Hey everyone, and welcome back to Blue Bean Data's blog. We've been quiet recently, but hopefully we should be back with a vengeance for the time being, with plenty more to talk about. We're going to take a break from talking about theory this week. Having spent last weekend at the excellent TesSENshow in London, we thought we'd just have a brief look over our (and by our I mean my) favourite products from the show. They are a good old mixture of things that I found personally exciting, and were several more things I would like to feature, maybe another time, but for now we're just looking at EdTech. That said, these are my top products from the TesSENshow 2015.
MyCognition are a company who were founded with the goal of improving the lives of people who suffer from conditions that lessen their cognitive abilities, but who have expanded into the education and business markets. Over the weekend I had a chance to talk about some of their products, specifically the games they put out under the “Cognitive Health Training” label. With regular assessments from their MyCQ assessment tool, these games have an aim to tailor an individuals experience with the title to help them with the cognitive areas they struggle with most (from Episodic Memory, Working Memory, Psycomotor Speed, Attention and Executive Functioning).
The various titles target different ages from 8 onwards, but have an adaptive difficulty to enable versatility in their usage. Beyond how gorgeous these games look (Aquasnap in particular uses a wonderful cell-shaded art style that hits all the right buttons for me), the fact the games are able to adapt the content of each play looks to be a wonderful way to help keep students from feeling left out. A glance at another's game will seem to be the same as your own, but you may be training distinctly different areas of cognition. These games are a solid example of how gamification can be implemented in numerous effective ways and are a solid example of how “Brain Training” concepts can be taken a step further.
For some reason, children's media has an obsession with attaching stigma to mathematics. Engaging with maths in a physical environment is a brilliant way to help shift this, and reengage with potentially lost learners. The Izak9 is a fantastic creation to this end. Lead by a pair of robots called Abacus and Helix, (who have earned a fond place in my heart already from their similarity of Atlas and Pea-body in visuals) Izak9 is a set of videos that encourage children to engage with the eponymous cube. The graphics are pleasing and the cube itself is bright and colourful, which will really help children engage with the concept.
Physicality in learning is a brilliant way to help reinforce ideas that some students may struggle to grasp from traditional learning. This is complemented fantastically by the elements of teamwork required to really utilise the Isak9 to its full potential, ensuring a fantastic classroom environment and a unique and fun chance to explore maths. The Izak9 is a brilliant example of ways to engage different types of learners and would be an asset in every school.
Acognia's Activise is a relatively simple piece of software with aims of reinforcing learning through a series of simple games. Users choose between creating their own revision material or can pay to gain access to the plethora of pre-made module options. The thing that draws me most to this product is just how extremely usable it seemed. At university, I was someone who was a firm believer in memorising all the vital information on a single sheet of a4 paper and having it with me everywhere before an exam. Had Activise been something I was aware of, I think it would have helped people like me really expand and compound on their revision.
Acognia lets people learners work either solo or in pairs in a variety of games, but the real point in where it excels is in the tweaking that can be done for each game. The program itself creates all the games, you need only enter the questions which are then applied to each game template. However, expanding on this is is extremely easy to tailor the questions to each learners needs. While lacking in adaptive options, the manual ability to decide exactly what questions come up and when allows far more control over what is being revised. Acognia is a product I wish Id had to aid my revision and may well come with me when I head towards that eventual Masters.
Boris is a fantastic invention from the people at GamelabUK, with the aim of helping teaching people with communication difficulties some form of commonly recognised signing in the form of makaton. Through the use of a motion sensor (in this case The Microsoft Kinect), this series of games recognises signing from the players and reacts accordingly. In terms of how the game runs, by necessity, it is very simplistic, running in a manner similar to a very stripped down version of The Sims. By controlling the actions of a single character, simple signs can be reinforced and practised in a casual environment, which certainly seems to engage their audience well.
The joy of this is not only how excellently it seems to engage with the people it is targeting, but how beautifully it uses modern technology. The new Microsoft Kinect is fundamental to this product (and we all know what big fans we are of the Kinect here at Blue Bean Data). Its improved recognition of hands is vital to the ability of Boris to teach, and it is testament to its creators how well it is able to use this technology. I only had a short time to see the game first hand, but everything I saw was really exciting. With an expanding set of themes being rolled out, Boris is a fantastic product that will really help improve the quality of life of many people. I'm really hopeful that this one will become a big success as it certainly deserves to be.