Tag Archives: ted

Flying Robots

Have you ever been amazed by a TED Talks video?  This is one of those.  Using principles from the insect world, these robots communicate with each other in ways that allow them to interact and work together.  These robots can map 3D spaces, build complex structures out of modular pieces, and even jump through hoops — literally.

This video doesn’t necessarily have a direct-to-classroom ESL application — though I’m sure it would get your students talking — but it is a pretty impressive demonstration of how far this technology has come.  With the work that is being done with Microsoft Kinect in the DIY community, I wonder how long before we are building these in our backyard.

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Kinect Development

microsoft kinect hardware

Microsoft recently announced plans to release a software development kit (SDK) for the Kinect.  This should allow academics and enthusiasts to find new ways to connect the motion-sensing Xbox hardware to other platforms, such as desktop and laptop computers, much more easily.  In short, there should be many more Kinect hacks to come.

I’m still not sure how this would directly apply to classroom teaching, although it stands to reason that these applications could someday replace physical interactive whiteboards in the same way that Kinect was originally designed to replace physical videogame controllers for the Xbox.

For more, see my previous post on Kinect Hacks and below for some new examples of how Kinect is being used in new and exciting ways.

Control Windows 7

The touchless multitouch is really nice.  Mice are so 2008.

3D Tetris with Face Tracking

As the user moves his head, the perspective on the screen changes to match so that the 3D perspective is constantly updated.

Kinect Lightsaber

A wooden stick becomes a lightsaber in real time.  This would save hours of  frame-by-frame editing.

Balloon Body

After Kinect scans your body, use your scroll wheel to expand or contract the surface.

Christmas Lights

Use Kinect attached to a bunch of dimmers to control Christmas lights for a very nice effect.

Flying Robot

The 3D capability of connect makes it perfect for a robot that navigates three-dimensional space.

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2010 in review

automatic transmission

I got this auto-generated post direct from WordPress, which hosts ESL Technology.com, and thought some of it was worth sharing.  Every time I login to my blog, I can check on these numbers and other interesting data.  I can see how many page views I’ve had by day, week, and month as well as which pages were most popular and what sites are referring people to my blog.  More interesting than the numbers themselves are the fact that this data is so easily available that WordPress can automagically pull it together into a blog post for me.  (Incidentally, you can search “2010 in review” on WordPress to find other bloggers who have posted the autogenerated post.)

This kind of data is becoming easier and easier to work with — to mashup.  And all kinds of new software allows us to pull together lots of data in enlightening ways.  Governments that are making this kind of data available are finding citizens stepping forward to develop ways to make it more useful.  See Tim Berners-Lee’s TED Talk for a six-minute rundown of the highlights, below.

I recognize that the numbers generated for me by my blog are not as important as which roads are impassable after an earthquake in Haiti.  But, on almost every scale, this data is becoming easier to find, use, and mashup.  Some of our students may already be doing this.  Surely, many are not.  Developing the ability to work with this kind of data in very dynamic ways is sure to be an asset, if not an expectation, in the near future.

So, without further ado, my numbers.  Thanks for reading.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by these stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2010. That’s about 31 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 119 posts.

The busiest day of the year was August 4th with 95 views. The most popular post that day was OutSMARTed.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, esl.osu.edu, en.wordpress.com, en.bab.la, and google.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for esl technology, esl and technology, technology esl, technology for esl students, and kinesthetic learners.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

OutSMARTed August 2010
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2

Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii) March 2009
16 comments

3

About Me July 2008
4 comments

4

How do I know my IR LED works? October 2008
1 comment

5

Projects August 2008
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Hacking Kinect

I never really thought much about Microsoft’s Kinect until I saw what hackers were doing with it.  A story in the New York Times outlines how a designer and senior editor at Make magazine posted a $3000 bounty for the first person to post an open-source hack of the Kinect interface.  Huzzah!  In fact, I’m still not that impressed with it — 3D drawings are cool, but will they help me teach English? — but I’m thrilled that hackers big and small are poking around under the hood.

Interestingly, Johnny Chung Lee, who became famous for his TED talk where he described hacking a Wiimote to act like an interactive whiteboard, is involved in the development of Kinect.  Microsoft were so impressed with his skills on the Wii-based IWB and other projects they hired him.  He is reportedly very happy to see hackers taking on Kinect in the way he took on Wii a couple of years ago.  If a hacker can squeeze an interactive whiteboard out of a $40 Wiimote, what will come out of the $150 Kinect system?

Will this technology help us teach ESL and EFL?  It’s not easy to see how, at least not immediately.  But prepare for a giant step forward in how we interface with computers in the next few years.  Interactive whiteboards are just the beginning.  You can always show your students this video and ask them to predict the future (in English).

