Field trips without the bus? Technology is changing classrooms in incredible ways, creating experiences for today’s students that would have seemed impossible a mere generation ago. Interactive capabilities let learners explore, travel, and adventure, all while at their desks.
The fictional Magic School Bus comes closer to reality with a virtual reality (VR)app that enables students to take field trips without leaving the classroom. Google’s Android and iOS-compatible Expeditions, with its cardboard virtual reality viewer, enables students to travel to some 200 locales, including Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the ecosystems of Borneo, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The virtual trips have been created through partnerships with organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History. Teachers can use 360-degree panoramas and 3D images to lead their students to places they otherwise might never experience.
Platform and content creator Lifeliqe will soon be bringing its library of educational 3D content to virtual reality headsets. Lifeliqe (as in “life like”) has partnered with HTC Vive to create immersive VR adventures for students, empowering them to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, from the molecular level to outer space. Using 1,000-plus models, students from kindergarten through grade 12 will be able to travel through the human body or examine a shark from multiple angles—including the inside.
Some Assembly Code Required
Many children today have been exposed to technology since they were in utero. But that doesn’t mean they understand how it all works. Some educational technology companies are bringing the hands-on back to tech with projects designed to get kids building and coding what they imagine.
It arrives as a box of wooden pieces, but Piper, a DIY computer kit, is designed to make your seven-year-old tech fluent. By following the enclosed blueprint and using tools that include an old-school screwdriver, kids can make their own computer and gadgets such as controllers, lights, and buzzers. The Raspberry Pi–based laptop includes a Minecraft modification called PiperCraft, developed by scientists at Princeton and Stanford, for students to create their own games. With the goal of encouraging kids’ imaginations and sense of play, PiperCraft includes a treasure hunt adventure and virtual TNT-triggered explosions.
For parents who don’t want to raise a couch potato, London-based tech startup Technology Will Save Us has launched its new Mover Kit to get kids away from the screen. The first DIY wearable for kids, Mover Kit uses two circuit boards to integrate a microcontroller, accelerometer, magnetometer, and eight colorful LED lights. Kids can create their own uses for the device by programming it with “if this, then that” logic to respond to physical movement.
Children’s health and development have always been a top priority for parents. These devices have been created to help kids stay happy and healthy.
Withings’ Thermo, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved thermometer, is designed to make it easier to take children’s temperatures and track fevers. Using its 16 infrared sensors to collect 4,000 measurements, Thermo needs only a skim across the forehead—without touching skin—to return a temperature reading in two seconds. The built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can then send the information to a smartphone app that tracks the fever. Parents can set up profiles for different family members. Thermo also connects to Thermia, a fever calculator and database site run by Boston Children’s Hospital, which gives fever information and recommends treatments.
A cute orb with a digital face, Leka is a robotic programmable smart toy that moves, speaks, plays music, and vibrates. It’s designed to help children with special needs develop social, motor, and cognitive abilities. Leka’s sensors enable it to react to children’s behavior, helping the children become independent by guiding them through daily activities, such as brushing their teeth.
The device’s consistent responses to how children treat it (for example, by making a sad face if a child throws it) help minimize stress and anxiety. Single- and multiplayer games enable children to play with their Leka on their own or with family members or therapists. The platform captures data that gives parents and other care providers a picture of their children’s interactions and development. It also offers educational applications, like the picture bingo app where real-life objects are matched with images on Leka’s screen.