NMC Horizon Report 2013 (Pt. 4 of 4): 3D Printing and Wearable Technology

February 8, 2013

Once upon a time—say two or three years ago—the idea that 3D printing or wearable technology might be on a relative fast track toward widespread dissemination and become important elements of training-teaching-learning seemed far-fetched for many of us. That’s rapidly changing, the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report, released earlier this week, suggests.

Horizon_Report--2013It’s not as if either technology has spring forth full-blown from nothing. Early 3D printing innovations date back at least to the 1970s (the term itself appears to have been coined in 1995 by MIT graduate students), and wearable technology can easily be traced back at least to calculator watches from the same decade. I was among those who were still seeing wearable technology in a pseudo-dreamy “that’s for other people” sort of way just a few years ago (in 2009) when we were dazzled by a TED talk wearable technology demonstration by Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry, but recent public sightings of Google Project Glass devices suggests the revolution is already underway. As for 3D printing, a quick, far-from-exhaustive online search suggests that predictions of mainstream adaptation of the technology have increased tremendously over the past year, which helps explain why the Horizon Report sees it and wearable technology as the two key technologies that are within a four- to five-year adoption horizon in which they will achieve widespread use among educators and learners. (Separate summaries of one-year horizon and two- to three-year horizon technologies have already been posted on Building Creative Bridges as part of this 2013 Horizon Report summary series.)

“3D printing is already pervasive in a number of fields, including architecture, industrial design, jewelry design, and civil engineering,” the Horizon Report writers remind us. “In the past several years, there has been a lot of experimentation in the consumer space—namely within the Maker culture, a technologically-savvy, do-it-yourself community dedicated to advancing science engineering, and other disciplines through the exploration of 3D printing and robotics” (Horizon Report, p. 28).

Where this becomes of interest to trainer-teacher-learners is through the examples cited in the report. Case Western University, for example, has Think[box], “a space for anyone to creatively tinker; Think[box] includes 3D printers, laser cutters, and tools for students to create their own printed circuit board of computerized embroidery” (p. 30); we can’t view the project introductory video without being stunned by what is already being accomplished in this academic setting.

The University of Mary Washington ThinkLab, which puts a makerspace into a university library setting, is another stunning example of “hands-on creative inquiry and learning with a variety of high-tech tools, including a 3D printer.” And for those hungry for more examples of how 3D printing can be incorporated into learning, the report provides links to Nancy Parker’s “7 Educational Uses for 3D Printing” and Jason Hidalgo’s “The Future of Higher Education: Reshaping Universities through 3D Printing.”

When we turn our attention to wearable technology, we find the world  becoming even more intriguing by combining concepts of augmented reality and mediated reality with mobile learning (m-learning): “Effective wearable devices become an extension of the person wearing them, allowing them to comfortably engage in everyday activities or to help them accomplish a specific task….Wearable technologies that could automatically send information via text, email, and social networks on behalf of the user, based on voice commands, gestures, or other indicators, would help students and educators communicate with each other, keep track of updates, and better organize notifications” (pp. 32-33). If we think about how much one of the near-horizon technologies (tablets) has already extended our ability to engage in m-learning, we see how breathtakingly spectacular an expansion might be possible with the even less obtrusive Google Project Glass device and other glass devices under development or already in use.

Again, the examples cited in the report are spectacular. The Muse headband, for example, offers the promise of using brain activity to control devices—something akin to Tan Le’s demonstration in a 2010 TED talk about using a device to control virtual objects via a user’s brainwaves.

A link to Nick Bilton’s New York Times article “One on One: Steve Mann, Wearable Computing Pioneer” takes us to a (currently) extreme version of the technology-in-progress: “When you use it as a memory aid, it is your brain,” Mann says at one point in the interview.

As we complete our review of the latest Higher Education edition of the Horizon Project, we’re left with plenty to consider—not the least of which is whether we’ll soon be reading upcoming Horizon Reports with our Project Glass devices. Or accessing the information in even more intriguing ways. 

N.B.—Episode #113 of Maurice Coleman’s T is for Training podcast series, recorded on February 8, 2013, includes a deeper exploration of the 2013 Horizon Report Higher Education edition, MOOCs, and learning and technology innovations. 

