5 ed-tech highlights from CES 2015

From extremes like robot teachers to soon-to-be ubiquitous technologies like wearable devices, CES 2015 did not disappoint.

CES-education-technologyThe annual International Consumer Electronics Show is the showcase for newer technologies already in the marketplace and those soon to debut.

“What is popular in the consumer market is becoming more of the backbone of education, because that’d what students bring in,” said Kerry Goldstein, producer of TransformingEDU, the show’s education track. “There’s no place better than CES to look at what is going on with technology.”

The top five trends at CES this year were:

Sony’s Morpheus. Copyright: Barone Firenze / Shutterstock.com

Augmented technology/virtual reality: The University of Chihuahua (Mexico) is using the technology in the arts and the sciences. Art students are virtually traveling to different renowned art museums to see different artists work in a much more immersive way than books or simple video will allow. Similarly, chemistry and biology students are using virtual reality to conduct experiments, study how the heart works, etc.

Not all colleges or universities have access to the latest science or to medical labs, Goldstein explained, so the virtual reality technology enables them to teach these subjects without these facilities.

Watch: Oculus Rift Car Flip demo at CES:

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(Next page: Wearable tech; SmartBackPacks)

Formlabs Form +1.
Formlabs Form +1.

More and better 3D printers: Only a couple of years ago, 3D printers were new on the market and CES displayed only a few models. In 2015 there were “rows upon rows,” according to John Ittleson, professor emeritus of information systems and communications design at California State University Monterey Bay. Now architecture students can use these devices to print models of buildings rather than making models of them by hand. Art students can produce model sculptures in the same way. Ittleson cautioned that they 3D printers run the gamut from very cheap ones that break down easily to very expensive ones designed for heavy industry. HP is expected to be the dominant company in the 3D printer market due to its overall strength in printer technology, but there are several other viable players.

Watch: Voxel 8 at CES:

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AMPL SmartBackPack. Copyright: AMPL Labs.
Copyright: AMPL Labs.

Wearable devices: Expanding from the health monitors by Fitbit, Nike, Jawbone and several others to the much talked about smart watches to wireless earbuds, “smart clothing” with embedded electronics, cameras and other wearables. Ittleson was particularly intrigued by wearable devices that supply much needed power to laptops and to wireless devices, like the AMPL SmartBackPack, which has swappable backup batteries that can charge anything from a smartphone to a laptop. The backpack, which is black with green accents, has a built-in 5,000mAh battery, which can charge an iPhone 6 two and a half times on a single charge and can handle tablets, too.

Ittleson foresees the continuing evolution of these devices to include an increasing number of uses for education, including apps for wearable devices that will enable educators and administrators to track attendance.

Robotics at CES. Copyright: Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com.
Robotics at CES. Copyright: Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com.

Robotic educators: Some students have difficulty getting to a regular class. A four-foot tall robot from Vgo, Nashua, NH, enables teachers to interact with students across several classrooms. The robot is a four-foot-tall device which allows a user to see through its camera, hear through its microphone and interact through its speakers. It has already been used in some secondary and higher education uses in the United States, but it could have even much more use in lesser developed countries. Such a technology has great potential in Latin America and other areas of the world where finding good teachers in some areas is a particularly difficult challenge, said Fernando Valenzuela, president, Latin America, for Cengage Learning, headquartered in Independence, Ken. In those instances, the Vgo robot would be at the teacher’s location, with students gathering in a central classroom.

This is a time of great experimentation with different techniques, McGraw Hill Education CEO John Levin strongly advised educators were to share any success with adaptive learning or other education technologies and techniques.


Adaptive learning: Educators from k-20 are attempting to personalize the learning environment for students to enable them to learn in the way that is best, which differs from student to student.

“There is a lot of interest in personalized and adaptive learning,” said Cathy Caserly, vice president of Learning Networks at EdCast, Inc., which partnered with Cerego to provide universities, companies, and organizations a turnkey MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) solution, customizable, personalized learning technology.

Numerous companies also displayed various ways for parents, students and educators to personalize learning from technologies featuring a variety of learning environments to the use of gamification in education to learning programs that could be customized for individual students.

Phillip Britt is an editorial freelancer with eCampus News.

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