Ed Tech Review #2: ChromeBooks and Cloud-Based Computing

The Internet, Web 2.0 and many Cloud-based are public resources that educators can leverage for the multitude of technical, social and educational communities that are represented.  The essence of accessing the Internet, is the browser.  There are many browsers available which run on various hardware devices such as PC’s (laptops and desktops), Mac’s, tablets and smartphones.  I will focus on a browser based laptop model called the Chromebook, which runs an operating system called Chrome OS rather than Windows or OSX.  ChromeOS is a derivative of the Linux operating system.  Chromebooks usually have lesser capabilities than current laptops because they are not designed to run large applications locally with the CPU (processor) on the Chromebook.  The technology that Chromebooks take advantage of is the client-server model of program execution.

There are many advantages which the Chromebook can provide for all levels of education.  They efficiently take advantage of the resources available on the Internet by relying on remote processing on servers that are already in place for a multitude of applications that are “Cloud-Based.”  They are cost-effective for the educational environments that are often cash-strapped, and laden with expenses for personnel and facilities.  Since the ChromeOS is free, provided by Google, the cost factor is lowered, and the hardware itself is designed to be optimized for Internet, server-based applications.  The ChromeOS is a highly secure operating system, which offers an advantage to educational institutions, reducing computer security expenditures on such things as virus protection.  They also offer the IT departments in schools many advantages:  “The devices are stateless, so any updates needed come from the cloud. It takes all that stress and time away from the IT staff” (Parallels, 2017).

Some disadvantages exist, for example, in that ChromeBooks rely on constant Internet connectivity.  However, traditional desktops and laptops also rely heavily on Internet connectivity.  There are workarounds for loss of Internet connectivity on local area networks, in that alternative connections can be made via cell networks, WiFi and other network technologies.

ChromeBooks provide an important infrastructure component for educational environments, the client-computer, enabling accessibility to the Internet by students and teachers (O’Donnell & Perry, 2013).  The connectedness that they provide lays the groundwork to support all of the ISTE standards for students by enabling far-reaching access to applications and data for creative use.  The ChromeBooks adopted by educational organizations can increase communication and collaboration through connectivity, enable research and information fluency through access of online libraries and databases.

Teachers and Educational institutions can benefit greatly from ChromeBooks since the costs are low and they are easy to use.  According to PCM-G:  “Teachers love the (Chromebooks) ease of use, quick response time, and less technical difficulty than Windows” (Parallels, 2017).

There are an amazing number of applications that teachers can take advantage of, and that align with ISTE standards.

  • “Assessments Using achievement data to improve learning
  • Chrome Web Apps to Do more with the web
  • Flipping the Classroom to reinforce Teacher as a facilitator
  • Google Drive to Create and Collaborate
  • Google+ to Share and Connect
  • Open Educational Resources Beyond Textbooks”

(from Google in Education)

ChromeBooks also reinforce the need for improved distance learning models (i.e. ODL, or Open Distance Learning) and solutions by providing an open, secure platform for equipping K-12 and higher education students with cost-effective computers to access the Internet.  They also support Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) which is a strong predictor of academic achievement (Kirmizi 2015).

Being able to equip students with a standardized, accessible, open system for utilizing the Internet also supports Self-Regulated Learning, providing self-efficacy, and empowering students to acquire knowledge through community, then interact, organize, and reflect on their formed knowledge (Bandura 2001).  Also, the current generation of student need not be partial to a particular operating system or computer configuration, but simply need access to the applications and information on the Internet in an open way, preferring the things that matter most such as immediate social community engagement, interactivity, digital literacies, connectivity, experiential learning, and teamwork (Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, 2005).

The ChromeBook technology is continually refined through advancements in hardware technology and improvements to the ChromeOS.  Since ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system, it takes advantage of the Open Source Community, which brings together software developers from around the world to contribute their skills to producing software which is the best it can be.  To understand the power of Open Source software, you simply can look on sourceforge.net to realize the magnitude of the work that the community of developers have forged.  A sound technology like the ChromeBook/ChromeOS can feed upon itself in that allows for many to be reached with technology because of its low cost and efficiency, and in turn, can produce new programmers who have learnt their craft using the cloud based information and development tools that can be accessed.  The critical mass, collective activity and aggregate effort makes for a superb quality product.  (Granovetter, 1978).

