My latest story is for EdSurge, a “community resource for all things in edtech”. EdSurge is a Silicon Valley-based start-up that publishes two weekly newsletters about educational technology; one geared towards entrepreneurs, one for teachers. EdSurge also operates a wiki-like site full of information on educational products, organizations, schools, etc. If you’re interested in education, educational technology and/or education reform, check out the site/newsletters.
Below is a snippet from my story, which focused on the iZone360 school redesign initiative spearheaded by the New York City Department of Education. iZone360 is a select group of a few dozen NYC middle and high schools tasked with re-thinking traditional public school education to be more personalized and effective. The schools spend a few years experimenting with new ideas and technologies that other New York and U.S. schools may follow. The rest of the story can be found here.
“The conversation has gone well beyond gadgets,” said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary of innovation and improvement for the U.S. Department of Education. A room of about 150 New York City educators nodded in response. The group, part of a NYC DOE initiative called iZone360, gathered on Monday in Google’s New York office to discuss revamping their schools for personalized instruction…
The proliferation of accessible, online resources and night/weekend classes has made it easier than ever to learn how to code. But is coding a skill that small-business CEOs — who usually have their own technical teams or outsource their programming work — need? That’s the question I examine in this story, which appears in the June issue of Inc. magazine.
Coding classes vary widely in duration, skill level, goals and cost. The sidebar accompanying the story includes some pointers on how to pick a class. Two basic ones are: know your learning style (are you a self-directed learner or do you need in-person instruction?) and ask developer friends/employees for recommendations on what language to study.
Valentine’s Day has long inspired handmade expressions of affection. One new, accessibly geeky idea is Plushbots, programmable, interactive stuffed toys that even children can design and make using open-source software and electronics.
Two Plushbot hearts. One lights up and one plays a song. Both can be made and programmed within hours with no specialized skills.
The Plushbot name illustrates the devices’ hybrid nature, which combines robotic parts like Arduino microcontrollers, conductive thread, a battery and various sensors with plush materials like stuffing and felt. The result: soft Plushbot toys that can be programmed to play music, change color (via LED lights) and move.
No engineering or coding expertise is necessary to make a Plushbot; the goal of the Plushbot project is to enable kids as young as pre-teens to create the toys from scratch in a few hours. All that is needed is access to the Internet, a printer and about $40 of materials, including the electronic components. The democratic nature of the project could make Plushbots a popular way to teach children about robotics and computation.
That’s the hope of Plushbots creator Yingdan Huang, who is a computer science doctoral student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The Plushbots idea came out of CU’s Craft Technology Laboratory, which is focused on inventing new technologies for children that will help them learn math and science.
Backed by a National Science Foundation grant, Huang and her academic advisor, Michael Eisenberg, decided to launch an e-textiles project that would mix electronics with traditional crafts. By centering the project on stuffed toys, they hoped to interest girls as well as boys.