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SXSUedu (South by Southwest Education) Conference and Festival was held in Austin, Texas earlier this month and there were several interesting trends. Of course, Makerspaces and Coding continue to be headliners and this year brought a couple of really innovative products to the surface.

Ardusat offers a classroom pack of tools that allow students to design and build a variety of experiments. These experiments can then access current satellite data sets to collect and analyze realtime data. The pricing is a bit steep, starting at $2000 for the program materials and a $1000 annual cost for the experiment platform, but it is a full featured program that provides a unique opportunity for students to design experiments and send the actual code to space on a CubeSat satellite.

3D printing continues to grab attention and there were a few interesting products in this area. BlocksCAD is a 3d modeling and Computer-aided Design app that is free and web-based. It allows for CAD creation using drag and drop but designs can still be printed to a wide range of 3D printers. Mattell recently announced the ThingMaker, a sub-$300 3D printer that will introduce a new generation of kids to digital design. The ThingMaker app is available now and the printer is expected in the Fall. Geared towards toy creation, the ThinkMaker will provide a great entry level experience for younger kids. Not all 3D printing requires a large printer, however, and the folks over at 3Doodler have proven that once again. The original 3Doodler is a pen-shaped device that 'prints' using plastic filament just like a 3D printer but provides much more control. At just $99, 3Doodler is a great tool, but the company is now taking pre-orders for the 3Doodler Start, a kid-friendly version that could be used by even younger students and comes in under $50.

Another platform that received some attention at SXSWedu is something that I have actually had a live demo from CEO Mark Oronzio. Ideaphora is an incredibly interesting learning environment for teachers. Ideaphora is a browser-based mapping tool for video. Teachers can import video and text from sources such as YouTube, Khan Academy and Wikipedia. The app will automatically create a list of key words and phrases that students can then drag and drop into a custom knowledge map to help them map connections and outline concepts. The ability for students to map these concepts allows them to construct meaning and the company has research to back the improved retention that comes with it's use.

The SAMR Model

Originally developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR Model is a framework for technology integration into classroom lessons. The framework challenges teachers to move 'up the ladder' of SAMR beginning with the substitution level, where technology simply serves as a substitute for a traditional method, to redefinition in which technology is used to completely redefine how the assignment is being completed.

This link to Kathy Schrock's SAMR and Bloom's page provides a wonderful background on SAMR along with an incredible collection of resources to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom in the SAMR Framework.

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The Big Tech Coach

Keith George, the Big Tech Coach, is the Educational Technology Specialist for the Alabama Math, Science & Technology Initiative (AMSTI) of the Alabama State Department of Education. An educator with over 20 years experience in integrating technology into the classroom and coaching others to do the same, Keith is working to complete his dissertation on Instructional Technology Coaching in Alabama. Keith is a Google certified educator, a Symbaloo PD Pro, and an ALEX Certified Trainer. Keith also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Auburn University Montgomery School of Education and is a co-founder of EdCamp Montgomery.