Category Archives: Cool Toys Conversations

Teach Feast: Engaged Learning Through Internships, Badges, e-Portfolios, & Storytelling

Teach Feast 2015: integrative tools for engagement at Michigan

I was invited as a last minute fill-in to be part of a panel at the annual Teach Feast festival of learning technologies at the University of Michigan. It was a great learning experience for me, and I hope also for the participants. I learned more about how engaged learning can be a continuum, incorporating relatively small or subtle changes to traditional instruction or going whole hog and literally uprooting a student from their culture and context and positioning them in a new space for a different type of learning experience. Engagement can originate with either student or teacher (or both); it can be collaborative and/or competitive and/or creative. The one part that seemed foundational to all the strategies was reflection, turning your gaze both inward and outward.

My part was on digital storytelling. I’m a big fan of digital storytelling, in case you didn’t know. I like to test new online storytelling tools, and see how they work to support different kinds of stories. My current fascination with comics is based out of my larger enthusiasm for storytelling. I argue that storytelling is part of every academic discipline. It’s obvious that the humanities dissolve if you remove stories. What is history without story? But when it comes to the sciences, people are more likely to have trouble seeing the story as part of the academic process. Of course, case studies in health care, sure, those are stories. And psychology and psychiatry, they don’t work without stories. Social work, yeah, of course. But physics? And engineering? Maybe if you aren’t in the field you have trouble seeing the story, but if you really think about every research paper, every structured abstract is a frame for a story. Every piece of science has a backstory, a motivation, a reason someone wanted to know THIS. Even mathematics. Even when camouflaged, the stories of science are implied. What changes isn’t the presence of the story, but how we tell them, and the tools we use to carry them.

The advantages of digital storytelling are similar to those of printed stories: portable, inclusive, persistent, and reaching a broader audience. One of the great lessons from education is that communication is never one-size-fits-all. The more ways you present important content, the more people will be able to understand it and engage with it. The greater the variety of media you use to tell a story, the more people will hear it. I’m happy to help people find and tell stories, especially science stories. There are a lot of different types of tools and resources in the slides. If I have time, I’ll spend a little more time on specific ones here some other time. If there is something in particular from the slides that you’d like me to talk about, say so in the comments, and I’ll make it a priority.

Make Health Fest Coming August 16!

Detroit Maker Faire 2013#UMSIMakerfest !!!Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013
Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Detroit Maker Faire 2013
Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2014Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013

We Make Health Fest
Saturday, Aug 16th, 2014
University of Michigan
Palmer Commons, Great Lakes Rooms

Short Description
“A collaborative event for a local and virtual community interested in health, technology, and participatory design. Join us for a full day of health themed design and maker activities!”

Longer Description
Many types of events are being triggered by the creativity of the Maker Movement — maker faires, mini-maker faires, maker camps, maker festivals, maker fests and makerfests, make-a-thons and createathons (also spelled makeathon or makethon), open make events, maker madness events, maker shows — and they come in all sizes, flavors, and themes. What does that mean? Think of it as a mash-up of science fair PLUS Hands On Museum or Exploratorium PLUS do it yourself! It’s all about learning and creating and problemsolving through a combination of Show+Tell+Do! Here at the University of Michigan, many people on campus are partnering on taking the “maker culture” energy and applying it through a lens focused on health to promote participatory and collaborative strategies in healthcare. Come, have fun, learn, make stuff, but more than that, meet other interesting and creative people who are interested in using what they have, know, and can do to Make Health!

Learn More!

Make Health:
Twitter: @MakeHealthUM
Google Plus: Make Health UM

A project of HealthDesignBy.Us
Twitter: @HealthByUs
Blog: Introducing @HealthByUs

We Make Health

First posted at THL Blog:

Maker Movement Meets Healthcare

When I try to talk to peers and colleagues about the Maker Movement, one of the questions that keeps coming up over and over is what the heck this has to do with healthcare, and why am I bothering to spend my valuable time with it. So, this post has three examples illustrating the intersection of the Maker Movement with healthcare. Basically, for one of these it’s health literacy education & outreach via hands on geek project, and for the other two, there were real world problems that have expensive, time-consuming or often inaccessible solutions, for which people came up with their own solutions and alternatives. And the solutions are cool, they work, and are usually MUCH cheaper than the official solution you try to get insurance to pay for. Since not everyone has insurance, and not everyone can afford the very best possible care, I see this as a good thing. Make sure you read all the way to the end. This just gets cooler and cooler. There are more, too, this is a very small sampling, just items I stumbled over in the past couple days without even looking for them.


