January 6th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Technology is Improving Education

Education technology is quickly revitalizing the way in which students are learning. “What began as a ‘bring-your-own-device’ (BYOD) movement may very well turn into a ‘create-your-own-school’ movement as new intermediaries, learning agents, parents, and learners collaborate to weave vibrant value webs,” which is good news since our current education standards and practices in America are not working out for us. Our teachers don’t get paid enough, our high schoolers are not graduating, and our low income students aren’t able to attend college.

Technology is shifting the focus of educational practices to be more about tailoring learning to the student’s specific needs. Learning tools and curricula are increasingly customizable , making it easier for every student to find a learning method that works for them. Educational services are becoming more accessible with free programs like Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy and Crash Course on YouTube. As the cost of digital devices and software continues to decrease, the increased volume, velocity, and variety of data will be so expansive that we will need to move beyond basic information-filtering tools to avoid overload and help us discern meaning.

Analytics, dashboards, and visualizations will be critical to discern meaning, draw conclusions and gain insight from ever flowing data streams. And if students will be learning more and more online, these systems will need to become all-encompassing to provide the learner with whole-person support based on environmental factors and social contexts, as well as academic performance. Additionally, teachers will have the opportunity to record lessons at different speeds to accommodate all levels of learning. And education will be even more engaging and appealing now that gaming is being taken seriously. Gaming is being touted by many as an extremely effective method for students to absorb curriculum on a deeper level.

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January 2nd, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Starting the New Year off right with Arthur C. Clarke

“The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

In 1964 Arthur C. Clarke made some wild assumptions about the future in  this clip below from BBC’s Horizon programme.

In this clip Clarke barely touches on the future of communication and its effect on cities, “The traditional role of the city as a meeting point for man will have ceased to make any sense—men will no longer commute, they will communicate.”

Interested in hearing more accurate predictions from Clarke? Watch the full version of this episode, parts 1 & 2, below.

And just for fun check out Clarke’s 2008 discussion about the Space Elevator.

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December 18th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

The Future of the Brain

Several new scientific discoveries in neuroscience have alluded to very interesting upcoming applications for the brain. Skills and knowledge will be directly implanted into your brain. Your brain will connect directly to the cloud, for easy access to all your data. Thoughts will control bionic limbs. There may be robots that think and react like we do, by copying our brain patterns. There is a lot to consider now that our technology is making it easier and easier to interfere with a brain’s natural process. How do we determine what’s ethical? Which areas of life will have to change to accommodate for our technologically enhanced brains? Competitive events? Education?

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December 6th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Citizen Science- Everyone Can Contribute

What’s the fastest way to collect scientific data? Get citizens involved! Citizen Science is a brilliant way to get communities involved with scientific experiments that directly affect us all. Anyone can write down observations or collect samples, which is a huge contribution to scientists. After all, there are a finite number of scientists with a limited amount of time and they can’t be everywhere at once. Contributing to Citizen Science is something everyone can participate in. It can be a fun project for you and your family, or for your entire K-12 classroom. Either way, Citizen Science is a great way to contribute to scientific research, engage citizens in learning about nature and science that directly affects them, and it results in smarter, stronger communities.

Citizen Science is alive and well in Seattle, with local programs like the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Audubon Society for Birds and Nature, Sound Citizen (which tests for human compounds in water), the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, and the WA Native Plant Society Noxious Weed Project. Most of these programs are free, but some come with a small fee, like the American Gut project and the uBiome — Sequencing Your Microbiome project.

Citizen Science doesn’t have to be organized by a group interested in collecting data for a specific purpose, in fact some programs encourage you to explore and learn more about science that interests you. These programs include DIY bio science labs and hackerspaces, which allow you to discover science in your own way for your own purposes.

There’s no down side to participating in any form of Citizen Science. It’s a fun learning experiment, it’s community-building, and it allows you to directly contribute to scientific discoveries without requiring a college degree.  Plus, the more we know, the more we grow!

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November 29th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation | Comments Off

This is Your Brain on Sleep

‘Travelodge Future of Sleep’ study, carried out by award-winning futurologist Ian Pearson, has investigated the impact of new technology on sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can make you irritable, hysterical, or unable to process information. Todd Maddox, a psychology professor at the Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Texas in Austin says, “The brain regions that are impaired when you are sleep-deprived are the same ones that are impaired with aging.” We all perform better when we’ve had enough sleep. Sleep is restorative. This is because while you are sleeping a number of important processes are going on. One theory is that sleep lets  the brain resets itself, “Sleep may also be important for consolidating new memories, and to allow the brain to ‘forget’ the random, unimportant impressions of the day, so there is room for more learning the next day.” Another theory is that sleep lets you solve problems. At Georgetown University, researchers found that during naps the right hemisphere of the brain was extremely active and busy transmitting information to the inactive left hemisphere of the brain.  The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity  and big-picture thinking, while the left is analytical and skilled at things like language and processing math, so “The new findings suggest that it’s possible naps, by enhancing the creative side of the brain, help us solve problems.”

So sleep is important. How will we regulate and leverage it in the future? We’ve seen futuristic movies like The Fifth Element, or Cloud Atlas, in which machines put a person to sleep for the appropriate amount of time and then wake them up. Will we all be sleeping in special pods?  Apparently by 2030 sleep technology will be able to offer us, among other things, a variety of new services while we sleep: lessons that we learn in our sleep (like language or skill learning), control over our dreams, virtual love making, medical diagnosis, and internal (in our brain) sleep-cycle alarms.  Research has been done on hotels of the future that will supposedly provide the perfect atmosphere for sleep, providing everything from fabrics that produce your favorite scent and tactile experience, to 3D skins you can upload that turn your hotel room into your home. The value of sleep is being discovered as more and more research develops, and it is clear that technology will drastically change the way we sleep in the future.

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