Interactive Holographic Images Preserve Stories of Holocaust Survivors

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

As part of their programming on April 8, 2013, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day, WBUR Here & Now broadcast a story that illustrated a unique approach using technology to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors. World War II and the Holocaust ended in 1945. Therefore, those who survived those years are aging and dying. Over the past 20 years there have been numerous attempts to preserve the stories of those who survived, from films to audio recordings, documentaries to webcasts.

Simulated Holographic Video of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter speaking to a class of students. Published on YouTube, 8 Feb. 2013.

The University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation and Institute for Creative Technologies have come up with the most unusual to date — they are creating holographic images of survivors that not only tell the person’s story but can also interact with the audience, answering their questions. When asked how they were able to do this, Paul Debevec, Associate Director of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, answered that they spent about 12 hours with each participating survivor, asking them every conceivable question one might ask a Holocaust survivor to generate a database of answers using artificial intelligence technology. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Shoah Foundation, remarked that the Foundation has 52,000 testimonies and they have a lot of experience in what survivors want to talk about and what questions students ask.

The idea is that this technology is a way to give children of the future a chance to see, hear and interact with a Holocaust survivor long after the last one has gone. The interviewer was concerned that the idea was rather ghoulish. However, Smith, assured her that this was not the case. He explained that is like watching very good quality 3-D TV.

It is expected that the technology will be available for museums within the next year or two. Debevec predicts that this technology will be economically feasible for everyone in the future.

Pinchas Gutter - see his simulacrum at

Pinchas Gutter – see his simulacrum.

You can see Pinchas Gutter’s simulacrum at

Sugata Mitra, MOOCs, and Minimally Invasive Education

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Sugata Mitra, winner of the 2013 TED Prize, reminds us that, as educators, we may be so consumed by teaching that we ignore learning, that there’s a fundamental difference between teaching-centered and learning-centered. Mitra is his own best model for his vision of education, or SOLE, for self-organized learning environment. SOLE is a more formal school-based version of Mitra’s earlier hole-in-the-wall (HIW) street learning environment. Both, however, are grounded in his theory of minimally invasive education (MIE).

Mitra is, by training, a physicist, but by temperament, a self-organized learner. The heart of his gift is curiosity, and his scientific training provides the rest. He didn’t begin by studying teaching. Instead, he studied learning. He placed a web-connected computer in a kiosk in a Delhi slum, left it on, invited children to play with it, stepped away, and watched. The question, simply stated, was: Can students learn without teachers?

Hole in the wall

He was amazed to learn that, yes, they can. They learn individually and in small groups, and they teach one another what they have learned. Out of his observations, he drew implications, and the most important is that both teachers and computers are technologies, or media for learning. That is, children can learn from either or both. With this awareness, he realized that in cases where schools and teachers are scarce or unavailable, computers could suffice. The question that remained, however, was: What does this mean, if anything, for traditional models of learning that rely on schools and teachers?  Continue reading

Babson 2013 Online Education Survey Report Released

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, co-directors of The Babson Survey Research Group, Babson College, MA, announced this morning the release of their 2013 report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.

The authors describe their tenth annual survey as an independent and “collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board” that is generously supported by Pearson and the Sloan Consortium.

In their announcement, they include some highlights:

  • Over 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2011 term, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face.
  • Only 30.2 percent of chief academic officers believe that their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education — a rate that is lower than recorded in 2004.

After their 2011 report, I published a review, “Sloan-C’s Definition of ‘Online Course’ May Be Out of Sync with Reality” (22 Jan. 2012), in which I questioned the survey’s definition of “online course,” which, in my opinion, is impractical and ultimately self-defeating. The 2013 survey retains the same definition. The explanation also remains the same: “To ensure consistency the same definitions have been used for al[sic] ten years of these national reports.” Since the authors claim that their report is independent and that Sloan-C’s role is supportive, criticisms, if any, should be directed at Allen and Seaman. In their closing, they make this clear: “We welcome comments.  Please let us know how we can improve the reports at”

Verbling, Touchscreens, Tablets, Smartphones etc.


Online Education Programs Tackle Student Cheating by Ryan Lytle from US News & World Report
Lytle reports on various issues involved in online courses such as cheating on tests and plagiarism. Representatives from several universities point out that these are not just issues in the online classroom and offer their suggestions for reducing the problems. Sometimes the solution means making a choice between academic integrity and access. A university student commented that she thinks the most effective way to avoid cheating and plagiarism is for faculty to “to take a hard stand against students who violate class policies.”

Students learn better with star trek-style touchscreen desks from PopSci
A three-year study from the UK shows that students using interactive technology developed better math skills than their peers who were taught using traditional methods. The results suggest that using touchscreen desks improves students’ critical thinking abilities.

Language Learning Service Verbling Launches Google Hangouts-Powered Classes, Adds Support For 9 New Languages by Rip Empson from Tech Crunch
Empson overviews the launch of Verbling, an online language learning website that pairs learners and native speakers for video chats.

