Children are interacting with technology more and more these days and, rather than complain about ‘in my day’, some people are coming to realise that technology could be an invaluable tool for education.
Traditional education is coming under fire more often as schools become more target oriented, so employing fascinating and entertaining technological teaching methods may be the key to bringing our children (and adults) back from the brink of idiocy (give or take some “overdramaticism” which we have decided is now a word).
Here are 6 such forward-thinking startups and their innovative products.
Minecraft is probably not a game you will have gotten away with not hearing about, as around 10 million people are playing it at any given time. What you may not have heard of – unless of course you read our previous article about it – is the education version of the game, created by startup TeacherGaming LLC. Acquired by Microsoft in 2014 for a cool $2.5 billion, MinecraftEdu is basically a version of the game that is designed by teachers for the purposes of teaching. Every subject area can be covered by the game, from STEM subjects to languages, to History, to Art.
TeacherGaming LLC has also created an educational version of the game Kerbal Space Program, which teaches children physics and engineering. So if you see your child playing Minecraft or building digital space shuttles when they should be doing their homework, they might just be preparing for a career at NASA. But probably not.
‘Kids switch on when you bring a subject to life.’ This is the idea behind all of the startups in this list and is stated simply and boldly on Curiscope’s Kickstarter page for is stated simply and boldly on Curiscope’s Kickstarter page for Virtuali-Tee. Virtuali-Tee is a simple concept with great potential. All it takes is a T-shirt and a mobile device. Start up the app and point your mobile, tablet, or even VR headset at someone wearing a Virtuali-Tee and you will see straight into ‘their’ body.
There’s quite a difference between staring at a textbook and seeing what seems to be a person’s organs in ‘real time’, taking an interactive, 3D tour through their bloodstream. It is this kind of interactivity that will truly engage children.
Curiscope's VirtualiTee #WearableTech #VR
Not all educational technology is about learning through fun, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. Gojimo is a revision app that covers GCSE, A Level, IB, iGCSE, and Common Entrance, as well as international qualifications including Junior Certificate (Ireland), SATs (US) and the Matric (South Africa).
Gojimo comprises over 160,000 quiz questions across all subject areas, and quizzes can be tailored for the individual. Where this is particularly valuable is when it comes to checking your answers. Not only does Gojimo give you detailed explanations of the correct answer, but it also includes links to further information. With the absence of a human being to judge them for making mistakes, the student is free to give their answers without fear or embarrassment.
Lingvist is an education program that claims to have you speaking another language in just 200 hours. Of course, when the company is founded by people who helped discover the Higgs boson, it’s difficult to argue. Lingvist is ‘powered by science’, with an algorithm that learns what you find easy to pick up and what you’re not so good at. It adapts in real time to your way of learning to ensure you learn the language as fast as possible.
Our stomachs weren’t quite strong enough to spend too much time on Touch Surgery’s website, but we can certainly say there are a number of simulations for all sorts of disgusting important surgeries. And that is how Touch Surgery works. Using a mobile device, medical students are able to learn and practise over 50 surgical procedures while being evaluated on their knowledge and skill. There is, of course, no substitute for the real thing, but it’s nice to know that a medical student’s victims aren’t all real people.
NeuroTinker is the startup behind NeuroBytes, electronic neuron simulators. NeuroBytes are a modular hardware tool for teaching students and tinkerers about neuroscience. Perhaps the best example of how it can work is the team’s display at the 2015 San Diego Maker Faire. They took a 3D printed model of a skeletal leg, hooked it up to their NeuroBytes and instantly gave the elementary and middle school students who visited a better understanding of the patellar reflex (that one where you knock someone’s knee with a little hammer and they kick you). In this way, everyone can learn more about how the nervous system works and, like the others in this list, in a more entertaining way than staring at a text book or whiteboard.