References

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 1-26.

Chromebooks Are The Next Best Thin Client For Businesses. (2017, January 31). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.parallels.com/blogs/ras/chromebooks

Distance Learning – ITDL-all issues. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017, from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jun_16/Jun16.pdf

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/07/30-ways-to-use-chromebook-in-education.html

ESchool News. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.eschoolnews.com/files/2015/10/PCMG1012.pdf

Granovetter, M. (1978). Threshold models of collective behavior. American journal of sociology83(6), 1420-1443.

ISTE – International Society for Technology in Education – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-students

Judicial Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://judicialaffairs.tamucc.edu/assets/IsItAge.pdf

Kirmizi, Ö. (2015). The Influence of Learner Readiness on Student Satisfaction and Academic Achievement in an Online Program at Higher Education. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology-TOJET, 14(1), 133-142.

Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. (2005). Is it age or IT: First steps toward understanding the net generation. Educating the net generation, 2(1-2), 20.

O’Donnell, B., & Perry, R. (2013). Quantifying the Economic Value of Chromebooks for K–12 Education.

 

Tools for Coding in the Classroom:  Integrating Computer Programming into K-12 Curriculum to Prepare Students for Jobs or Entry into Higher Education

In today’s learning environments, students need to employ their new literacies, including digital literacies which enable them to utilize the Internet and other networked systems to search, utilize, integrate, analyze, share and communicate their understanding and knowledge.  They can use multiple hardware devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and the software which is available in the form of applications/apps.  In addition, utilizing emerging electronic I/O devices such as game controllers, 3D printers, VR/AR devices and others.  However, I want to focus on the software aspect of new and digital literacies.  Particularly, not just the software applications that students learn the bring the abstractions of hardware to the high level of human interfaces, but the software development systems that drive creation of new things or intelligences of new things such as robots or other programmable hardware.  There is a myriad of programming language and educational technology options for educators to explore for use for self-directed student learning in the classroom (Akerlind, 1999).

Educational technology, ultimately, is not just for teachers, but to serve the entire educational experience which equally involves students.  So, tools for teachers to communicate, organize, and create lessons, post, and share their grades are fantastic to further the teaching practice, but technology tools which students use are the essential things that drive learning and create knowledge in them.

Software drives many of the innovations we see in education today, whether it is a website written in HTML and JavaScript, an application running on an iPhone written in Swift, or a robot being controlled by an Arduino device with software written in C or C++.  The apps that we have available in a smartphone and on the marketplaces enable us to replace at least a wheelbarrow full of things with a single smartphone (consider how much room it would take to store a camera, camcorder, compass, calculator, ruler, video game console, remote control, flash drive, book, world atlas, GPS, MP3 Player, flashlight, radio, clock, newspaper, magazine, TV, check-book, and multiples of many of these things in the form of several instances such as magazines, etc.  Also, it serves a phone!   This is all done with software, so doesn’t it stand to reason that software matters, and being able to code is essential.  The few experts in software development also make much higher salaries than most other college graduates.  Coding, specifically, may not be an official digital literacy, but it can enable many of the digital literacies such as constructors in OOP.  Software is capable of modeling the real world (Grover, 2013).

The power of learning coding for students lies in the fact that it involves experiential and project based learning.  The hands-on instruction that students receive in coursework that involves coding enables them to construct, leading to high levels of intrinsic value, and feelings of accomplishment which has been expressed in flow theory which states that spontaneous flow experience can occur when people employ creativity from their history of gaining technical knowledge, and begin to change state of things.  This spontaneous transformation gives intrinsic satisfaction, enhancing the inner state of person, leading to success, ethical/socially responsibility, and happiness in their lives and workplaces (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).

When a student prototypes a new device with a 3D printer, codes the behaviors of a robot (whether virtual in a game, or real rolling around on the floor), programs the control of some invented device with a Raspberry PI, or simply creates a Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion program in Python, the student is experiencing a creation, which leads to high levels of satisfaction.  This moves us into the realm of “constructionism,” a word to describe the creating of artifacts that can be shared with others (Papert 1991).

