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Educational Technology: The Key to Closing the Digital Divide

Technology is dynamic and evolving—and this fact is especially true for education. There are three major shifts going on right now in the use of educational technology or technology in education and in particular the place of technology in the learning process. These changes are fundamental and completely changing the world of education.

These bold education changes can be summarized as shifts: from delivery to exploration, from general solutions to personalized, and from access for the few to access for the many.

From Delivery to Exploration in Education Technology

In the past, education has been delivered to the student, wrapped up in a one-size-fits-all neat little bow. Students read and they learn by describing in reports and projects what they read.

Technology offers the opportunity for students to explore on their own and learn in the process. The Sunnyside, AZ school district has high school students in a biotech class taking genome samples and documenting the process via a webcam. The students plan to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal. With technology, students move from being consumers to creators who design, build, explore, and, ultimately, publish content.

From General to Customized and Personalized

Students learn at different speeds—and educational technology allows them to learn at their own pace. Students can start off with the same parameters, but succeeding lessons based on the outcomes can lead to a deeper exploration of the students’ interests. Educational technology allows students to discover an entire world of ideas, technologies, disciplines and skills with their curiosity leading the way. Markedly, customized learning fills students’ need to learn the necessary prerequisites to engage in society and work, while also developing their passion.

a graphic showing the three historical shifts in the use of educational technology

From Tech Elites to Access for All

There is a myth that technology is expensive. This idea leads to the notion that access to technology is only available to those who can afford it. With the internet, students can access tools remotely with the cooperation of other schools and universities that have the equipment. The mayor of Chattanooga, TN, saw the potential and need of having a fast internet connection, coupled with high definition camera to connect students to a university with access to a scanning microscope worth $1 million. The community does not need to own expensive equipment. They only need to be able to use it. This approach levels the playing field for students from less affluent communities to be able to have the same access as those studying in expensive private schools.

Through technology, there is actually no need for the resource to be physically in the room. People who can teach programming can be accessed and thus, are able to extend their skills to the students. This scenario allows for more students and schools to compete with private schools. This case is what happened in Rhode Island where the district was able to raise the level of learning achievement significantly. With their educational technology program, public school students passed the AP Computer Science test at the same rate as those from private schools.

The Bottom Line on the Bold Impact of Educational Technology

The use of educational technology allows bold shifts in the way teaching is done. It also provides better opportunities for the less affluent. Schools can make a difference in education by using technology in extending the reach of the school. Remote access and cooperation with colleges and universities allow for more advanced technology to be available to elementary and high school students. Indeed, all that is the bold impact of educational technology in closing the digital divide!

Network Technology Gets Boost from Carbon Black Tech

Monitoring micro fractures on airplane parts and checking the physical integrity of infrastructure has now become much easier and more accurate thanks to carbon black tech.

Cheaper to build, and lighter; dense sensor net using the new material offers a cost-effective solution…

Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a bold and innovative type of sensor based on nanocomposites. These can be useful on flat or structural surfaces with curves. Additionally, they can deliver data in real-time. It is a lightweight material with a low-cost fabrication and implementation method. It therefore allows the usage for large quantities in a sensor network. There can be easy analysis of data for structural flaws in trains, airplanes, ships, bridges and train tracks.

The material, discovered by Department of Mechanical Engineering, led by Professor Su Zhongqing and Professor Zhou Limi, makes use of a hybrid of conductive nanoparticles, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), 2D graphene, and carbon black. The resulting nanocomposite sensor can therefore apply to different sizes of structures and engineering applications, even on a moving vehicle.

Alternatively, it can be applied from a moving vehicle onto a track or any large structure, like bridges for example. The sprayable nature of the material also allows usage over a large area for real-time monitoring of the stresses on various materials.

Carbon Black Tech

Futuristic pic representing carbon black tech

The sensing technology comprises the nanocomposite sensor along with an ultrasound actuator. The actuator uses guided ultrasonic waves (GUWs) which are picked up by the sensors. The generation of GUWs as they travel through the monitored material show discrepancies when they encounter a break (a microfracture or a fissure). This leads to a wave scattering of the GUWs. And that in turn provides readings from the sensors that enable engineers, researchers, or maintenance personnel to the discover the location of the break.

Conventional sensors using ultrasound cost more than $10 each and weigh a few grams. These are from lead zirconate titanate (PZT) and there is limit in use by their cost and weight. These are usually stiff and application on curved structural surfaces is not possible. It penalizes the host material  with the additional weight of numerous sensors that can do the job.

