Monday, July 1, 2013

The Coolest New Peripherals for EdTech

Here's where it gets really interesting.

For many of us that have been involved in the high tech field for some time we tend to get a bit too focused on the systems (laptops, tablets, and desktops) more than the peripherals that are connected to them. And much of the utility and the ability to do new things are actually driven by the peripherals, especially the new ones that have come to market.

For many years the standard keyboard, monitor, and printer/scanner have been pretty much unchanged, but in the last year or so this is no longer true. There have been some very exciting new devices that have come to market. Some are a bit expensive, others require new systems to support them, but all of the ones listed in this blog are worth exploring!

The pen or pencil has been around for thousands of years in quill or Bic form. The one thing all had in common been that they were a 2D device. Now we have the first actual 3D pen. The 3D Pen, called the “Doodler” is a “pen” that lets you draw, with a plastic compound, a full three dimensional item. It is worth noting that the level of precision that this pen provides is not that high, it really is a doodler. However, this brand new device opens up some really interesting new capabilities for EdTech and provides an entirely new “palette” for students to showcase creativity and thinking outside of the box.

A video wall is a group of individual monitors tied together to form one, much larger display. In the classroom, I believe that the video wall has the ability to replace projection systems that have very poor resolution, and limited interactivity. What is nice about the latest video wall offerings is that they are able to use older flat panel displays, so you only need the physical framework and the controller. There are also ways to segment a video wall to give multiple “views” within one wall. If you’ve seen one of these video walls in use, you’ll easily understand why it beats the projector.

Unless you live where there are no cellular or satellite signals, you’ve seen a news story or other commentary on Google Glass, the new pair of “glasses” that are actually monitors. Now the price and utility of this device are far from being usable in the K-12 space. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, as the notion of personalized private viewing is likely to take off. This presents a number of issues in K-12, but the ability of students to see visual information that is specific to their level or place in the curriculum certainly holds some promise.

At this point, we’ve all seen the Xbox Connect technology, which allows your movements to control the system. This is an interesting technology for teaching. It clearly has use in sports training or teaching, but it can be brought to other courses as well. There is another, similar technology that will “watch” your eye positions and move the cursor to that location. A good example of this is the Tobii Rex. Again, this is a technology that is not yet ready for schools, but the idea of improving the way we interact with a system, especially for those with disabilities, is worth keeping an eye on.

Peripherals are becoming more essential in defining what an EdTech system can be. They are also essential to new and more valuable uses of information technology in the classroom. For EdTech professionals, keeping an eye on new peripherals and new capabilities is an important task.

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