My Invention and Innovation Wishlist

It seems that in the past few years there has been an explosion of low cost technologies that can be used in the classroom to foster innovation and creative thinking.  These are always on my radar, but keep getting pushed to the bottom of the budget prority list.  This year I want to start thinking about how to incorporate some of them in my curriculum and thought I would take a few minutes to list some of the ones that have caught my attention.

The Mozilla Webmaker Project

Mozilla is doing some really interesting work on digital or web literacy.  Their approach is to develop exciting and cool tools that kids can use to hack up the internet and in the process learn more about it.  Personally one of the best things I ever did was spend few weeks one Christmas working through a beginners HTML book.  Knowing just the basics of how web pages work has time and again helped me understand and navigate the web in more effective ways.  Some of the cool tools that I think are worth integrating in the classroom include:

  • Hackasaurus (a set of goggles that make it easy to mash up and change any web page)
  • Popcorn (an authoring environment for making interactive video)
  • Open Badges (an attempt to develop a system for recognising skills and achievements that happen online)

MIT Life Long Kindergarten group

I have been a fan of this group for a long time and have used their SCRATCH programming environment since it was first released.  While my students have successfully created animated stories and video games with Scratch their work has always been limited to the computer environment.  With the PicoBoard students can “make Scratch projects sense – and respond to – things going on outside of their computer.”  This idea of students creating Scratch programs that collect and interpret real world data raises some really interesting possibilities.

The PicoCricket is also the brainchild of the Life Long Kindergarten group.  With PicoCricket students “can create musical sculptures, interactive jewelry, dancing creatures, and other playful inventions.”   Essentially the PicoCricket is a tiny computer with sensors and motors that can be attached to different sorts of materials.  I like this idea because unlike Lego Mindstorms (which uses the same programming software) the PicoCrickets allow for unlimited creativity.

Raspberry Pi

This one is going to have to be a summer time project as it is a bit more DIY than the others.  The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and keyboard.  The motivation behind the creation of this $25 ARM GNU/Linux box was to make a computer cheap enough that students could experiment with them without worrying about breaking an expensive computer.  This makes it cheap enough to buy a bunch for the classroom and to develop curriculum for them.

That’s the lot.  A bunch of great products that students can play with, and in the process develop a deeper understanding of the technology that they take for granted every day.

One Comment

  1. Claire Thompson

    Hi Phil,
    Have you had an opportunity to try PicoCrickets? I was keen to order a kit back in the summer, but they’ve stopped making them. It’s too bad, because as you mentioned, they look like they allow for a lot more creativity than Lego Mindstorms.

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