Have you met Sylvia? Sylvia is twelve years old, is a Maker (I’m guessing her folks probably are also), and has her own series in Make Magazine, with a really cool blog and videos. In this example, she shows people how to build a wearable technology pendant that will sense your heart beat and display the rhythm of your pulse with flashing lights in a necklace.

The Sylvia Show: Lilypad Heartbeat Pendant:

The full post at Make Magazine (Super Awesome Sylvia Builds a Pulse Sensor Pendant)

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show: Make a Heartbeat Pendant:

I confess, at first I thought this seemed kind of staged, but there are enough close ups of her hands actually doing things like soldering, that I decided she really does know how to do the work, even if there might be assistance or advice from others for some parts.

Here’s where you can buy your own PulseSensor (which Sylvia connects to an Arduino for control):


Here Denver Dias, an undergraduate student in Mumbai India, was working to try to create a walking aid for the blind. Yes, we have walking canes and seeing eye dogs, but this extremely early prototype uses tech to create 3d maps of the surrounding area while walking. The maps are communicated to the user by a combination of tones and vibrations. The tech includes LEDs, sonar, ultrasound, and more.

His blogpost:
Walking aid for the blind – undergrad project…

Found via Dangerous Prototypes:


Did you look at this and think it was some fancy looking glove a kid was wearing for a costume? Well, it isn’t. This is a design for kids who, for whatever reason, don’t have fingers. This open-source, freely shared pattern makes it possible for people to create their own prosthetic ‘hand’ with a 3d printer. You can resize it and tweak it. It’s called Robohand. Watch the video if you want to see some awfully happy kids. They are hoping it will also be useful for veterans.

Complete set of mechanical anatomically driven fingers

Updated Robohand design:

MakerBot and Robohand — 3D Printing Mechanical Hands

Via BoingBoing, NPR, and more.

3dPrinter: Donated Makerbot 3D printers accelerate distribution of Robohand mechanical hands

BoingBoing: Sponsor shout-out: Makerbot and the Robohand

MakerBot: Mechanical Hands From A MakerBot: The Magic Of Robohand

NPR: 3-D Printer Brings Dexterity To Children With No Fingers

Now, if anyone still thinks that the Maker Movement lacks relevance to healthcare, I’ll go find more, but first stop and think about Jack Andraka, whose recent discovery of innovative technology to diagnose many life-threatening cancers earlier and more cheaply, seem very much in keeping with the philosophy of the Maker Movement.

First posted at CoolToysU:

The Imagine Cup

Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals

In case you haven’t already heard about it, the Imagine Cup is taking place this week, with a livestream hosted by Microsoft for the final award ceremonies TOMORROW MORNING (i.e. 9:30AM Thursday morning July 11, 2013).

Imagine Cup:

I’m not just excited because Matt Smith, the current Doctor Who, is hosting the awards.

Matt Smith on Imagine Cup 2013: What’s Next?:
Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals with Matt Smith is just the beginning!

From their About page.
“The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition. Over the past ten years, more than 1.65 million students from more than 190 countries have participated in the Imagine Cup.”

Last year the awards went to projects like these.

“D Labs allows tutors to understand the behavioral patterns of children with dyslexia by using games to assist them in alphabet identification and movement recognition.”

“Enable Talk was created to give disabled individuals with limited communication abilities a better way to communicate. It transforms sign language into a form of verbal communication by creating a mobile device that continuously recognizes sign language phonemes.”

“WinSenga is a mobile application that aids health workers as they assist expectant mothers. The algorithm analyzes fetal heart sounds to determine the fetal heart rate (beats per minute) and the age and position of the fetus and then records these readings to the cloud”

“Health Buzz is a cost-effective mobile-based solution that helps healthcare service providers access patients’ electronic medical records through a secure cloud-based storage system.”

“StethoCloud is a cloud-powered, mobile-hybrid stethoscope for early detection of pneumonia. By connecting a custom stethoscope to a mobile phone, the user is able to transmit diagnostic information into a cloud service, reproducing the diagnostic capability of a trained medical doctor.”

“nunav is a navigation system with the potential to reduce vehicle carbon emissions by preventing traffic congestion. The system proactively routes city traffic by calculating the best route for each car and communicating that information to each driver.”

Imagine Cup 2012: Imagine Cup Grants Award Winners:

Now you see why I’m excited? Incredible tech developments coming from the best and brightest high school students from around the world. Open their doors, open your mind, open the world.

Flickr: Imagine Cup:


Team Triton, Malaysia Team Omni-Hearing Solution, Taiwan
Team PhAid, Malta Team Qspark, Qatar
Team Kernel, Côte d’Ivoire Team Sano, Canada


Team Quad Damage presentation
Team vSoft Studio presentation Team Beezinga Presentation
Team MYRA Presentation Team Firebird Presentation
Team Seven Worlds Presentation Team Merado Presentation


Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 - Worldwide Finals Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals
Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 - Worldwide Finals Team Combine presentation

Cheap and Easy Ways to Make Comics or Cartoons for Digital Storytelling

Another one of last week’s Enriching Scholarship Sessions, this one in partnership with John Beals.

