How Strong Community And Educator Support Drives Ed Tech Success

[Sebastien Turbot shares his insights in a Forbes article into a project from the French group, Libraries without Borders. The project distributes e-materials to refugee camps to provide these marginalized people experiences to re-link them to the world. ]

When we think of education technology, we often imagine large-scale impact and reach. But it’s not that straightforward.

Stacked amidst temporary shelters, tents and thatched huts in Burundi’s Kavumu refugee camp are a pile of bright blue, green and yellow boxes. Stowed away in these 800 kg metal palette-size boxes are countless ideas to educate, entertain and foster creativity among refugees. The self-contained watertight boxes are packed with e-readers, tablets, cameras, e-books, paperbacks, board games and e-learning tools to offer educational and training opportunities to refugee children and adults and prepare them to reintegrate the world. In less than 20 minutes, the boxes are unfolded into interactive media centres with tables and chairs.

Ed-tech initiatives like Worldreader  provide children and families in Ghana (and now other African nations) access to books which it achieves by providing them with e-readers in the form of Kindles or their new mobile app that works with regular feature phones rather than smart phones. (Photo credit: Newsha Tavakolian)

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The Key to Digital Learning? Bring It Into the Real World

[The combination of real and virtual can have a magical response by young learners. Here’s a great example from the New York Hall of Science where virtual technology using Kinect systems are combined with physical activities, such as kids collaboratively moving foam logs to transport water.]

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Connected Worlds, an installation at the New York Hall of Science, teaches kids about environmental science by immersing them in it. DESIGN I/O

IF YOU WANT to teach your kid about ecology, sustainability, or the future of interactive education, take them to the New York Hall of Science and head for the giant virtual waterfall.

The massive digital faucet feeds the ecosystems of Connected Worlds, a cutting-edge installation that aims to teach youngsters about environmental science by immersing them in it. It’s an interactive simulation big enough to walk around inside—virtual reality that’s not piped into a headset but projected onto a real physical space.

Kids can shape the environment through a clever combination of physical and digital interaction. The waterfall sits between two walls, which stretch out into the museum’s cavernous Great Hall like a giant’s arms moving in for a hug. Projected on the walls, and on the floor between them, is a lush virtual world comprising different ecosystems, all dependent on water from the towering falls. When a kid standing in a particular ecosystem puts her hand to the wall, a Kinect mounted above the space triggers a projector, which makes a digital seed materialize above the youngster’s palm. She can opt to grow a small plant, which doesn’t require much water, or a large tree, which does. To make sure the ecosystem is getting the resources it needs, she must route water from the falls and other sources by arranging giant foam logs on the floor. As kids elsewhere plant their own flora, the water demands of the different areas change dynamically.

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