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Chromebook boosting classrooms

After allaying its critics, Chromebook has been labelled by educators as the essential classroom tool. In a recent study by Acer – European Schoolnet Educational Netbook Pilot of 2010, 74% of European based teachers who participated in the study believed that netbooks in classrooms will allow students personalised learning, and 89% of all teachers believe that netbooks will add value to improving computer literacy.

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According to Peter Lacey, Education Lead for Acer Africa, the question is not if the Chromebook will enter South African classrooms, but when and how. Selborne Primary School based in East London decided to partner with Acer to introduce the Google Chromebook as part of their classroom learnings early in 2013. Through the Acer Premier Partner Program, Acer Africa has managed to successfully provide technology solutions to over 120 schools across its network. The success, according to Lacey lies in the fully customisable solutions that Google and its platforms provide.

After comparing several solutions, the school’s governing body decided that the Google platform will be the best vehicle to move the school into the next phase of its technology journey. Sarah Friend, Grade Seven teacher at Selborne explains that, “ease of use is probably the stand out feature for me. This allows each pupil to use the device according to their unique learning ability.” According to Lacey this is what makes the Chromebook unique to any other netbook.  “The Chromebook supports the learning material of a school’s current curriculum while allowing a pupil to expand this learning with additional online tools via the safe and secure Device Management System (DMS) and it’s always up to date.”  The robust build of the device and selection of applications allows both educator and pupil to get the most out of the learning process. A recent study supports this claim reporting that more than 60% of students have indicated that their learning experience is enhanced by the Google Chromebook. “As an IT administrator of the school, I can manage our Chromebooks, the learning material and other Chrome devices, from a cloud-based Admin console or DMS,” says Friend.

“Since its introduction to the South African market, late in 2013, the Chromebook has had a clear and lasting value add in the local education sector,” says Alister Payne, MD of Google Cloud Solutions. Payne refers to the advancements of technology in the classroom as Tequity, or Tech Equity. “Bringing tech into the learning environment creates an enhanced learning experience.” According to Payne, Tequity reaches further than only the physical accessibility of devices, but the convenience of accessing information via a device as well as the simplicity thereof. Lacey elaborates on this point by conveying that technology should never be introduced to a classroom to replace educators, but rather to aid the facilitator to support pupils during the exploration and curation process. “This is the future of learning,” says Lacey. “Students become content creators rather than content consumers.” With a plethora of applications and collaborative tools at their disposal, each student consumes learning material according to their capabilities, making it a lasting experience. “There are different apps for everything from dissecting a grasshopper to taking a tour through ancient Egypt. Google Chromebook is an essential and interactive tool for the 20th century learner” says Lacey. By making this paradigm shift more emphasis is placed on exploring and comprehending content rather, than following a graded curriculum based outcome.

Another feature that is unique to Google Chromebook is the mobility. Students are able to work on group projects whether they are in the same room or not. Additionally, teachers are also able to evaluate how individuals contributed to group projects. Via the Google Classroom Assignment application, teachers schedule assignments on any subject and are able to track its project. Peter Lacey, Education Lead for Acer Africa add that this in turn creates a paperless classroom, creating a greener learning environment.

Although the adoption of the Chromebook in local classroom cannot be disputed, there are still a fair amount of concerns. These concerns are echoed in the Acer – European Schoolnet Educational Netbook Pilot where the three main objections to the Chromebook was the lack of support, distracted learners and limited access to internet. Even though the first two concerns have been discredited in the last five years, the latter is still a valid objection in our local environment.

The integration of Chromebooks in the Selborne classrooms have dissipated original fears which included the lack of support, distracted learners and limited access to internet. “The five year project has seen Acer invest in the Google Ecosystem Support Base in South Africa, and in this time learners have showed increased engagement,” says Lacey. “Although access to internet remains a concern in rural areas, urban areas are well serviced, and the current number of adopted schools will continue to increase.” Lacey concludes by saying that with government’s commitment to further reduce data costs the country is on the cusp of a connectivity explosion which will filter through to schools and allow for easier access to e-learning.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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