I learned the computer programming languages COBOL and BASIC at Kennedy High School in the Chicago Public Schools, back in 1983.  So, it is not new to learn programming as a general education course in K-12.  I didn’t earn a degree in Computer Science while in High School, but it did spark the interest that I fulfilled when I went to college.  Learning coding is not wasted on young students.  Similarly, and more amplified, is the urgent for today’s K-12 students to be exposed to programming.  Whether they end up in pure sciences, education, engineering, or many of non-STEM (also, by adding Art to STEM, we can utilize the term STEAM) degree programs available, the ability to create a series of codified steps, with logic and control structures, to accomplish a task is essential for problem solving.  Many games have scripting languages that are accessible to the non-programmer gamer.  Engineers have programmable calculators.  Business people use Excel macros to automate processes to save time and accomplish a series of steps in an instant.  CAD (Computer Aided Design) users need to learn scripting, for example, Auto Lisp in AutoCAD to automate various renderings and accomplish multiple tasks quickly.  Auto mechanics refer to programming the “brain box,” or ECU (Electronic Control Unit) or ECM (Engine Control Module).  These devices and the machines used for diagnosis are programmable.  In home construction, the devices in a smart home need to be programmed.  And, the future of IoT (Internet of Things) will require that we all know how to program virtually any electronic device found in our homes and work (Gubbi, 2013).

References

Åkerlind, G. S., & Trevitt, A. C. (1999). Enhancing self‐directed learning through educational technology: When students resist the change. Innovations in Education and Training International36(2), 96-105.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New Yprk: Harper Collins.

Grover, S., & Pea, R. (2013). Computational Thinking in K–12 A Review of the State of the Field. Educational Researcher42(1), 38-43.

Gubbi, J., Buyya, R., Marusic, S., & Palaniswami, M. (2013). Internet of Things (IoT): A vision, architectural elements, and future directions. Future generation computer systems29(7), 1645-1660.

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. Constructionism36(2), 1-11.

Webliography

Using Unity 3D Software for Developing Games and AR/VR Educational Content

  • Animations, Simulations and Games in Education

    Educational technologies are not clearly defined and their scope and capabilities are always expanding and emerging, so animation software is certainly within the purview of Ed-Tech.  Technical educators and educational designers, in order to integrate modern technologies into classes need sophisticated software tools to design, develop and implement interactive, realistic and rich content beyond just talking head recordings.  To this end, the software application called Unity (which works on Windows and Mac) and others like it, can be used by educators to design, storyboard and develop compelling 2D and 3D animation content in the form of educational animation, games and simulations.  The trend for gamification, which attempts to apply game orientation to such varied contexts as corporate education, professional development, customer service, e-learning, advertisement, entertainment/edutainment, is still in rather primitive stages because of the gap in the realism that it can provide.  However, unified tools like Unity3D enable educational designers to take advantage of its myriad capabilities to enhance teaching and increase student engagement and tap more fully into the learning contexts of millennials.  It can lend itself to future applications in education, including VR.  Using simulations and virtual environments for educational situations can help teach in scenarios which may be dangerous, inaccessible, and prohibitively expensive.  Tools like Unity3D can also, for example, provide an avenue to implement AR and VR functionality to educational games for disabled students.

    Despite being mainly a game and simulation designer tool, Unity3D can empower educators who prefer to think outside the box to learn new digital literacies, especially for STEM education.  For example, the game Martha Madison, which was developed using Unity3D, and is aligned with Common Core standers, engages girls in STEM learning and careers using the RPG (Role Playing Game) gaming model.  Unity3D enables the deployment to many different devices, including mobile, websites, game consoles and PC’s.  As a tool to build customized course content, it has a learning curve, and may not be for all educators, but those that want to extend the stick-figure and whiteboard mentality for teaching can use these newer technologies.  (Häfner, P., Häfner, V., & Ovtcharova, J. 2013).  Educators need to take it upon themselves to develop content.  In today’s educational environments, there is usually not “them” or “they” to do it, so it must be “us” or “me” to do it.  Who better to create gamified educational content than the teachers themselves?

