ISTE Chief Learning Officer Takes An ‘EdTech’ Look Around CES 2019

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The CLO of nonprofit International Society for Technology in Education took a stroll around last month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Joseph South made an educated, if not necessarily representative of the show nor 2019 EdTech at large. Still, a fascinating watch with key insights from the former Director of the Office of EdTech at the US Department of Education.

Here are some of South’s quick takes with his “EdTech lens on”:

A rolling screen. He gets started with general purpose tech, which should be nice for the classroom that can afford it.

Robotic gesturing in telepresence. Still widely applicable, but with clearer applicability to speaking and even training, robots can bring a physical layer to online teaching.

Self-driving accessibility (and break room!). Always a concern, new tech can offer a first-class treatment to disadvantaged students. In this case, a wheelchair could have the student’s room schedule inside and direct them with no extra help.

Another cool toy was a self-driving mini fridge which, in South’s words, “brings the teacher lounge to you!”

Specdrums. Sphero, the company behind the nifty color-coded musical toy, was a CES highlight in the eyes of many, South included. Objects can be attached to the toy and play music upon tapping on them, with notes according to their color. Sphero runs an education program where these and other gadgets are built into computer science curricula.

Artificial intelligence companion. The latest iteration on the Furby now brings a user-friendly screen where its behavior can be customized. It can teach children basic skills and help foster habits.

Programmable matter (well, getting there). A “reconfigurable, programmable robot” and some kind of weird, alien-looking electronic building blocks show no clear shape, but endless configurations and possibility of use. If someone comes up with any.

Augmented reality. Among the countless apps and objects on display, we see a globe of the earth used to visualize different geographical and climate data.

AIQ Synertial takes a different approach, by bringing motion capture to consumers. South believes it has potential in athletic and performing education, as well as in digital creation.

Gadgets designed to limit access to other gadgets. The TechDen device locker charges phones within a vault, disabling its use. An app can nudge the user to add it at given times during the day.

All kinds of backpacks. They light up, charge your devices, or even follow you around. Kids would no longer have to take unhealthy work loads on their shoulders.

Pretty elaborate simulations. Designed to “blur the limits” between real and virtual, in two ways. Simulations are getting spookingly realistic. But also, tech can also follow the user into the real world.

Screens that bend. Not necessarily “ready for primetime,” but the extra sturdiness could be a blessing for teachers.

Programmable AI and other kickstarters. They show that real examples are already possible. In fact, they can be made by anyone, not just giant companies.

And of course a quantum computer. But this is where the giants do have a leg up. IBM showcased an actual, quite steampunk-looking quantum computer.

Between a ping pong table and some wavy lights, South reckons, “We’ve come a lot further with our technology than I thought.”

Corrections made on March 1st. An earlier version of the article claimed Mr. South was ISTE’s CEO, not CLO.

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