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Crowdsourcing Meta-Resources

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

I came across a blog post on The History Teacher’s Attic which organized TED Talks by educational discipline and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  The interesting part is that the post is based on a Google Docs Spreadsheet containing information on every TED Talk through July 29, 2009.  The thing I like most about this post is the potential in this spreadsheet.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk introduces his $50 interactive whiteboard.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk.

First, most TED Talks are fascinating (Johnny Lee’s talk introduced the world to the Wii-based $50 interactive whiteboard) and authentic audio resources for advanced ESL students.  Having one central resource with overviews of all talks, is very useful for an ESL teacher.

Second, Google Docs can be very useful tools for collaboration.  Because they are cloud-based, anyone can access and edit documents via a web browser.  By opening up the document for anyone to edit, the work of compiling all of the information can be distributed to many people.  For example, this list of educators on Twitter spreadsheet was crowdsourced, meaning many people did a little bit of work to build what is a pretty extensive list.

The US Presidents mashup.

A mashup of US Presidents.

And once the spreadsheet has enough information, it can be mashed up in useful new ways.  For example, this mashup, created using MIT’s Exhibit, makes the information in the TED Talks Google Docs spreadsheet sortable and searchable.  Other examples include Flags of the World, which combines flag images from Wikipedia and a Google Map, and US presidents, which includes a timeline, map, images, and facts about each president such as religion and political party.

So, at this point, I’m ready to begin the new project of collecting and compiling some of my favorite resources into larger, crowdsourced, mashable meta-resources.  I’m going to start with a wide-open Google Docs spreadsheet, and then try my hand at different mashups.  But, before I begin, here are some questions I’m trying to answer.  (Feel free to supply your answers by commenting on this post.)

This American Life has great audio.

This American Life has great audio.

First, what resource(s) should be compiled?  TED Talks seem to be relatively well covered, but how about a similar resource for This American Life episodes, stories from The Moth live storytelling events, YouTube videos (EDU or otherwise), or other resources?  Should the meta-resource be targeted to ESL / EFL teachers or all educators?  And finally, what information should be included?  A link to the resource, the title, duration and a synopsis are obvious details, but what else?  Maybe keywords or tags as a way to organize them, the goegraphic location of where the story takes place, a warning system for language or content not appropriate for the classroom, and links to related resources in case students want to explore particular topics further.

So, consider this a call to action.  I’m going to solicit lots of feedback and then begin.  Once underway, I’m going to solicit more help.  With a little crowdsourcing, we can grow some really interesting and useful resources.

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Siftables: Perfect for the Sandbox

A colleague of mine, Kathy, and I have been discussing ways to create a language sandbox game.  This idea would be to create blocks with words on them that somehow interact in a way that demonstrates grammaticality.

Siftables work like colored blocks, but they can interact.

Siftables work like colored blocks, but they can interact.

Kathy’s oldschool.  She’s been experimenting with blocks of wood painted different colors which students can manipulate.  Great for kinesthetic learners!  We discussed cutting them into puzzlepiece shapes so that each block only “fits” other words according to grammatical rules.  At first, it seems like it would be possible to make nouns with square tabs that fit into square slots on verbs, and so on.  However, as complexity increases, this becomes exponentially more difficult.  Structures as complex as nouns modified by multiple adjectives would be prohibitively difficult.

What if a computer application could be developed that would replace the wood blocks with word tiles that could be manipulated with a mouse (or an interactive whiteboard!)?  Could the tiles snap together and repel each other like magnets according to grammar rules?  Could words be tagged for part-of-speech automatically within the application?  Could different categories of words (verbs, adjectives, adverbs, specifiers, etc.) be added and deleted with the check of a box?  Could students add their own tiles seemlessly into the pile?  Clearly, some intelligence would be required of the application to implement all of these features.

Siftables might just be perfect for an language sandbox.

Siftables react to each other. Imagine a word on each one.

As I was kicking all of this around, my friend Mike at Ohio University pointed me to siftables, which seem to be the synthesis of both ideas.  Rather than try to describe these brilliant little devices, watch the TED Talks video.

Not only could these little devices fit the bill perfectly, the way they interact could inform interactions in the language sandbox I’ve been envisioning.  Until we’ve all got pockets full of siftables to pass out in class, my $50 wiimote-based interactive whiteboard will have to do.  In the meantime, I’m hoping that having students drag word tiles across the screen will work almost as well for kinesthetic learners.

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TED Talks

Lorrie and Matt over in the Knowlton School of Architecture introduced TED Talks to me and they’re a great way to spend a few minutes at lunchtime. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Basically, a bunch of cutting edge people get together periodically to share what they’ve come up with. Great stuff. Highly recommended. You never know what you’ll find, or where the ideas will take you.

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