How tablets are invading the classroom by Simon Hill from Digital Trends
Hill gives an overview of the various tablets and the trends in integrating them into the classroom. Digital textbooks and tests are just two of the trends he focuses on, as well as the growing number of users who have their own tablets. At the end of the article he asks readers to respond to the question of whether they are the answer for integrating technology into education and which seems to be the best fit.   Continue reading

Chromebooks for Teachers Through 12/21 for $99

bonnie icandy

The following are excerpts from the Chromebook and Donors Choose sites:

Through 12/21, Google is providing an exclusive opportunity through for public school teachers to request the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook for the heavily discounted price of $99 each, including hardware, management and support. The Chromebook is a new type of web-based computer designed to make learning with technology easier, and will be available in Lakeshore’s eSchoolMall catalog.


Chromebooks for Education are fast, intuitive, and easy-to-manage computers that connect students and teachers with the power of the web. Chromebooks provide fast access to the web’s vast education and collaboration resources, while offering easy centralized management at a low cost. Click here to read more.

UPDATE: As of December 10th, 11pm eastern time, we’ve received a tremendous response to this offer. With a limited quantity of discounted Chromebooks available, we cannot accept additional submissions at this time. If you’d like to be notified if additional Chromebooks become available, read on for instructions. Click here* to read more.

* WebCite alternative.

The Real Issue in Ed Tech May Be Maintenance

In the earliest days of technology use in schools, particularly computing, it was understood that the school would provide and maintain the equipment. Today that is changing, and some schools are expecting students to come equipped with their own computing ability, maintaining equipment for only students with a proven financial need. Obtaining the equipment is less of a challenge than many might think; the real issue may turn out to be maintenance. With students having to provide their own tech support, reliability of service may become an important issue.

This problem was brought home to me with all too much clarity over the past few months. As I write a highly shortened version of what happened, imagine that I am a student trying to deal with assignments under my school’s technology requirements. I take a lot of trips in which total luggage weight and space is a real concern, and I decided my best option would be a tablet. I researched the reviews and settled on a top rated model, an ASUS Transformer, a tablet with the ability to be used like a laptop with a keyboard. Since I did not see it as a critical part of my life, I foolishly spurned the store’s additional full replacement warranty and stayed with the basic ASUS warranty.

When the tablet would not turn on one day, I used the ASUS email tech support. A couple of days later I got a reply telling me to go into the settings and make a number of changes. I replied that the solution they offered required me to turn on the tablet first, which I could not do. After a couple of days I got a new set of instructions for doing something completely different in the settings. I again tried to make them see that changing the settings was not possible unless the computer was turned on. Eventually I talked to a human being on the phone, and after a bit of an exchange he was able to see that point. Continue reading

Blame Poorly Designed Technology Instead of Teacher Training

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

[Note: This article was originally posted as a comment, on 11.25.12, in response to Lynn Zimmerman’s Formative Assessment and Blended Learning, Texting, Bullying, MOOCs. -Editor]

Zimmerman: “They found that teachers and pupils lack sufficient training in how to use technology as educational tools.”

What about technology being easier to use? All of the blame does not go to training.

When you realize that professional development (PD) classes for teachers provide them with required credits for retaining certification and give them time off from teaching while having no requirement for success in these classes, you can see that teachers will sit in them and bring nothing from them back to the classroom. That’s your training.

Teachers are people, too, just like students are. Without motivation and good pedagogy, PD is just a day of vacation. For these reasons, we cannot pin our hopes on training. Technology should be easy enough to use that teachers who are motivated can learn to use a given new technology in under an hour. However, applying it by inserting it into curricula may take longer, even much longer.

Moreover, educational technology should already be an “educational tool.” Technology that must be stretched, bent, and twisted to fit into classrooms does not properly belong there. And, just because a teacher becomes enamored of some technology does not mean that the students will benefit. IWBs (interactive whiteboards) are a case in point here.

The best educational technologies will fulfill two crucial goals: (1) easy insertion into a curriculum and (2) positive transformation of teaching/learning in classes, i.e., better learning outcomes. These are in addition to the obvious ones such as ease of use and low cost. BTW, the improvement in learning should be due to the technology, not the shiny new thing syndrome.

Help Sandy Victims – Emergency Education Directory

Nov. 19, 2012
Hi Jim,

As the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area continues to struggle in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it’s important to remember the far-reaching implications of putting life on hold in the middle of November. In New York City alone, over 75,000 students missed school last week, as 48 schools were left devastated by the storm and dozens were left without heat or power. Although not as urgent as providing housing, food, or fuel, those students’ educations must also be restored.

Photo from Huff Post 11.1.12

That’s why Noodle Education Inc., a New York-based education search provider, is setting up the Emergency Education Directory. Noodle will help connect students in the affected areas with volunteer educators willing to donate their time to teaching, tutoring, and guidance, as well as facilities with heat, power and resources to house displaced students and teachers for these sessions.

Supporting Noodle Education is the Education Industry Association (EIA), which represents and will help recruit more K-12 education companies to be listed on the Emergency Education Directory.

Already, Sandy has caused an estimated $50 billion in damages in the Northeast. A concerted effort by education providers will aid the recovery effort by helping students in the region stay on track with their schooling.

The more educators and students made aware of the Emergency Education Directory, the more effective the program will be. We think this issue would be of great interest to your readers and hope you will aid us in getting the word out.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can connect you with Richard Katzman (, Noodle’s point of contact on this matter. [Nov. 14 press release.]

Sylvie I. Calman
Account Executive
The Cutler Group