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Monday, October 18, 2010

Under the Microscope... uhm, make that "the cell phone"



Chargepod is a 6-way charging device that allo...Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
Popular Mechanics has a great article on the brilliant ideas. In this month's issue, they feature a new cellphone microscope that can:
"diagnose disease cheaply and effectively anywhere in the world."
I love how the originator of this technology, Aydogan Ozcan, University of California, Los Angeles says:
"“The key to everything is the cellphone,” Ozcan says. In 1990, fewer than 12.5 million people worldwide had them; today, 4.6 billion do. While conventional lens-based microscopy has essentially plateaued, fierce competition causes cellphone-camera technology to advance rapidly even as prices plummet. Eventually, Ozcan believes, point-of-care facilities in the U.S. will begin replacing expensive and time-consuming lab procedures with cellphone-based diagnostic tools. “Once insurance companies start to accept this,” he says, “we will have better, more affordable healthcare and better quality of life.”
I seem to also think that education could be cast in this light as well. We are looking and working towards more SMS based collaborative models with our projects. How can this work?
Is the key to everything the cell phone?  Well, I wouldn't go that far, but this thought takes me back to February in India at the Flat Classroom mini-conference. (Hey, Beijing is only four months away!)


When I think of the Akanksha organization that works with the poorest of the poor in cities like Mumbai India. Back in February, I sat on the floor of that schoolroom watching the beautiful teachers deliver a flawless lesson on how to speak English to young children with only a notebook and pencil and a dry erase board. No technology.... except.
The teachers had cell phones.
Bandwidth Snobbery Limits True Diversity of Connection
We have to be so careful about bandwidth snobbery. It is important to remember that there are those we will only be able to connect with using SMS (standard text messaging) that may never have a computer.
While I think that high-bandwidth projects like Flat Classroom are essential to being an effective global citizen. It is also vital to communicate with a wide variety of people around the world and this means cell phones.
Cell phones -- they're going to be microscopes and in fact, they already are in the mind of this genius, Aydogan Ozcan, featured by Popular Mechanics.
But cell phones are the key to much more for us. Sure, right now they are disruptive. They can also be cost prohibitive. They can be misused and are a huge distraction if allowed to be used improperly.
I was talking to a person in Iowa who said their tech departments came back from ISTE and said
"It is all about smartphones... that is where everyone is heading."
These smartphones are voice and text-disabled phones that are used primarily for the apps. However, we can do so much more.
Taming the Majestic Stallion of Cell Phone Potential
I'm reminded oThe Man from Snowy River Posterf one of my favorite movies, the Man from Snowy River, where the boy who becomes a "man" through the course of the movie tames this one, beautiful majestic stallion and it completely changes his life and leads to the woman of his dreams.
Somehow, I think that cell phones are much like "the Stallion." Tough to tame and master -- once we get our arms around these devices and what they can do we are going to find that our schools are indeed, improved.
No technology will be the "savior" of schools. The true champions of improving education are the teachers and administrators on the front lines, however, in an environment where we have limited resources, cell phones may just fit the ever shrinking "bill."
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