Sunday, January 31, 2010

We have the technology...we have the capability...

When I was growing up I liked watching the Six Million Dollar Man on television. In the opening for the show, there’s a line that says, “We have the technology.” I thought of that – for pretty obvious reasons if you’re familiar with the show - when viewing the video for the Bionic Eye iPhone application.

This is a nice little app for what it does, but imagine what it’s going to evolve into: a portable heads-up display for everything. Yes, right now it lists restaurants, subway stations (in certain cities), and wifi hotspots, but it’s not that hard to extrapolate a few years into the future where this app – or something like it – connects you to all the available information about whatever you’re looking at.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s on an iPhone-type device, or whether it’s mounted on your eyeglasses, it’s going to be with you effectively 24/7/365 (only “effectively” because you can still choose to turn it off), have 99% uptime, and is going to get better every hour of every day as more information is added to it. Practically every urban location will be geotagged and infotagged (think Google Street View on steroids), extending further and further beyond urban areas with each passing year. In fact, I imagine the app will evolve into a two-way app, with users adding to the database as they go about their daily routines, constantly adding more locations and more data to the database.

Perhaps a few more years down the road artificial intelligence object-recognition software will be embedded, maybe even with some simple sensors to analyze the material it’s looking at, so that the app will be able to peer into just about any object and return information about it’s chemical composition, various useful facts about it, and ways the object can be used.

I know that scenario is frightening to a lot of folks, and certainly there are going to be more and more privacy/ethical issues we are going to have to figure out as a society. But, for the moment, let’s focus on the incredibly positive side of this – what kind of learning apps can be built on this platform? What will we be able to do as teachers and students that we can barely even conceive of today, but will be commonplace in the very near future? What happens when the sum total of the world’s knowledge – updated in real time - is available in a portable heads-up display?

Just imagine the possibilities. How many years is it going to be before we see something of this sophistication? I don’t know. My guess is more than three and less than thirty. So you’ve got to ask the question, does your school/district want to be ahead of the curve in figuring out best practices, or behind it?


  1. I plan to be ahead of the curve! Thanks for motivating me to try new things and stay up on the latest trends in education.

  2. The culture of our world has indeed shifted from one informed on paper, phone wired, and network only television communication centered society ... into a mobile continually updating digital information driven society. However, this recognition does not change the fear of technology that is harbored in most school districts and educators in America. Fear is and will remain the major stumbling block that will keep far too many educational leaders and teachers from exploring technology currently available and that we can only imagine. Because of fear, they will continue to search for new theories and programs that are assured to change the instruction in classrooms, "shop" for and create out of date professional development, and attempt to excite and motivate their students with "old school" instructional strategies. What does my district practice? Fear ...

  3. I am a student in Dr. Higdon's EDU 220 class and as a future teacher I think it is so important to engage ourselves with new technology in order to see how it can be applied to engage students and to strengthen their skills. I want to stay in top of the curve.