Cheap and Easy Ways to Make Comics or Cartoons for Digital Storytelling:

Digital storytelling, also referred to in educational circles as digital media assignments, often centers around making videos, but there are many other ways to tell stories. Comics and cartoons offer an attractive alternative approach to storytelling. In addition to uses for storytelling, they can also make engaging images for slides, presentations and illustrations. With the many online tools and software packages now available for creating these, there are many options to choose from for all levels of skill and expertise. This session will provide a survey of some tools, with illustrations of educational uses.

Even though the slides say “Part 2,” I actually started off, because I had to run across campus for another session right after, and John was gracious enough to be flexible. The slides were a rush job, because I was out sick so long with bronchitis, and I actually have a lot more content than is shown here. It worked out that this was just the right amount of content for the session. Lucky me!

Cheap and Easy Ways to Make Comics or Cartoons for Digital Storytelling:

This is an abbreviated set of the links and tools I’ve collected for doing this. What inspired me was a webcomic idea I have and want to do, but not being the kind of artist who can draw my own comic, I have been looking for … alternatives. I started out with some of the ways in which I use comics in my work already, with examples; then highlighted just a few of the many tools available. Last but not least, I also touched on using smartphones with photo filter apps or added word bubbles to generate images to tell your stories.

The session ended with John talking about real world educational uses of comics in the classroom, tips and tricks for how to design assignments, books for more info, and similar excellent content. John is FAR more expert than I in this area, which made for a great partnership. He used no slides this time, so these are from another session he did on a closely related topic earlier in the year.

Johnathon Beals: Comics in the Classroom:

You know you’ve done something right when you hear from people after the session who want to share what they’ve done with the tools you discussed! And what could be better than being one of the first to see new comics? This was such great fun to do, and had such a great response, I hope we do this again next year.

Guest Post: Enriching Scholarship 2013: Tech Talk

I’m trying to catch up with promised blogposts for the various Enriching Scholarship sessions I coordinated or in which I participated. Lucky for me, Shannon Murphy attended one of the sessions and blogged about it so beautifully that I am just reposting here, with her very kind permission and a very small number of copy-edits. You can see the original post at:

ES 2013 Tech and Trends:

ES13 Tech Talk (#UMTTC)

ETech guru Patricia Anderson presented. As usual, there are tons of resources.

The mind map for this is available at

Members of the UM community may want to sign up for the Cool Toys Conversations email group in MCommunity. You can also follow the Cool Toys blog or the ETechLib blog

The talk follows the mindmap, starting from the upper right and working around clockwise.

What is emerging tech?

It’s what’s new and hot and relavant and important.

New Media Consortium’s Horizon report is a good resource, and is what they usually focus on in the Cool Toys email group. Find out more about the project at Download the higher ed report in English from

The future is here (at UM)

Examples – last year’s ES poster winners

Would have liked to have this year’s winners too. Our instructors are doing amazing things with today’s technology, and we’re developing things that can be next year’s tech.


Many of these are issues we face year after year. For example, do students with the money for laptops or tablets to bring to class have an advantage over those who can’t afford portable tech? Should we be introducing students to high end computers and software if they won’t have access to those things in the jobs they get when they leave here? What competencies do the students actually need in the future?

How we answer those questions now will determine what higher ed looks like and whether or not we survive.

Resources and past years

The Resources bubble provides a lot of resources for exploring further.

The 2011 and 2012 Tech Trends are provided so you can compare where we were a year or two ago, and where we are now.

Tech Trends 2013

“My Take”

Wearable tech generated a lot of chatter on the cool toys email group However, what was is the Cool Toys chatter was not the same as what was in the horizon report. The Horizon report focused on things like the much hyped Google Glass, and smart watches like Pebble. But there are all sorts of things, like biometric tattoos that can warn diabetics if their blood sugar is too low, or buttons for your jacket that detect if you’ve had too much to drink. Also, some slightly disturbing options, like the tattoo that vibrates when you got a phone call. (This tattoo is not MRI safe. And what do you do when the technology changes??) Wearable tech can be big too, like the scarf with sensors so it you crash on your bike, it turns into an airbag bike helmet, or the power suit designed for soldiers but usable by paraplegics to allow them to walk again.

Patricia also discussed the power of technologies like Personal genomics, Personalized medicine, Quantified self and Biohacking. These let the individual learn more about themselves and their health through things like developing a personal genetic profile, tracking exercise goals or finding correlations between symptoms and diet. Lots of data helps the user and their doctor diagnose problems more quickly and treat them more effectively.