    In order to see how emerging software tools like Unity3D can be used in the mainstream for educational applications, we just need look to the recent past where evolutions of manual educational tools such as blackboards and erasers, videotaped content, and flipbook-type animation (ala Disney), which were used to model movement and situational content, to software tools and usages such as the transition from individual cobbled-together suites of software applications such as WordPerfect/Lotus 1-2-3/dBase in the 1980/90’s to a fully integrated application suites like Microsoft Office, and further into open source with a community based open source version such as Apache Open Office.  Just as educators can now learn to use sophisticated productivity applications like Word and PowerPoint, albeit at varying levels according to their needs.  However, educators teaching in technological curricular areas, especially STEM, in order to remain ahead of the curve and to teach technological courses, can benefit twofold by learning and using modern software.  They can instruct students in how to use the tools, but also use the tools to develop content beyond just writing text..  For example, teachers often utilize PhotoShop, but can also use Maya, 3DS Max and Blender for animation and graphics design per their needs; tools such as iMovie, MovieMaker and Sony Vegas; audio tools such as Audacity, GarageBand; use other game engines such as Unreal, Torque3D, CryEngine, Horde3D, and GameMaker; or implement software development tools such as Eclipse and Visual Studio to learn new programming languages.  Courseware needs to be stepped up from the mundane models of the past.  To incorporate educator-authored multimedia assets such as graphics images, audio clips, video clips, and animation sequences, educators need to learn the tools and upgraded their own skills and knowledge.  The course enhancement technology tools such as Respondus, Panopto, YouTube, Zoom, and other web-based tools such as social media serve the core teacher needs, but more specialized tools are needed beyond these.

    Multimedia Software and Hardware Enables Creativity, Teach Design Strategies, and Support Project-Based Education

    Multimedia design software such as Unity3D includes a suite of components which can be utilized in different magnitudes.  For example, they provide editing and capturing tools for authors to create the basic static components or dynamic elements for animations, games and/or simulations, which can be learned and used either with or without programming by both educators and students to create the components that go into the game, and establish the storyline and gameplay.  This provides an important educational technology tool for the creative endeavors of game-based learning and gamification for teachers to integrate into their coursework.  For educational designers, this may be the universal tool or method for instructional design (Dede 2011).  Unity can also be integrated with many hardware platforms and advanced hardware devices such as Oculus Rift, Oculus Touch and other VR/AR gear, which go far beyond mouse/controller/keyboard in 2D and 2½D environments, leveling up to full 3D.

    Unity provides services such as analytics for gaining insights into player behavior, an asset download store for purchasing multimedia elements to use within the game, deployment capabilities to provide a way to distribute the finished product, collaborative tools, and certifications for users to gain credentials with certain levels of expertise in the application (Pantelidis , V. S., 2017).  Also, students can team up with instructors to form their own content, for example in project-based courses.  They can leverage concepts in software project management, and implement an agile, 360-degree learning/teaching/development cycle.  Student involvement in their own education by using more sophisticated, interactive and collaborative tools can help them convey new meaning, ideas, abstractions, visualizations that traditional tools and environments does not afford.

    Use of tools like Unity3D can also enrich student experiences by teaching them new literacies in multimedia, computer graphics, animation, interactive design, and programming.  Developing multimedia for a multitude of applications should be considered a digital literacy which current and future students will need to create just as they learned developing textual content in the past.  For example, sites like Wix enable students to develop web content without programming, enabling them to be developers, while providing students to self-direct their learning by creating compelling and engaging simulations and games in their respective curricula (Davies, R.S. 2011).