Annie Murphy Paul: Exploring the Ultimate Learning Space

July 11, 2012

Those of us fascinated by learning and how we are affected by the places where learning occurs find ourselves exploring a wonderfully unexpected learning space in Annie Murphy Paul’s Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives: the womb.

It is Paul’s contention, throughout this well-researched and thought-provoking book and the “What We Learn Before We’re Born” TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk she gave on the subject in 2011, that we haven’t given nearly enough attention to all we learn and acquire in those critical nine months before we enter the world. Origins is a great first step in filling that gap.

Organized into nine chapters representing the nine months of the writer’s second pregnancy, the book takes us through tantalizing views of the latest research into what we learn and how we are shaped in utero—a somewhat different classroom than the ones in which we usually find ourselves. And one fascinating aspect of this particular journey is the number of parallels we find between that pre-birth learning space and the more familiar ones we inhabit. There is, for example, the Month Two exploration of how what our mothers eat while they are carrying us affects the lifelong tastes we develop and acquire; those of us involved in training-teaching-learning can quickly make the literal connection between proper nourishment and a learner’s ability to absorb what is offered in a learning opportunity, and we can also see the figurative elements of how what we are offered in the womblike setting of a physical or virtual learning space helps us develop a favorable or unfavorable response to the learning morsels we consume.

Paul’s Month Three explorations of how tremendously stressful situations—the 9/11 bombings, the Northridge, California earthquake in 1994, World War II-era siegesaffect mothers and the children they are carrying remind us that significantly less stressful situations can have significant and long-lasting effects on a learner’s ability to absorb and retain information. Her Month Six explorations of how a mother’s emotional state might have significant lifelong physiological impacts on her developing child parallel the positive and negative effects an instructor-trainer-facilitator’s moods and approaches can inspire or discourage in a learner’s intellectual development. And the concluding chapters leading us to the moment of her second child’s birth remind us of a variety of physical and emotional elements that teach the unborn child what to expect upon entering the world just as we, as facilitators of learning, convey important messages to learners about what they can expect and might accomplish once they leave our learning spaces and re-enter the world in which they live and work and play.

One of the more poignant moments comes at the end of chapter eight, when Paul recounts her experience of being jostled on a crowded subway train, losing her balance, and seeing the fruit and vegetables she has just purchased in a farmers market go careening up and down the aisles: “I look around helplessly, feeling like a child lost in a thicket of pant legs and skirt hems. Then one set of hands after another drops an apple into my bag. From the far end of the car, a piece of my fruit is handed from one rider to another until it reaches me. Another set of hands pulls me up and gently guides me to a seat. In that moment I don’t feel gawked or gaped it, embarrassed or self-conscious: just cared for, and grateful” (p. 223)

If we, as trainer-teacher-learners can provide the same sense of support, encouragement, and safety that Paul and her not-yet-born child found in that crowded subway, just imagine the sort of learner we will send back into the world from the womblike learning spaces we are capable of creating and sustaining.

As the writer herself observes, “…if we take care in how we think about prenatal influences, they may add another layer to our understanding of who we are and how we got to be this way” (p. 195). And if we continue exploring the parallels between what learners learn in utero and what they learn in classroom, we should be well on the way to helping build the sort of world our efforts can nurture.

Presentation Skills: TED, Jonathan Haidt, and the Grand Finale

March 27, 2012

Trainer-teacher-learners watching psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s newly-posted TED talk can learn a lot about expectations, delivery, and audience engagement. Agreeing to speak publically on the topic of “Religion, Evolution, and the Ecstasy of Self-transcendence,” Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis, certainly creates high expectations and the likelihood of conflict. In our emotionally-charged times, even a discussion about whether to discuss religion publically can make participants uncomfortable, as evidenced by an unrelated LinkedIn discussion thread several months ago.

Yet there he is, moving gently, firmly, and engagingly forward in that challenging 18-minute talk that has already attracted more than 300,000 viewings and more than 350 comments online in less than two weeks—with the not-unexpected range of support and opposition that the topic could be expected to inspire.

For those of us intrigued by how presenters effectively reach us, there’s even more to consider once we have absorbed the content of his talk. Haidt’s presentation appears to be very much of and from the heart, delivered in that high-quality way that is the hallmark of the great TED (technology, entertainment, and design) talks. You can see him gauging and connecting with at least some of his audience when he uses the standard presentation technique of asking for a show of hands in response to questions he asks at the beginning of the session. He continues to use his voice in a way that is appropriate to his topic and his audience: calm, collected, yet far from unemotional. He incorporates visually stimulating imagery into the talk through static as well as animated slides.

