Trends | Engaging Minds and Imaginations

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 4.50.57 PMThere are various factors to look at when considering edtech for your classroom: What tools will be most engaging? What solutions will your school actually want to use on a daily basis? What is reasonably affordable? What are the expected long-term benefits? Among some of the more engaging concepts and tools available today are 3D stereoscopic, portable interactive whiteboards and academic skill-building video game software which harness the full potential of powerful educational technology — equipping teachers and students with easy-to-use, flexible and affordable solutions for dynamic learning experiences and increased achievement. Referred to as “roving AV solutions,” the latest and greatest in 3D, portable interactive whiteboards, custom broadcasting capability and wireless iPad/Android mirroring solutions from innovator AVRover, for example, deliver more than the sum of their components; they give teachers the ability to bring high quality audio and projection anywhere in the school environment, anytime they need – events, assemblies, parent teacher conferences, gym class, faculty meetings, etc. Similarly, cutting-edge video game tools from pioneer BrainWare Safari are leveraging decades of research and proven techniques to provide the most comprehensive, effective and engaging applications. These video game solutions are designed to enhance 41 cognitive skills essential for everyday learning and performing, using a cross-training approach. Students can have fun while developing their attention, memory, thinking, visual and auditory processing, and sensory integration. When paired together, the AVRover and BrainWare Safari offerings deliver optimal audio-visual benefits to the teaching and learning process. See if they’re an actual fit for your classroom; learn more at: www.avrover.comwww.mybrainware.com, or distributor www.schoolspecialty.com.

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Special Friends

A classroom story of overcoming challenges to open a child’s world.

GUEST COLUMN | by Alia Pyros

CREDIT Ask NAO imageIt’s no secret that opening a child’s world through education can seem like a daunting task. This is a task, however, that all of the best teachers have dedicated their lives to accomplish. Each day they strive to figure out what form the key to unlocking the potential for their students will take the shape of. For a little girl named Jazzy at the Moody Primary School in Haverhill MA, and many other children around the world, this key took the shape of a small humanoid robot named NAO.

After Moody Primary started working with their two robots, Jazzy’s in-class attitude completely changed.

The robot, created by French company Aldebaran, has, within the last two years, been transformed from the open platform used globally to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education to an easy-to-use teaching tool for the special education classroom. With an abundance of customizable applications based on a variety of autism methods (including ABA, PECS, TEACCH, DENVER, and SCERTS), an online interface for tracking progress and organizing information, and of course the robot NAO, the NAO for Special Education initiative works to not only be an assistant to teachers but also a friend to kids.

On an average day, you can find Jazzy sitting playing with her braids or meandering around the classroom rather than paying attention to the lesson. Jazzy, a sweet little girl with dark eyes, finds it difficult to focus her attention due to a diagnosis of hypoplasia of the corpus callosum, polymicrogyria, seizure disorder, myopia, and global developmental delays. She has very little interest in her peers or in lessons and often turns to her own activities while in class.

After Moody Primary started working with their two robots through the ASK NAO solution, Jazzy’s in-class attitude completely changed. Julie, the Behavior Specialist at Moody Primary, who often does one-on-one sessions with Jazzy, says, “I wish I had taken video from the first day I started using the robot with her…she has come a long way. She has really responded and enjoys her time with the robot.” For children of all ages, the robot harnesses a sort of wonder that captivates them, draws them in and makes them want to interact and play with him.

Though she is a nonverbal student, there are a number of ways Jazzy interacts with the robot. By showing him pictograms, she can learn about identification, object classification, and categorization. He also has a number of touch sensors that make games like ‘Touch My Head’ a fun, interactive experience. For this game, the robot prompts Jazzy to touch some of his different body parts including head, hands, and feet. By touching the correct body part, he does a little dance, making Jazzy giggle. The simple words he uses are also making an impact on Jazzy, her teachers noted that after a few sessions playing with the robot she spontaneously pointed to his head and said ‘head’, a verbal breakthrough for her.

For those hesitant about looking to robotics as a new tool for the classroom, don’t be. This initiative was created to fit the needs of teachers, not only in regard to simplifying note-taking and status tracking, but also through an online interface making customization of lessons and activities as simple as drag and drop. Stress-free in-class integration and progress sharing features make this solution simply used by even the most non tech-savvy teacher.

Also, unlike most special education tools, the initiative is ever evolving. Thanks to feedback from teachers using the solution and an active online community, this initiative continues to develop and encompass more and more learning goals to offer teachers and students a wider range of fun applications. Because of this, Jazzy’s teachers can customize the solution into what aligns with her IEP the best, customizing her learning experience and targeting her needs.

This initiative is looking to drive special education into the future with the help of the latest robotic technology. Are you looking to make a difference in your classroom? Sometimes a special friend can make a real difference.

Alia Pyros works with Ask NAO’s Special Education Initiative, a creation of Aldebaran Robotics. Write to: apyros@aldebaran.com Learn more at: www.asknao.com.

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Cool Tool | JoyTunes

CREDIT JoyTunesPassionate about all things music, JoyTunes works with music educators to change the way people learn instruments by combining music methodologies with the latest in gaming features. JoyTunes apps, Piano Maestro and Piano Dust Buster enable students to use real instruments that are automatically detected and provide instant feedback. From playing a single note, learning rhythm and sight reading to timing of complete melodies, students learn in about half the time expected. Check it out.

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Cool Tool | Neat for Schools

CREDIT NeatThe Neat Company, a leading provider of smart organization systems, offers a suite of tools (cloud, mobile, desktop software and hardware) that help those in the education field get organized. Three areas in education where Neat solutions work best:

  1. School boards handle a great deal of paperwork ranging from students’ health records to financial and tax documents. NeatCloud can help school systems organize and file these documents and make it easy to share between the board office and various schools.
  1. Individual schools house guidance counselors, nurses’ offices, and libraries that produce an incredible amount of documents that need to be maintained for each student. With Neat’s smart organization system, this vital information can be scanned, stored and updated for each student.
  1. Teachers can use Neat’s products to grade, scan and share their students’ work, making it accessible to both students and parents, so everyone is able to track his or her progress. Additionally, teachers can use the NeatConnect to scan receipts and create expense reports for classroom items they have purchased.

Neat helps users organize, access and share both paper and digital documents simplifying everyday tasks so teachers and schools have more time to get to what matters. Check them out.

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Trends | 8 Mobile Learning Essentials

CREDIT Qualcomm 8 Essentials Mobile LearningMobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous in the business world, but what about their potential in the classroom? Across the globe, students from elementary school through high school are increasingly engaging with advanced wireless devices to collaborate with peers, access rich digital content, and personalize their learning experiences. Smartphones and tablets provide today’s students with a gateway to a new ecosystem of information, experts, and experiences, regardless of the physical assets and educational resources in their own communities. Educators are intrigued with the opportunity to use mobile devices as learning tools within the classroom, but many lack the proper resources to get started. In response to these trends, Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ recently released a white paper titled “The 8 Essentials for Mobile Learning Success in Education.” The new report is based on results from 40 international education projects that address the barriers to wireless technology adoption both in and out of the classroom, including needs for digital content and assessment, infrastructure, privacy and security, and professional development for teachers. Projects from the U.S., Singapore, Kenya, and Jordan are highlighted in the report. To learn more, view the full report.

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