point solutions in education and an #edtechwishlist

Who solves the challenge of interoperability when educators are given a particular set of tools with which to work?

For example, one teacher imagines:

“a tool that would auto math/convert/input grades from a digital rubric (& docs/forms) into my gradebook”


Later, I learned this refers to PowerSchools + Google Drive.

  • How much incentive does Pearson™ need before investing in a plug-in?
  • Does Google use an algorithm to decide when to marry Drive to an external application?

Do Pearson and Google get this feedback? Do these remarks ever appear on the radar of developers, starter-uppers and investors? Is there a bottom-line where the horizon meets these challenges, or…

Do these hard-won notions get lost in the cloud?

Note: Pearson does mention API tools, and I have worked with G-Drive APIs, myself. (We may not be in the ballpark yet; but, we may have found a playground.)

Also, how and where is such feedback being shared? Please use the hashtag #edtechwishlist if you have a good idea for new applications, extensions, plug-ins or add-ons.

Toggling radar ON.


Looma from VillageTech Solutions

Update: Music videos for primary learners completed, preview here

I have recently learned about a small non-profit that is working to deliver ICT support to rural educators in Nepal.

Nepali educators learning about the Looma.

That’s right, Information & Communication Technology in the villages and classrooms of the Himalayas. VillageTech Solutions have designed Looma, a
standalone audio-visual device that

  • is self-powered (solar-rechargeable batter)
  • is operated with a wireless “wand”
  • has a built-in audio system
  • comes loaded with CC-Licensed content (games, videos, songs, etc.)

The device projects the “desktop” onto a wall and comes with a hand-held mouse (the “wand”) to navigate.

The prototype has been field tested and now they are looking for volunteers to help search for—and evaluate—content that can be loaded into the drive. (Most classrooms in rural Nepal have no electricity, much less an Internet connection.)

I would write a bit more; but, I am up to my elbows producing some educational content…gotta go. Holler at “azwaldo” at gmail dot com, anytime.

moose-faw (a click of the mouse)

One brown mouse. (image by Flickr user: crwr)
moose-faw {mousetrap; Scots dialect}
Sub-title: “plans laid best”

Often, when meant to be on study for undergraduate exams, I found myself walking the library to track down pieces of prose. Several times, it was the work of Robert Burns kept me from what I ought ‘been doing…keen to find another hidden bit of truth.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
—excerpt of a poem by Robert Burns

So much to learn, so little time. Those were the good old days.

Now, the Internet puts a wider world at our fingertips. Not only is grammar made tidy, and translated texts lay side by side,

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!
—same excerpt,in Simple English

…but we can watch an animated Robert Burns, reciting the same song…and in the brogue, no less
(see lyrics [link], and see embedded video, below; or watch it here [link]).

So, I wake with “One Brown Mouse” (a a Jethro Tull song) tappin’ in my noggin, ready to tackle an old task, one which finds its fullness. It is a note to my eldest son, started many weeks past. I open the draft, begin a review, paring down familiar themes when…

…that old tune taps me on the shoulder, and I’m off on the chase.

A moment later, punching keys to find the lyric, I learn that the title of John Steinbeck’s novella, Of Mice and Men is taken from the Burns poem, excerpted above. And still, the song keeps me tapping along. No fretting over lyrics, either, because they are there in an instant…

Puff warm breath on your tiny hands.
You wish you were a man
who every day can turn another page.
Behind your glass you sit and look
at my ever-open book:
One brown mouse sitting in a cage.
—lyrical fragment from a Jethro Tull song

with a click of the mouse.

‘Tis lost in time that I might be
Oh aye, my lad, alake anee
for there is still so – much – to – see.

miracles minus mystery

I read a challenging supposition.

“…what if the whole water into wine thing is just a metaphor that you should turn something boring into a good time”

Well, what if, instead of seeing the water-into-wine story as a riddle to be solved…

Cana, as placed in historical atlas (1923)

instead of thinking the story accounts for a single, isolated instance of metaphysical magic or alchemy

we look at the fact that—during the days of Jesus’ walk on this Earth—Romans occupied Jerusalem, and…

anyone having “servants” and six stone water jars at the ready (see John 2:5) is also likely to have belonged to an entirely different social class (and possibly race) than Jesus or the folks he often accompanied.

Perhaps, caught up in the mystery himself, the scribe who later penned the personal account of the apostle John hoped to convey the relatively miraculous idea that—due to the influence of Jesus, his example of Love and Peace—those wealthy, upper-class folks at the wedding feast in Cana saw fit to go ahead and break out the good stuff for the un-entitled (who are likely to have been followers, finding benefit in seeking out or following Jesus).

Maybe this applies to loaves and fishes, as well. With Love, we share what we have and…

everyone has a seat at the banquet.

thanks, Mom

One of my earliest design gigs in virtual worlds was the development of a HUD* used by students learning the Chinese language. After four or five years, that design is still in use. The image below is from the Chinese Island simulation.

* Heads Up Display – an interactive display with buttons and text that mediates their interaction with the virtual environment.

image from virtual world simulation showing two characters at a news stand, with various informational displays visible

News stand at Chinese Island. (Click for full size image.)
Note the blue dialog prompt, and the HUD in upper and left perimeters.

Early next year, a group of Monash University students will enter the virtual world of SecondLife™ to experience a variety of simulations; a restaurant, an airport, a medical clinic and a train station. Later, they will actually travel to Italy for a program of study, abroad.

The virtual environment in which they will immerse themselves is modeled on the neighborhood in Italy where they will be staying. The simulations are designed to prepare them for their visit. They will study maps, use currency, become familiar with local fixtures…like signs.

image showing animated virtual reality where a single character sits amid various objects including an ATM machine

Avatar, virtual workshop, and assorted educational objects.

In support of the Italian Studies project, I am developing interactive objects—mainly the scripts—to provide a number of interactions. Students can open a “wallet” at the “ATM” and withdraw virtual currency, then visit a coffee shop and…maybe purchase a cappucino. On touching some of the things they see (think “mouse click”), the name of that object appears as text in Italian and they hear an audio-stream pronunciation of the term.

They will be required to buy tickets, read a public transit schedule, and complete many other tasks during their lessons.

Mom and I did something similar before our visit to New York City. After opening Google Earth and “roaming” the virtual streets around our hotel to prepare for our trip, we were able to navigate that neighborhood as though we had been there before.

So, thanks Mom…for helping field test this sort of technology.

web design that pops

If you are even mildly interested in web design, or Internet technology in general, you might open 101 Signals

screenshot of article posted at Wired.com website
“These are the best reporters, writers, and thinkers on the Internet–people who understand what’s happening.”

…click through a category lower down the page…

browse until you find a site like HOVER STATES, then…

…hang on to your seat.