In comparison, the nanocomposite sensor will cost less than $0.50 each and weigh 0.04 grams.  It is possible to manufacture these in large volume to create a much denser sensor network than conventional ultrasound sensors. Cheaper to build, and a light sensor net using the new material offers a cost-effective solution. A wider range of structures can gather more data.

The added bonus to using the nanocomposites is that the structure can be moving or in use while during monitoring, eliminating downtime or the requirement to shut down operations just to do the check.

Clean Energy Tech: Only 3 Meet IEA Targets

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that only three clean energy technologies are on track to meeting the 2oC by 2025 target.

…the three technologies identified by the IEA as on track are electric vehicles, energy storage, and solar PV & onshore wind.

The IEA was founded in 1974 in the midst of the Middle East War. The original purpose was to establish cooperation among OECD member nations to develop energy security and energy-related policies beneficial to the member countries.  Since the agency’s inception, the mission has evolved to focus on ensuring “reliable, affordable, and clean energy among the 29 member countries and beyond.”

IEA Encourages Clean Energy Tech

The IEA monitors 26 clean energy sectors and technologies in their progress toward meeting the 2oC by 2025 target. This target is defined as “an energy system deployment pathway and an emissions trajectory consistent with at least a 50% chance of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2oC.” The 26 sectors and technologies cover a broad spectrum including energy sources and fuels, transportation, construction materials, infrastructure, industry, and consumer goods.

In May 2017, the agency released its annual report titled, ‘Tracking Clean Energy Progress’ (TCEP). Of the 26 monitored, the three technologies identified as on track are electric vehicles, energy storage, and solar PV & onshore wind. The agency notes improvement in 15 of the areas. Eight areas are labeled “not on track.”

The IEA report also includes recommendations for how each sector or technology can progress to meet the 2025 target. The IEA concludes that only 3 clean energy technologies were considered “Green” in 2016.

Better Sports Tech With Houston Astros

Before the 1950s, players were filming their swings in order to study and improve their drives.

Professional athletes are embracing the digital transformation. Tech is now being used in sports for a whole lot more than stats. In the past, bold innovations and tech equipment were just used to mine through big data generated by sports games.  Now, however, there are a plethora of sensors and monitoring equipment coming onto the sports tech scene. They are all designed to analyze and improve athletic performance.

In Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros is one of ten teams using a bat sensor at practice to gain that critical edge in batting performance.

Blast Motion, the Latest in Sports Tech

The sensor, called Blast Motion is placed at the end of the baseball bat during practice swings. The sensor measures data including swing speed and impact. Blast Motion records constant adjustments for different circumstances so team managers know the stats. The managers then understand that some pitchers perform better against lefties, or that a particular pitcher will change his pitch selection given a particular batter. The use of the Blast Motion leads to a more aggressive stance in outflanking and outperforming the competition.

Among the things the sensor measures are hit speed as well as the time between the point when the ball is hit and when it leaves the bat towards its trajectory. Now consider the fact that pitchers can be throwing balls at 90 to 100 mph, and now consider that the Blast Motion is sensitive enough to measure those fragments of seconds and the small variation of impacts.

High Tech Equipment Improves Sports Performance

There have been studies showing that batters no longer have time to pause and watch to see where the ball is going, whether it’s a curved ball or a fast ball. The reaction time has now become so instinctive that the batter needs to respond without even thinking. The smallest advantage can make a huge difference. This is especially true of baseball, where batting averages are computed to the thousandths of a point.

digital transformation in sports using Blast Motion Bat

One sport which has had a long history of digital transformation is golf. Before the 1950s, players were filming their swings in order to study and improve their drives. Various devices have been used by players to force their muscles to follow a particular arc when they swing. This type of performance training and strengthening equipment is used during practice only. On the other hand, the game itself has been improved with a constant acceleration of high technology in the balls and clubs.

For professional baseball players, the bat is sacrosanct; it can never be changed. If a batter uses a tricked-out bat, there are dire consequences. If a pitcher cheats on his pitch with any foreign substance on the ball, there are also large penalties. If science is to be used to provide an extra something, it can only be used during practice.

Big data is bringing actual game statistics to the analyst, but it still requires a lot of practice and minute improvements for the players to stand out from the rest. An athlete or player can use all the technology he or she wants to train and practice, but at the end of the day, it’s up to how good an athlete performs during the actual game that makes a sports legend.