3D printing was also a big item. These bring their own set of questions and issues. What will it mean if everyone had the ability to print whatever they want? WILL everyone be able to do this, or will this be another thing that separates groups (those who can afford it and those who can’t). Are there things you shouldn’t be allowed to print, and how would a ‘bad’ be enforced? Bioprinting is also an emerging technology, with things like replacement bones and ears already possible.

Related to the 3D printing is the Maker Culture. Here in A2 we have MakerWorks and All Hands maker space There’s also the Maker Faire Detroit each year at The Henry Ford Groups like make it easy for designers and makers to make their designs available to other makers, and to anyone with a 3D printer.

Gartner Hype Cycle

Handy for checking on what might be overhyped right now (like 3D printing, social analytics, and gamification), under-hyped, what’s likely to be a hot topic next year, and what we are seeing turn into practical, usable, and realistic tech (and as a slow typist, I’m rather glad to see speech recognition finally becoming useful!)

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013

A list by the MIT Technology Review.

See the list at

Again, wearable tech like smart watches and 3D printing apear on the list.

Also on the list are memory implants. While intended for people with cognitive dysfunction, could these be used by “normal” people who want a better memory.

Deep (machine) learning – AI is closer to reality. This have some unintended consequences too. For example, programs were designed to make spam look more like normal human speech, so it could get around the spam filters. However, it was still mostly gibberish. Poets found some of it interesting and started using the “creative” content from the computers to generate Spam Poetry (is that plagiarism?)

Big data from cheap phones also has some potentially profound implications. In Kenya, a database that used text messages from users to track the location of prescription medications eventually lead to (democratic) political upheaval. The Boston Marathon bomber was caught largely due to cell phone video. These open up privacy questions. According to David Brin, that can be OK as long as there is data equality. However, we will face serious problems if one side is transparent and the other is not.

Science fiction no more

Cool Toys pics of the day: Autoscopia

Today the Cool Toys Conversations group (links at the end) is meeting to talk about the newest Horizon Report. We do this every year, looking at the forecasts of technologies that will be important in higher education. That is one source of important tech trends, but I’ve been collecting a boatload of other reports and resources that synthesize emerging tech developments of note, either those reviewing the past year, or forecasting for the coming year. ‘Tis the season and all. I’ve been pondering how to share some of this info. I had the idea of making a giant mindmap collecting all of them into one, but that turned out to be more complicated and time-consuming than I expected. I saw one today that I simply MUST share, so I am just going to point you at the cool list, and maybe collate pieces into something coherent after I’ve thought about them for a while.

Here are two posts from My Science Academy, both of which include lists of new emerging tech innovations. I need to add My Science Academy to the blogroll, because it is another one of those great places to track ETech/EmTech. They collect information from many of the same places I am already checking, so their collections typically confirm in my mind that I am looking in the right places for the right things. In these posts, while I’m just replicating the lists, they include brief descriptions, photos, and links to the original sources. Yes, there are overlaps between these two related lists. That tells you this really is a topic worth further attention. Go check it out!

10 Future Technologies that Already Exist:

1. Printing human organs
2. Dynamically stable quadruped robot
3. Thought-controlled prosthetics
4. Wireless power
5. Retinal implants
6. Hologram TV
7. Cloaking devices
8. Hover cards
9. Exoskeletons
10. Force fields

27 Science Fictions that Became Science Facts in 2012:

I knew 24 of the 27 before I read the article. How many are new to you?

1. Quadriplegic controls robotic arm with thoughts
2. DARPA robot can traverse an obstacle course
3. Genetically modified silk is stronger than steel
4. DNA photographed
5. Invisibility cloak technology
6. Spray-on skin
7. Man reached the deepest point in the ocean
8. Stem cells could extend human life by 100 years
9. 3D printers to print full size houses
10. Self-driving cars now legal in 3 states
11. Voyager 1 leaves the solar system
12. 3D printed custom jaw implant
13. Rogue planet
14. Chimera monkeys
15. Artificial leaves generate electricity
16. Google goggles
17. Higgs-Boson particle
18. Flexible, inexpensive solar panels challenge fossil fuel
19. Diamond planet
20. Eye implants give sight to the blind
21. Wales barcodes DNA of every flowering plant in the country
22. 1st unmanned commercial space flight docks with ISS
23. Ultra-flexible glass allows curved electronic devices
24. NASA using robotic exoskeletons
25. Human brain is hacked
26. 1st planet with four suns discovered
27. Microsoft patents the holodeck

Interested in the Cool Toys group? You can join our email list (low volume) or track us via these online spaces.

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