    Community-Based Access to Self-Directed Learning Resources

    As much of the future software infrastructure and eco-systems will be based in “cloud” resources, Unity has a learning website which can be used by educators and students to learn how to use the software to develop content.  It provides video and text-based tutorials, documentation and a knowledge base for reference, training in the form of live classes, and courseware to enable integration into the classroom, as well as paths to certification.  This is a web-based component of the Unity software system which enables educators to learn the technological tool so that they can create game content for their courses.  This is an essential capability when encountering new software.  Oftentimes there is not a specific course to learn new software available or accessible, so by having a web-based resource as well as instructional videos on YouTube, for example, educators can ramp up on the software and start using it either for instructional purposes, as with STEM or Computer Science educators, or for any teacher to utilize it for course design purposes.  Teachers of the future, besides being pedagogical experts, need sophisticated tools to develop educational applications.  Game-based learning can provide teachers and researchers opportunities to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into their coursework.

    As a Tool for Multidisciplinary Education, including Art, Computer Science/Engineering/STEM and General Education

    Using animation, including games and simulations for educational content is cross-disciplinary and provide activities for students in a variety of college studies including STEM, education, reading and writing, media and broadcast communications, business, and many others.  STEM students can utilize the software for designing, testing and simulating experiments with gravity and physics.  General education writing and reading students may utilize it for storytelling.  Artistically minded students and curricula can take advantage of Unity3D as a culminating tool after developing multimedia artwork in the many supportive software applications that are available.  By including a sophisticated development tool, the educator can enrich their TPACK components (Mishra & Koehler 2008) to have a rich canvas to teach with beyond the mundane tools that are typically used in the classroom.

    The Unity Game Engine can be incorporated into ISTE standards for K-12, and used for CCSS and NGSS, but may be more appropriate for higher education.  Education professionals in educational technology can take advantage of the tools offered by Unity for interactive course and lesson design and instruction.  Even though the high tech capability of developing a game can be considered a far cry from simply instructing in the classroom, having modern tools are essential for enriching the classroom whether onsite or online.  (Cuban, L. 1993)

    The notion of having educators become game developers will become more mainstream, just as we have sites such as Wix and Weebly to enable web development without programming.  Educators need to find new ways of customizing content for courses, and to engage the millennial students that they are teaching.  Through the use of Gamification and tools such as Unity3D, educators and researchers can tap into the psyche of these students and find new ways to engage them through incorporating innovative technology that aligns with the ways that today’s students receive information.  Many of the gameplay experiences that today’s learners have, contribute to their construction of knowledge which can be translated from game-player to game creator.  Constructivist approaches can be applied (Ben-Ari, M. 2001) when integrating software like Unity in STEM curricula and programs, whether in K-12, or in higher education.

     

    Works Cited

    • Ben-Ari, M. (2001). Constructivism in computer science education. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20(1), 45-74.
    • Blascovich, J., & Bailenson, J. (n.d.). Immersive Virtual Environments and Education Simulations. Immersive Virtual Environments. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from https://vhil.stanford.edu/mm/2006/blascovich-ive-education.pdf.
    • Cuban, L. (1993). Computers Meet Classroom: Classroom Wins. Teachers College Record, 95(2), 185–210.
    • Davies, R. S. (2011). Understanding Technology Literacy: A Framework for Evaluating Educational Technology Integration. TechTrends, 55(5), 45–52. (PDF)
    • Dede, C. (2011). Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. Computer games and instruction, pp. 233-250. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
    • Häfner, P., Häfner, V., & Ovtcharova, J. (2013). Teaching Methodology for Virtual Reality Practical Course in Engineering Education. Procedia Computer Science, 25, 251-260. doi:10.1016/j.procs.2013.11.031
    • HUSSEIN, M., & NÄTTERDAL, C. (2-15). The Benefits of Virtual Reality in Education. Department of Computer Science and Engineering CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG Göteborg, Sweden, June 2015.
    • Mishra & Koehler (2008) – SITE 2008 KEYNOTE ADDRESS (45 min) Original TPACK article: Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.
    • Pantelidis , V. S. (n.d.). Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in Education and Training Courses and a Model to Determine When to Use Virtual Reality . THEMES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION Special Issue, Pages 59-70 Klidarithmos Computer Books . Retrieved January 12, 2017.
    • Unity Learn Website: https://unity3d.com/learn
    • Unity Main Website: https://unity3d.com/
    • Unity Store Website: https://store.unity.com/education?_ga=1.94578780.1521054953.1485745540#educator
    • http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/glpc_gamesforadigitalage1.pdf