Wearable Technology

Note:  This is the first in what appears to be 10(11…12..I keep adding) blog topics I have compiled after the 2014 Ohio Educational Technology Conference.  Each blog post related to the conference will be tagged OETC14
In March 2013 I debated back and forth over a purchase.  The purchase was for a $100 device from a company called Fitbit.  The company has devices that pair (One) with your desktop and mobile device that tracks all sorts of information related to the number of steps taken, miles travelled, active minutes, sleep pattern and more.  I kept coming back to the question of if I would actually use the device and would I see any changes in my behaviors.  The answer to the two questions I had starting out were answered.  I saw my weight drop nearly 20 pounds then go back up 10 pounds but it was a major step.  I also saw myself become aware of the counter and always wanting to try and hit at least 5,000 steps while the goal was 10,000 steps.  A few weeks into 2014, I received a report from Fitbit that told me I had walked 843 miles in 293 days.  That came out to an average of 2.87 miles a day.
I was also fearful that I would put the device through the washer as is common with me and lip balm.  Thankfully I can report that it was not the washer the brought up this blog post but instead me loosing the device somewhere between the Hyatt Regency, Columbus Convention Center, Barley’s and Nationwide Arena.  When I realized that I had lost the device…panic set in on two fronts.  The first front was that I had lost a $100 device.  That was $100 hard earned dollars gone.  The second panic that set in was that I wasn’t going to hit my step goal for today (I was at 7,000ish) because it couldn’t track my steps.  This made me mad because I always want to hit my goals and especially when I am close to hitting my goal.
I realized that this device had become a part of me in every sense of the manner.  It wasn’t embedded in me but it had become a part of me.  It drove my decisions on a daily basis in a positive manner to a degree.  It changed behaviors for me that were healthier than previous behaviors.  I took the stares as much as possible, walked the longer route at lunch etc.  All of this through a device and an app on my phone.  That is a powerful realization.  There was no hesitation on my part this time when I got home that evening just 7 hours after loosing the device and promptly order a new device.  The first time I made the decision I took almost two weeks before I pressed the purchase button.  This time I went with the Fitbit Flex.  It attaches to your wrist.
How could wearable technology be used in schools?  In one of my graduate school courses, I am working on developing a lesson using this technology that addresses Technology, Science, Math, Social Studies, Language Arts, Health and Physical Education courses.  The premise is that this device can be used in a real life situation while bringing all of these subjects under a single project.  Once that lesson is finished I will post it to the blog here to share with the world.

Ohio Education Technology Conference – 2014

The Ohio Education Technology Conference (OETC) is a 3 day technology conference held in Columbus, Ohio with over 5,000 people attending.  At this point I have lost track of how many I have attended (6 or 7 I think?) but it is a good event.  Usually around this time of year, old man Winter has us dreaming of riding roller coasters (at least it does for me) and our batteries a little low from the reality of another school year and the many items that go along with it.  OETC is a great escape for 3 days and the batteries are recharged as we come away armed with new information and ideas to explore when we return to our schools.
As I looked through the conference sessions the buzz words in education stuck out in almost every session.  These buzzwords are the words we have been hearing for over a year now and include the likes of PARCC, Online Assessments, Online Testing, Common Core Standards, IIS and many others.  One observation I have made over the years is that each year the conference appears to have a list of buzzwords that are making their rounds within the education community.  Netbooks, Smartboards, Student Response Systems…do any of these sound familiar?  My concern is that we are creating an environment through PARCC, Online Assessments, Online Testing, Common Core Standards and IIS where we become so focused on the test or the data from the test that we fail to create an environment that is similar to real life.  We fail to develop within our students the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace and beyond.  Furthermore these new online tests are going to require an investment of technology and infrastructure all of which cost money that I fear will be used by many only during the testing window and not used outside of it.
Take a moment to reflect and ask your self…have you had to recall an obscure fact that was on a test 10 years ago or did you have to solve a problem while working with various departments and create a solution that wasn’t one of the four possible answers?  My understanding is that the new assessments are focused more around the second part of my question but the sample questions have been few and far between.  This has me worried moving forward because my desire would be for an assessment that is centered around project based learning and requires students to work together to create a solution and not work in an isolated silo which is not reality.
My favorite moments at the conferences usually happen not in the sessions but the short amount of time walking between sessions and the after hour social events.  It is there that we are not restrained by a pre-determined amount of time or a topic but we are free to explore, debate and reflect upon what we are hearing.  A group of dedicated individuals many of whom I have met through Twitter and then finally in person, took the reigns in 2013 and created OETCx (The OETC Unconference).  I can’t find who said it but they described (maybe not accurate here…paraphrasing my own words here) OETCx as the place for those who challenge the traditional methods to gather and discuss.  Someone else I think mentioned the now famous Apple commercial from 1997 titled Here’s to the Crazy Ones (see below).
So as I prepare to make the short 10 mile commute to the convention center to pick up my registration packet for the conference I can’t help play that commerical on repeat.  I challenge myself and colleagues from around the state that may be seen as the crazy ones and for those who see the possibilities of education being truly different to not be shy and timid but be vocal.   Join us on Tuesday Jan.28th 2014 for OETCx at the conference and for the after hour events!

IFTTT – The App with Endless Possibilities

A year from now when we are reviewing the major events of 2014, we will not be able to forget the odd start to the year in the weather department.  A snow storm dumped any where from a dusting to 12+ inches of snow in parts of Ohio where other parts saw all rain.  Temperatures went from hovering just above freezing to below zero in a matter of hours.  We had two straight days where the high temperature was below zero.  In central Ohio this was the coldest air seen in 20 years.  Wind chill readings were reaching -30 to – 40 degrees F. Capping off the entire event was a 24 inch water main break in the city of Columbus that sent water into the streets.  I am working on a future post of how we stayed connected during this event.
I have discussed IFTTT (If This Then That) previously and how I use it in my daily life.  As the cold air approached we started looking towards our e-mail to see if the office would be open or not.  The geek in me says there has to be a better way of finding out if we have work or not than opening my e-mail.  Here is what I did:
  1. Instructed IFTTT to check a label I had a created within GMAIL for new messages.
  2. If a new message arrived then I told IFTTT to call me on my cell phone
  3. The call contained who the message was from and the subject
In these three easy steps I received a notification that I had a new message and then could check my e-mail.  Is there a way or are you already incorporating IFTTT into your workflow or at school?