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hybrid learning

Stephen Fry Launches Pindex, a “Pinterest for Education”

Pindex is also known as “a Pinterest for education”, making use of the powerful educational tool that the Internet can be.

Pindex is able to create educational videos for students and teachers. Stephen Fry was responsible for providing creative direction and is also the voice to one of the first videos.

Other videos focus on science and technology including drones and robots. John Leaver, one of the co-founders, explained that the idea of Pindex came from the same boring material that his daughter would bring home from school. He wanted to make topics more engaging and allow teachers to share their best material.

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While Fry has been involved with other significant projects such as Pushnote and Summly, he is planning to invest a lot of time to Pindex. He wants to make sure he creates high quality material. As Pindex grows, it will be using material from external makers such as Youtube bloggers. That way, their audience can expand as well as get insight from any other sources.

For more info, visit the article here.

Virtual Classroom

Teachers are now receiving more support to prepare them for an actual classroom. The University of Central Florida gives educators-in-training the option of practicing their teaching skills in a virtual classroom.

The program is called TeachLive, the first of its kind. The course challenges educators to navigate social, pedagogical and professional hurdles all at once. Educators are challenged to manage the classroom when the avatars misbehave, act in strange patterns, or ask difficult questions. Each avatar comes with their own personality. One avatar will interrupt class with their opinions on the lesson or teach, another avatar is the class chatterbox. Educators will also work with an avatar that is particularly anxious and may curl up on the floor of the classroom. With each session, the program allows users to change classroom events and avatar characteristics. Educators can practice responding to a targeted behavior or even to student disabilities.

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The program can also be set to specific teacher needs. TeachLive uses Skype conference call and a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor power. TeachLive is being used at more than 80 campuses across the U.S to train some of the next generation of educators. The team at TeachLive is exploring in which technology can be used to help people.

Click here to read more.

Smartphones and Mobile Payment To Be Top Malware Targets in 2016

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Students and smartphones come hand-in-hand. Usually, some level of computer literacy also comes along. But what is frequently absent is security skills- the ability to tell what downloads are safe, what sources can be trusted, and the knowledge of how to use the tools that are developed to provide a second line of defense against security intrusions. Malware developers know this, and a recent report says that they’ll target smartphones and related technologies more than ever in 2016. On compromised phones, criminals may even be able to get access to mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

On Android phones, these threats are becoming more sophisticated (new malware may gain root access to the device, making them immune to virus removal software), but the way they get onto the system remains the same. Users should make sure to keep the “Install Software from Unknown Sources” setting unchecked except for when specifically installing software from outside the Google Play Store. Additionally, users should make sure that these outside sources are trustworthy before installing anything from those sources.

In addition, students should be aware that extra devices that they use carry extra security risks. Internet-connected devices of all kinds confer ways that personal information can be stolen, or methods for hackers to gain access to other devices. And as the Internet of Things develops, these methods of intrusion will only become more prominent.

For more information on this topic visit the article here.

Sharing a New Way to Collaborate and Communicate

Wayne State University has developed a social networking platform, Academia, for users to better collaborate and communicate. It is designed from the ground up to work on any mobile device.

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Academia operates through “streams” which act like Facebook walls or Twitter hashtags. These streams can be created and followed by anyone, according to their permission levels. As an example, users could create a stream for a specific club and invite people to subscribe to it. Due to its successful launch, Wayne State is looking to expand Academia to other campuses.

Over the summer of 2015, Wayne State transitioned over from the old portal Academia. As they expected, there were growing pains, however there was great user acceptance and good performance. They initially created a feedback stream where users could post any problems they ran into, and had to a team to fix and respond to those users’ problems.

The director of academic and core applications, Rob Thompson, mentioned that the platform showed its significant impact when it was used for new student orientation. It allowed students who haven’t even started classes yet to connect with each other and share their interests or thoughts.

The Merit Network plans on expanding this across many other campuses. Some universities they have visited have already shown their interested in the platform.

For more info, visit the article here.

Even Better Wi-Fi: University of Washington Leads Again

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Researchers at the Seattle campus have found a way to make a Wi-fi transmitter that uses 10,000 times less power than traditional Wi-Fi systems and 1,000 times less than existing low-power wireless technologies. It can be used by existing devices out of the box, with little to no need for extra setup per device. This technology has been attempted in the past, but limitations usually involved a dramatic drop in signal quality over a short distance or expensive, custom hardware that did not work with existing devices.

This technology, tentatively called “passive Wi-Fi,” is made possible by separating the digital elements of the transmitter (handling such tasks as encoding and encryption) and the analog (which includes the actual antenna that transmits data). This implementation creates a network that is perfectly suited for the Internet of Things.

As anyone who uses UW Bothell’s Wi-Fi knows, our internet connection is excellent and our network is extremely well-maintained. However, when infrastructure replacements or upgrades are considered in the future, admins would do well to look at the technology that the UW has pioneered for further reducing our energy usage.

For more information, see the Campus Technology blog post here.