If I had a million dollars…

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I can’t justify buying every cool tech toy I see, but darn it, so many things look like they’d be fun to use in the classroom.

This Amazon Gold Box deal of the day caught my eye:

MINI JAMBOX by Jawbone Wireless Bluetooth Speaker - Silver Dot - Retail Packaging
MINI JAMBOX by Jawbone Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – Silver Dot – Retail Packaging

At a bit over $100, it’s far beyond what I could justify spending on a whim, but a powerful, pocket-sized bluetooth speaker would be a great substitute for the boomboxes we still occasionally lug around at my institution– assuming, of course, that the audio recordings you need are loaded onto a phone, tablet, or laptop rather than stuck on a CD or cassette tape!

And this showed up as a recommended item recently:

Anker® 40W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Charger with PowerIQ™ Technology for iPhone 5s 5c 5; iPad Air mini; Galaxy S5 S4; Note 3 2; the new HTC One (M8); Nexus and More (Black)
Anker® 40W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Charger with PowerIQ™ Technology for iPhone 5s 5c 5; iPad Air mini; Galaxy S5 S4; Note 3 2; the new HTC One (M8); Nexus and More (Black)

Also very, very cool. Finding enough USB ports to charge our iPod Touches and Flip Videos can be a hassle at times. This particular device would be a non-starter for Flip Videos due to the narrow spacing between ports, but it would be perfect for charging five iPods at a time at full speed.

Personally, I have one of those two-port USB chargers with the “A” and “NA” ports for manual optimization of charging rates, but a charger that actually automatically detects what your device needs would make things so much more simple. I think I’m actually going to get this one– if nothing else, it will help me consolidate the three separate USB chargers currently cluttering my power strip, and it ought to be super useful for travel, too.

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Kerbal Space Program: better than working at NASA?

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Comic: Randall Munroe, CC BY-NC 2.5

XKCD creator and real-life NASA alum Randall Munroe has mentioned Kerbal Space Program in previous comics, but this is the clearest endorsement of its educational value he’s given. And even as a layperson when it come to physics, I readily agree: it’s become natural for me to think in terms of moving frames of reference, conic section trajectories, and other unintuitive concepts we don’t need to deal with down here on the ground. Using a little spaceship to push big asteroids around also shows you how important it is to precisely align thrust vectors through the center of mass– which explains why the space shuttle had such weird, oddly-angled rocket engines!

As KerbalEdu nears completion, I hope more and more physics students get to supplement their classroom learning with guided Kerbal Space Program scenarios.

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As a little nitpicky note: It bugs me that composing emails on Gmail’s website works so differently from composing emails in its mobile apps, making it easy to mess up your drafts. The text formatting works completely differently between desktop and mobile versions of Gmail. For example, mobile messages default to being double-spaced (or 1.5-spaced?), while desktop emails default to single-spaced– and if you switch from one editor to the other, it’s anyone’s guess which type of formatting will be preserved or overwritten. Also bullet points and numbers from the desktop version aren’t carried over into the mobile version, meaning that if you open a draft on your phone, you destroy that formatting.

It’s all rather silly, especially considering that Gmail is a cloud service. A consistent experience is the bare minimum one ought to be able to expect in that context.

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Affordable classroom tablet provides direct tactile feedback for kinesthetic learners

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Update, April 2nd, 2014: Happy April Fools’ Day! :)

For all the flexibility that tablets provide as classroom devices, they’ve traditionally had limited output options. Tablets are primarily visual devices, and especially in a classroom setting, it may not be appropriate to even enable audio feedback. Certain devices have allowed a modicum of haptic feedback– briefly vibrating upon keypresses, for example– but kinesthetic feedback has traditionally been limited.

Classroom tablets have traditionally been limited to primarily visual styles of learning. Photo: Eric E Castro, CC BY 2.0
Classroom tablets have traditionally been limited to primarily visual styles of learning.
Photo: Eric E Castro, CC BY 2.0

Manufacturers in China have devised a way to create a tablet which enables its users to physically “feel” the objects being manipulated on-screen, opening a new avenue for kinesthetic learning. Tactile learners will be delighted by this new sensory modality of output, and school districts will be equally delighted by the sub-$100 price tag per unit!

How would you use this revolutionary tablet in your classroom?

See a photo below the jump!

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