Holiday Gadgets!

It’s the Holiday season, and with that the world of gadgets and gadgetry is on full display.  Within the lives of our students, and probably our own families, there is a greater dependence on gadgets than we have ever had before.

If you are looking for some last minute items for those on your lists, I’ve put together some reasonable choices, including options for less than $50.

  • The Apple Insider Gift Guide: while not a singular product, this list is geared toward those of you who are Mac fans.  Tons of things here for the iPad!
  • The Chromecast: Google has created a device that plugs into the back of your television that allows you to stream content from any device that uses Chrome as a browser.  Have an iPad?  Via Chrome you can send your screen to the television across the room.  Have an Android phone?  You can stream from Google Play, Google Play Music, Pandora and Netflix right to your television.
  • Anki Racers: the rise of toys that are controlled via phones and other handheld devices continues.  More and more, we see remote control helicopters, cars, and all sorts of things bundled with apps.  Anki Racers are no different.  Here is a quick video to detail what these toys do:
  • Nest Home Temperature Management: We have now entered a world in which you can control the conditions in your home from wherever you are.  Via an app on your phone, you can start adjust the temperature prior to your arrival at home.  Think of that, get in your car at the end of a workday, open the app and set the thermostat to your desired temperature and arrive home in a warm, toasty house.
  • Makey-Makey: two graduate students have it in their mind that we are all inventors.  They set out to prove this through their creation of the $50 device called Makey-Makey.  No bigger than a credit card, this product does some amazing things.  If you’ve got a child in the family that loves to tinker, this one is perfect.  Check out their video:
For more lists of great holiday gear, be sure to peruse CNET’s lists here.  They have something on here for everyone.
Also, a quick note about Warren Buckleitner: Warren is the publisher of Children’s Technology Review, a monthly publication that reviews new and noteworthy entrants into the learning and technology field.  To see his work, please be sure to go to his site.  Also, I recently got to see him present an array of learning toys.  Here is his presentation:
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The Annual Westchester Trip

Each October since 2007 I’ve made my way to TechForum Northeast for a day of learning and sharing with colleagues from all over the Tri-State Area.  In previous years, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and with the likes of Alan November, Chris Lehman, David Jakes, Scott Meech, Kathy Schrock, Ryan Bretag, Diana Laufenberg, Lisa Nielsen–well, the list could go on.  

This year, I was fortunate enough to be the Keynote speaker to open the conference, an honor which I hope I lived up to.  However, aside from that experience, this year’s conference left me thinking about a great many things that I hope to spend some more time on the coming weeks.  Among them are a few below:

  • Jerry Crisci, the Director of Technology from the Scarsdale Public Schools, spoke about a project he began this year in Scarsdale called The Center for Innovation.  Sparked by his and his colleague’s interest in fostering a culture of innovation and thought-leadership and funded by the Board of Education, Jerry has created an ambitious agenda to get this project up and running.  In a conversation with him, he sparked what I hope is the seed of some future projects for me: his team, in the early stages of the Center, visited several places that were at the core of innovative practices like the MIT Media Lab and several startups in Silicon Alley in New York City.  This got me thinking of a great question to pose to teachers within my district: If we keep telling ourselves that we are preparing our students for the workplaces of tomorrow, do we know what workplaces currently look like?  If not, I think we should.
  • Pinterest has taken hold within the education community.  In a roundtable discussion after lunch, several of us talked about how we curate content for ourselves and for our colleagues, and pinterest really came out as the tool with the lowest entry point.  Russell Wray, (a wicked smart guy from West Windsor-Plainsboro) showed the group how they easily worked with a few teachers to create a few hashtags within pinterest that they easily aggregate through Flipboard on their iPads.  Genius!  
  • ifttt.com continues to blow me away with web-automation.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out the site and set up some recipes.  David Jakes showed us some outstanding recipes to use to make out workflow simplified.  
  • In that same roundtable, David asked a great question that has me thinking a great deal as well: at what point do we begin to expect students to curate for themselves?  When do we expect students to begin accumulating information in an organized form and keep it for ease of access for later use?  

I wanted to thank Judy Salpeter and the rest of the team at Techlearning for making this event happen yet again, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned and applying it to some of the projects I am working on currently.