#CES Recap from an Educator’s Perspective

I’m on the flight home from my first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) conference.  Being a techie, I’m always intrigued by the latest and greatest “toys” out there – so CES has been on my “bucket list.”  Due to the generosity of Scott Westerman, Clint Crook, Ryan Schram and Henry Balanon, my techie dreams came true this week.

CES is an overwhelming experience.  Not necessarily overwhelming in the sense of multiple concurrent sessions and wanting to be in ten places at once (like SXSW) but overwhelming in the sensory department.  I went through each and every square foot of the north, central and south halls (I missed the hotel displays.) As I combed the halls, I was looking through my “teacher lens.”  Here’s a rundown of some of the great things I saw that have applications in learning environments:
(The reviews are purely my own observations, no sponsored blogging on my site.)


Carnagie Mellon Quality of Life technologies
It was great to see a university represent at CES.

“The Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) Center is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC) whose mission is to transform lives in a large and growing segment of the population – people with reduced functional capabilities due to aging or disability.”

I enjoyed spending time in their display – these two stuck out in particular:

The Personal Mobility & Manipulation Appliance was a fascinating “proof of concept” chair.  The arms on the chair have a greater range of mobility over current chairs on the market.  The feature that I found most ingenious was the fact that the chair was equipped with webcams so someone could remotely assist and operate the chair. The idea is that there would be call centers for the chair which is connected to wifi and someone could operate the chair from afar, giving the person in the chair more freedom and mobility.

Fitwits is a collaborative research project designed by Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and UPMC Saint Margaret Family Health Centers and funded by the Heinz Endowments.

I talked with Kristin Hughes who is a professor in the school of Design at Carneige Mellon.  She urged anyone who is interested in using Fitwits to send her an email and she can get you set up with the materials (for free!) kh@andrew.cmu.edu The materials are beautifully designed and would be perfect in an elementary or PE classroom.

The other QoLT devices/products that were at CES can be found here:

This booth may have been my most enjoyable stop (not surprising with my audio background.)  SO many great, affordable tools for capturing & broadcasting sound and video. For anyone wanting to take their vid/podcasting (or dissertation data collection) to the next level, you may want to check these out.

The Q3HD is gorgeous – $250
While a bit pricier than the now defunct Flip – this captures INCREDIBLE audio & video.  My #1 “cringe moment” when our students do video projects is sound quality.  A message can get completely lost because of bad audio.  This is a fool proof camera when it comes to capturing audio w/your video.  I can’t wait to get one to play more.

The Expedition Portable PA $299
Perfect tool for classrooms/pop-up presentations (and even tailgates.) It has an iPod doc & wireless mic. The battery lasts 12 hours on a single charge.

H2N $199
I wish I would have had this microphone/audio recorder for my dissertation defense livestream. Beautiful sound, great form factor.

Octa’s Whale Tail
Though the name of their product can be slightly awkward, this is a handy little device, especially for anyone that teaches or presents with a tablet.  VERY comfortable to hold and secures easily onto the tablet.  It even worked on my MacBook Air.

The Parrot AR drone
It’s just plan fun, and fun is good.

Health Monitors
Lots and lots of new gadgets for monitoring your health -a perfect pair for PE classrooms.
I tried out the blood pressure monitor from: http://www.withings.com/ – I could see this being a handy tool for personal wellness. There were also some cool wifi scales that paired with fitness/training apps on your mobile.

Listen to your Buds Contest
The American Speech-Language Hearing Association was at CES to raise awareness around noise-induced hearing loss. They are currently running a contest for kids between the ages of 8-18.  Could be a great classroom/after-school project.  The contest, open to young people between the ages of 8–18, invites submissions of audio or video PSAs in either 30-or 60-second formats. Entries must feature a safe listening message about using personal audio technology. Entries due March 9, 2012

Qualcomm & Sesame Street Augmented Reality
We’ll have to see how this one plays out. I had a lot of fun playing with the prototype.

2012 Consumer Electronics Show

Now, some criticism….
The big draw of CES isn’t the sessions, but the showroom floor with anyone and everyone showing their latest and greatest wares.  Though I went mostly to see the gadgets, I got into town a bit earlier than I expected and I was able to attend a session of the Higher Ed Tech Summit. I attended a panel called From Dewey to Digital: Are e-books, Tablets and Digital Content Coming of Age?

I was frustrated with this session for a few reasons.  First off, I made a snap judgement since I didn’t see a single female represented on the panel. Additionally, the question of Open Courseware did not come up until the very last question of the Q&A session.  I believe videos of the sessions will be posted here) and I’ll be able to make a more coherent argument.  My fingers couldn’t type fast enough on the iPad and I was only able to get a few tweets out.

There was 1.6 million square feet of stuff at CES. A lot of what I saw was cosmetic, there was a whole exhibit area dedicated to iDevice cases and “bling.”  While Apple isn’t here – the market is certainly catering to Apple devices.  Josh sent me an email me during the show asking me to keep an eye out for other mobile devices that were prevalent or up and coming.  There were a lot of ultrabooks and tablet competitors, not one sticks out in particular as being good or bad, however, when it comes to peripherals, everyone (ok, not everyone, but the majority) were catering to Apple products.

Boy oh boy (pun intended.) Where are the women? Where is the diversity? If you look at the keynotes – zero stand-alone female presenters and all but one of keynotes was Caucasian.  I kept a keen eye out for gender and racial equity and I was sorely disappointed. The people running the demos, men – the people standing by the gadgets looking pretty, women.  See this observation from the BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16533289 In fairness, when I started “talking tech” with the reps no one ever talked down to me (which has happened in other tech environments.) I think this was the single most disappointing part of the show for me.

So – how can we change this for future generations of techies? Keep providing opportunities for young women & minorites.  If you don’t know where to start, subscribe to MacArthur’s Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning which frequently posts great articles/resources for supporting diversity in technology. Here are a few new posts from

To Engage Girls in STEM, Include Role Models and Watch the Messaging
LEGO Called Upon to Treat Girls and Boys as Equals

All in all, CES was a fascinating experience.  My techie cravings were certainly satisfied (I took pictures with a Nikon D4!) and I was able to observe a side of the industry that few in the educational side technology have the opportunity to witness.

2 thoughts on “#CES Recap from an Educator’s Perspective

  1. Useful observations, Leigh! I espcially like the flip camera replacement you wrote about; can’t wait to see that. Thanks for sharing!!

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