Then he turns everything on its head.

At precisely the moment in which we believe he is winding down, he goes for the clincher reversal—the one that transforms an intriguing talk into something highly memorable. When it appears that he is about to end his session three minutes early, he surprises us with the following comment: “So, that was my talk, delivered in the standard TED way. And now I’m going to give the talk all over again, in three minutes, in a more full-spectrum sort of way.”

Before we can catch our breath or even spend a few seconds absorbing what he has just said, we’re back in the thick of things—but in an entirely new way that sucks us in and doesn’t let us go until he once again is finished. This is far more than a presenter’s standard recap via an oral repetition of key points. Or the ritual reading of notes from a flipchart or bullet points on a slide. Or checklists of key points on a handout. Or tossing a ball around the room and asking learners to recall something they learned from the session we just finished leading.

None of us may ever again be able to use any of those instantly antiquated trainer tricks once we’ve seen Haidt’s full-spectrum format.   He propels us into that three-minute version—as compellingly and excitingly as we’re drawn into a roller coaster ride in an amusement park—by completely integrating the new abbreviated version of his talk into a video playing on a screen behind and above him on the stage. Combining re-edited images drawn from the earlier part of his talk into the lively video format, he uses each image—displayed as a series of quick-cut shots interspersed with new images—to effectively trigger memories of entire segments of his initial talk in the second or two it takes for us to re-view each image. And, by adding unobtrusive yet lively music into the soundtrack, he appeals to that part of our brain that more effectively learns by having multiple forms of complementary stimulation as we are taking in information.

It is at once familiar. Unexpected. Dynamic. Intriguing. And exciting. More importantly, it works. It makes us more deeply assimilate all he has proposed, and he certainly wakes up anyone who was not already fully awake. Furthermore, he alerts those of us attentive to creative presentation techniques that this simple unexpected act of giving an abbreviated talk within the context of a somewhat longer talk is an ingenious and effective way to draw an audience into a presentation in a stimulating and pleasurable way—one that is guaranteed to leave audience members/learners with a highly memorable experience. Which is exactly what we hope to achieve each time we play that honored and honorable role of facilitating someone else’s learning process.


January 19, 2010

Bill Hogan’s feature on free e-learning opportunities—“FREE-Learningin the January-February 2010 issue of AARP Bulletin provides yet another reminder that online learning is quickly becoming more and more accessible to increasingly large numbers of students of all ages.

Not only “can you learn just about anything you want to learn without setting foot in a classroom,” he writes, but a lot of what is available is “free, without restrictions or catches” for anyone with access to the Internet—which, of course, means most people with access to public libraries.

Hogan does a great job of introducing his readers to how to access these free resources by providing short tips on the types of Internet connections learners need, how to play audio and video files, what software is needed, and what sort of devices are available for those wanting to “learn on the go.”

More importantly, he leads learners to resources including “nearly 2,000 academic courses that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology” has posted online at no charge to users. Even the most cursory tour of the MIT site reveals links to more than 1,900 courses in broad subject areas including architecture and planning; engineering; health sciences and technology; humanities, arts, and social sciences; management; science; and cross-disciplinary topics. Courses appear to include a variety of resources including video lectures and lecture notes, reading lists, assignments, exams and solutions, and, in some cases, links to online textbooks—a boon for those all too familiar with the cost of printed textbooks.

Another gem within the article is an introduction to Stanford University’s Open Culture website which, in turn, provides links to “250 free online courses from top universities” including Columbia, Stanford, UC Berkeley,  UCLA, Yale, and others. Among the subject areas covered are architecture, art history, biology, computer science and artificial intelligence, cultural studies, economics, history, information science, literature, and philosophy.

A guide to e-learning sites at the end of the online version of the article leads learners to a variety of resources ranging from webcast.berkeley and howcast to TED Talks and interviews and lectures involving Nobel Prize winners.  

And for those who have been wanting to experiment with e-learning and need guidance on how to learn effectively using online learning resources, that too is readily available. With e-learning continuing to expand into what Hogan has so wonderfully dubbed Free-Learning, our biggest challenge may be to carve out the time to absorb even a fraction of what is available to us.

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