a recent science classroom I visited where students were copying an image out of their textbook and labeling it…exactly like it was already in the textbook. I was told that this is a good lesson because students learn by copying and handwriting things out…….OK…….I’m trying to figure out where that skill fits in the quotes above. How does this help us understand the eye, stimulate kids’ interests and help to solve problems? It was a 45 minute class and at the end of it each student turned in their ‘assignment’ to be graded. 45 minutes on copying an image out of the textbook onto paper is good learning? I’m having a hard time with this……

The end of the article gets to the heart of the point and what the industry is asking from K-12 schools:

“I think Satya said it well the other day,” Krzanich said, adding that it is the responsibility of parents, teachers and lawmakers to “foster creativity” among America’s youth.

“That is what’s key,” Krzanich said, to “try anything and not be afraid to fail.”

The industry is asking us to “foster creativity” and to “not be afraid to fail”. Yet the IB and AP exams are right around the corner….as I was reminded once again by an AP teacher, “I don’t have time to be creative or fail….I have to prepare them for the exams.” And that is the reality in a nutshell. As long as teachers feel it’s their job to prepare students for a test instead of fostering learning, the disconnect will remain.

I like trying to predict what each year will bring us in Educational Technology. Looking back over the topics I’ve chosen through the years this one blog post probably shows more than anything where I’m focusing my attention and passion with technology. Plus being a futurist is kind of fun…..you actually get to make it up. 🙂

Here are my past year’s predictions….you can decide for yourself if I am any good at it.

2007: The Year of the Network (Can we say Twitter and Facebook)

2008: The Year of the “Live Web (Ustream.tv and other services take off)

2009: Bringing Social Learning to the Masses (Education goes deeper in understanding social connections)

2010: The Year of the Mobile Web (iPad, Android, iPhone do I need to say more?)

2011: The Year of the QR Code (These little buggers start showing up everywhere)

2012: Mobile and Integration (Chromebooks, iPads, laptops, tablets, phablets, phones…yeah the list goes on and on)

2013: Opps….forgot (Check out these 10 Innovations in 2013 that improved the world)

As I wrote a few weeks back, I do think we are in a pause at the moment and 2014 will probably be the last year of it before we start up that next big adoption curve of wearable technology. Doug Johnson took my blog post and added his own thoughts (I love true blogging) which are worth a read.

Looking at my old prediction 2010 is where this current pause started. The iPad was released and over the past four years education has been adopting and thinking about mobile computing and its effects on teaching and learning. Just today I read about Los Angeles School Board approving $115 million to purchase up to 70,000 iPads. I do hope they are able to fulfill the board’s idea of what these devices are for.

Board member Monica Garcia said moving quickly was an educational imperative.

“The whole point of this program is to revolutionize instruction,” Garcia said. Low-income students don’t get access “to what is a part of all our worlds today…. I don’t understand how cutting back what’s good is good for kids.” (via 9to5mac)

Moving quickly is the only way to go at the moment, as the next wave of gadgets that will disrupt our world is around the corner.

CC Wikipedia
CC Wikipedia

Yes….wearable is coming. 2014 will be the year that we will see Google Glass become publicly available….we hope. But even if Google decides to hold off on the release (which I don’t think they can afford to do) there are plenty of other companies ready with products of their own. The Verge has a good run down of some of the best wearables they saw at the Computer Electronic Show that just ended in Los Vegas.

The first disruption I think hope we see in education is in Physical Education. Wearable technology…something like FitBit has great potential I think to revolutionize PE. When students and teachers can track their own physical activity throughout the day I think we can start looking at how this effects the PE grade. What if we could grade students truly on their physical activities. What if we could have a physical activity grade and students could look at their device and say, “Ah man….I have to go run a couple laps to get an A this week”. Pretty cool I think. True disruption to PE might be on the way.

I’m not sure what something like Google Glass will do to the classroom environment. I think it’s to early to tell and the technology is still really young. But I do know that what this really starts us towards is voice commands for everything. Business Insider gave its four big tech trends of 2014:

1. Consumer tech loyalty will die

2. Computerized assistance will become a thing

3. Gesture computing will become a reality

4. Retail stores will start to get personalized

I really like these four big trends and all of them, I feel, fall inline with wearable technology. My Moto X phone has become my computerized assistant. When I’m working it sits on the desk next to me. I never touch it but I give it commands. “OK Google Now” and it turns on and goes to work. I’m working on my computer, my phone is putting appointments in my calendar, setting reminders, creating lists, setting my alarm (makes my wife jealous). Motoy (Yeah…I named my assistant) just goes to work doing things for me. Math calculations, looking for directions, flights, hotels. Now….I try to imagine taking everything that I do with my phone and then putting that in a heads up display. Blows my mind what that will be like…and excites me at the same time (yes…I have a saving account for google glass….yes my wife knows about it).

When we’re talking wearable, gesture computing just makes sense….reminds me of the TED Talk years ago when we first saw what this world would be like….now it’s coming true. Easy to see how retail stores will take advantage of this…when you have a pair of glasses on and you walk into a store and it helps you find sizes, gives you reviews, knows you’re looking for a new pair of jeans because you searched them a couple days ago and locates them in the store for you. I don’t know…..this whole thing is going to be really cool and kind of freaky. Or is that really freaky and kind of cool?

So….we have one more year in a pause. One more year to get comfortable with mobile devices before they become wearable. I hope we take this year to really think about what true integration looks like so when these new devices do hit our schools we look for ways to integrate them at a level that once again changes education and not just upgrades it.

Questions for you:

Is your school starting discussions about wearable technology?

What happens when students bring it?

How do we prepare for it to come to our schools….because it is coming.

Gigaom had a great article this week on some of the push back that MOOCs and Coursera in particular are seeing from university professors.

A couple quotes:

Princeton professor Mitchell Duneier told The Chronicle of Higher Education Tuesday that he will no longer teach his class out of concerns that it could undermine public higher education.

In April, Amherst rejected a partnership with edX citing concerns that MOOCs could take tuition funding from middle- and lower-tier schools and lead to a degraded model of teaching.

Photo Credit: mathplourde via Compfight cc

You can read the article yourself and I also encourage the comments. What I am hearing is that things are getting scary here in this MOOC world. That both professors and universities are starting to either feel the effects or see the writing on the wall that things are going to change. The problem is….I don’t know if they can really control it or stop it.

When anyone anywhere can learn anything and all they need is an internet connection and a device to access it….things change.