Connecting classrooms across the globe via the Internet has become the new pen pal program, and initiatives like Skype in the Classroom and its instant translation feature are certainly leading the way in developed countries. But what about schools in areas that don’t have access to reliable Internet or even electricity?
Last week we wrote about the 60+ edtech startups that are in risk of becoming seed orphans and therefore face an uncertain future. edshelf, an imagine K12 alumnus, is on the brink of shutting down but its co-founder Mike Lee decided to make a last stand in order to buy some additional time and turn his startup around.
edshelf is a socially curated directory of edtech tools that aims to help educators navigate the huge choice of educational apps, desktop programs and electronic products based on recommendations of its community.
Robots for children are a growing market. Our science expert Alicia Chang works with US-based Play-i which creates robots that fuse play with programming for preschoolers. And there is MOSS by Modular Robotics which targets a more grown up audience. Both startups have successfully raised money for prototypes or products via crowdfunding campaigns.
Now Berlin-based TinkerBots follows in their footsteps with a robotic building set that wants to appeal to both children and adults, hence the entire family.
What do coal from the Titanic, dinosaur dung, the Chelyabinsk meteorite and soil from Dracula’s castle have in common? They are all part of the smallest museum in the world and you can own one.
The Kickstarter campaign for Mini Museum still has 24 days to go but the demand is quite extraordinary. Hans Fex has already raised more than 10 times the funding goal of $38.000 and is currently nearing the $500.000 mark.
There is a new red hot campaign on our crowdfunding partner site Indiegogo. In just four days a small device called SIGMO has raised over $100k and still has 25 days left to go. The promise: SIGMO lets you communicate in more than 25 different languages without learning them.
I think this is another proof that the vast majority of people don’t want to learn languages. You might have read my piece on the grim future of language learning, if not here is the link. Over the years I have been involved in the language learning and teaching space it became obvious to me that people learn languages because they have to for their career or in order to achieve another goal to that extend.
Otherwise we will do anything to avoid this task, even if it could make our life easier when travelling abroad. I always argued that as soon as there will be a viable alternative to language learning, people will jump on it. SIGMO could be part of this first wave of devices.
SIGMO matches the current group of lifestyle tech devices. It is small, looks really stylish and works with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Actually pretty similar to what Samsung and others are trying to do in the space of smartwatches. Clearly, SIGMO is part of the wearable technology group as you can put it on your belt, wear it around your neck or on your wrist.
What is does is similar to Google Translate Conversation Mode about which I wrote in January 2011. Like in Star Trek you press a button and then speak in your language. SIGMO subsequently translates the sentence and plays the translated audio. Next you can press the second button to translate the answer your conversation partner gave and get the audio in your language.
SIGMO uses the apps, technology and data connection that comes with your smartphone, hence it will only work when you have a data connection which can be tricky (and costly) in some countries when you are travelling. According to the Indiegogo campaign, one of the major goals is to make SIGMO available offline, as well.
To get a SIGMO early you need to back the project with $50 or $65 if you would like to have the aluminium version. The team estimates that the first SIGMOs will be delivered five months after the campaign closed which means end of February 2014.
In preparation of the relaunch of our webcast around cool products on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo I thought I might as well keep you updated on the latest gadgets through a series of blog posts.
So here we go. The first project I would like to show you is Scanbox. I am a big fan of projects that are simple yet have the potential to make an existing product 100 times better. You might remember Skylight, the adapter that connects your smartphone to a classic microscope which then enables you to take amazing pictures or even have a Skype conference to discuss a virus or new found species. You can watch my interview with the founder over here.
Scanbox is another great gadget that augments your smartphone as it turns it into a mobile, foldable scanner.
As you can see in the video, you can not only take pictures of documents but also 3D objects that fit in the box. This makes it a great tool for online sellers (eBay for example) as you can take great pictures in front of a white background.
It also works as a overhead projector for presentations or, of course, in school / university and all that at the friction of the cost.
If you already have a smartphone it is just an extra $15 for the standard version or $25 for the Scanbox Plus which features an extra set of LED lights and a light diffusing back flap, e.g. the perfect tool for product shots.
There are still 29 days left to chip in but good news: the project is already way past its goal of $12,500 as it already received pre-orders for more than $100,000.
My latest post at KirstenWinkler.com was about the devaluation of handwriting in schools though this skill has important ties to creativity and it is a part of our identity.
Hence I was stoked to see this Kickstarter project of PointScribe. Interestingly, the company have already been working on the product for a couple of years and they started with Windows devices around 2005 already, so fwell before the day touch screen devices became popular thanks to the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.
In the Kickstarter promo video Kevin Maher, the developer of PointScribe makes an interesting point. Since the stone age we might have changed our writing tools but never the way we teach handwriting. If you think about it, the process of teaching handwriting is pretty inefficient as the teachers constantly need to interact with the student.
PointScribe teaches children to write through a combination of games, animation and automatic feedback based on the performance. Children can learn on their own for the first time without the need of a teacher. The only time a teacher / parent needs to be involved is probably at the beginning to explain how the system works. PointScribe also teaches cursive.
PointScribe is pledging for $32,500 to port the product to Apple platforms including Mac and iOS devices. This should be something of interest for my educator following and you can actively support the project at Kickstarter.
Teagueduino is a great example of an entertaining way to teach and learn 21st century skills like coding and embedded development. You learn by building light-enabled alarm clocks and other fun projects even if up to now you cannot program a VCR.
The Teagueduino set consists of a variety of building blocks. The center piece is the open source electronic board in which you can plug in different modules like a speaker, lights, propeller and much more. The user interface then lets you bring your project to live with a single line of code in real time.
If you pledge $160 you will receive a full Teagueduino kit containing:
Each board has 5 inputs and 5 outputs, and a full kit comes with a variety of each (knobs, buttons, speakers, lights, servos, and more). These can be easily combined in countless ways and programmed using the Teagueduino software and then shared with the community to use and build on.
- 1 Teagueduino main board with Teensy++ loaded and ready to go.
- Inputs wired and ready to use (2 buttons, 2 potentiometers/knobs, 1 switch, 1 magnetic field sensor, 1 light sensor, 1 temperature sensor)
- Outputs wired and ready to use (2 piezo speakers, 1 red LED, 1 green LED, 1 blue LED, 1 Vibration motor)
- Servo bundle (2 servos, 1 servo power-up board, 1 5V DC power supply)
To get a better idea of what you will be able to create with Teagueduino, watch the video below.
And if you would like to pledge, visit Teagueduino on Kickstarter.