I found the discussion on Thin Clients and Blade PCs very interesting. These terms were totally new to me. Thin clients are hardware terminals without any software or hard drive. One cord connects to the server for everything. These tools are energy saving, reliable, and simple. They offer a centralized approach for using many computers. The server is the only place you can install software. Students can log into any desktop and get their desktop, files and software. Administrators only have to maintain the server. Thin clients can be easily replaced and the user can be up and running again in no time.
The Thin Client has no moving parts, so it is solid and has the latest open source software. Blades are kept compactly in the tower in the data center. They can be switched automatically, if there is a problem. There are two connections. One connection is between the user and the blade which recognizes the user, and one between the data and network storage. If there is an error, the user can shift to another blade and log-in. This sounds like a cost saving measure and so I think eventually it would be implemented in many schools. I know the district that I work in is forecasting budget cutbacks again for next year, so I am sure that technology will still be upgraded but with great care and thought to the shelf life.
The topic of virtualization is another that was new to me. I hadn’t heard of virtual machines, but the idea sounds good. I have had to take in my laptop and my kid’s laptops many times for viruses. I also thought the term sandboxing of a rogue element was interesting. My understanding of virtualization is that there are multiple operating systems on one machine. It is easier to move files and new hardware and old don’t have to match. There is no down time or data loss. There are fewer physical servers. Again, this sounds like a cost saving and improved management move, so I think this makes sense.
Gesture-based Learning involves using the Kinect ability of gaming software first utilized on the Xbox 360, in education applications. There could be many possible applications and Johnny Kissco at www.KinectEducation.com is one teacher/entrepreneur that is working on it. When he talked about moving things on the screen with hand gestures, I could see this being used in special education settings where some kids might have difficulty with keyboard commands. I was showing the video to my highschooler and she showed me a website where you can use your webcam to play games. It is called http://iviewgames.com. I don’t know if these two technologies are related, but I could see many applications being developed with this. I think as with any technology, if it is made efficient and user-friendly, then teachers and administrators will adopt it.
Learning analytics or big data sounds like it would be helpful. Educators are always hearing about data-driven instruction. This sounds like an extension of this idea using technology. I do like Steve Schoettler’s idea of looking at the whole learner and including multiple intelligences, personality characteristics, cognitive abilities, and family background. I would want to be cautious about not using this information in a rigid way or as the only data that is collected on students.I would also want to be sure that students weren’t labeled with this technology. As each interaction between a reader and a text is different, so I think each interaction with learning materials can be different. I would use these analytics as a guide, but not as an exclusion of certain learning materials. I think we are always going to need a teacher there to interpret the results and make the final decision about what types of learning particular students could benefit from.
I would envision a future classroom where students are more mobile if we are able to use this Kinect technology. It would be another option for getting kids more involved with what they are learning. I think it would be very good with kinesthetic learners. I also see the use of more Augmented Reality models to bring more dimension and interest to many topics.
As far as how soon we will see this technology in the classroom, it is hard for me to say. There are districts that are struggling to keep the resources that they have, so adding on technologies will take more grant writing and more support by the taxpayers. New technologies are great, but as the iste.nets Essential Conditions document tells us there is an infrastructure that needs to be in place and it needs to be funded as well as the hardware.