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5 of the coolest edtech tools since sliced bread

Today, it seems like edtech tools are a dime a dozen--but these 5 really shine

It seems like new edtech tools are developed each day, and while many of them serve practical purposes without too much fanfare, there are some edtech tools that sound super exciting.

When a tool excites teachers and students, the ingredients are all there for increased learning engagement–and we all know how challenging it can sometimes be to keep students engaged in and take ownership of their own learning.

If you want language immersion or new resources for visually impaired students, or if you’re searching for AI and VR tools to thrill students, keep reading–this list of edtech tools has something for everyone.

1. ReadyAI’s AI-in-a-Box is an AI learning toolkit designed for users with different experience levels and abilities. Inside each box is curriculum, hardware, and software to get started. The curriculum in AI-in-a-Box teaches six key concepts of AI, including visual recognition, facial recognition, object manipulation, landmark-based navigation, speech generation, and speech recognition. One AI box can be used by up to 15 students at a single time.

The technology and toolkit are in use in schools and community centers across the country. “Over the past six months, ReadyAI has given the children at Western Pennsylvania Boys and Girls Club the opportunity to learn and understand the technologies that they experience in their everyday lives,” says Christine Nguyen, director of the STEM Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. “Exposing them to these incredible programming and creative experiences today will encourage them to become the scientists that create tomorrow.” ReadyAI also is offering an AI summer camp to help students of all ages become more familiar with the technology.

2. zSpace’s new laptop is a portable Windows PC that breaks the screen barrier between users and VR/AR content by creating a multi-dimensional environment that leaps out of the screen. The laptop features patented 3D screen technology and lightweight glasses, which let users interact with VR content in a flexible and immersive environment that doesn’t hinder spatial awareness or block peripheral vision. When not used for VR content, the laptop serves as a traditional Windows 10 PC.

Out of the box, the zSpace laptop is equipped with a set of specially-designed glasses that enable depth perception of virtual content, along with a stylus with 6 degrees of freedom that allows users to pick up items on the screen and move them naturally in 3D space. Those two items, combined with the laptop’s built-in tracking sensors, lets the zSpace technology track head and hand movements and correct the viewing perspective in full HD.

3. ObjectiveEd is described as “game-changing digital education for students with disabilities.” The company’s overarching goal is to make learning more fun for visually impaired students. Educators pick skills based on a student’s IEP, and ObjectiveEd’s digital games will automatically adjust to focus on developing those skills. Teachers and parents can monitor a student’s progress on a secure web dashboard.

The company cites data showing that special education teachers want digital gaming resources for their students: 89 percent of special ed teachers ask for digital curriculum with progress monitoring.

4. Tech company Maybe launched a smart language-learning speaker called Lily, which helps users learn Chinese the natural way, without books, vocabulary lists, or flashcards.

Lily is akin to a private Chinese tutor due to its voice technology–it uses speech recognition to capture a user’s voice, features a Chinese teaching system to generate conversations on the fly, and uses speech synthesis to reply with a human voice. Lily can translate with a simple voice command or play vocabulary games to teach in a fun and engaging way. Lily is also a smart assistant like Alexa, except she responds in Chinese to fully immerse users.

5. Who doesn’t love LEGOs? A new project aims to make LEGOs more inclusive. LEGO Braille Bricks will help blind and visually-impaired children learn Braille in a playful and engaging way using LEGO bricks customized with Braille. LEGO Braille Bricks will be molded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet, while remaining fully compatible with the LEGO System in Play. Each brick will also feature a printed letter or character for better inclusion, so sighted teachers, students, and family members can play and learn alongside visually-impaired students.

This combination brings a whole new and playful approach to get blind and visually impaired children interested in learning Braille, enabling them to develop a breadth of skills needed to thrive and succeed. “With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” says Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities. We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille.”

The product is currently being tested in countries around the world, and the final LEGO Braille Bricks kit is expected to launch in 2020.

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Laura Ascione
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