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CTR February 2019
Vol. 27 No. 2 Issue 229

Download this issue as a PDF
Ready or not, here comes the future; plus 10 new reviews
“We live in an extraordinary age ... In all of the four-billion-year history of the human family, there is only one generation privileged to live through this unique transitional moment: that generation is ours.” Carl Sagan, at

I’m writing this from Bologna Italy, where I’m about to meet with the hard working jurors to select this year’s most innovative digital work for children. This year’s 100+ entries are more diverse then other years. Stay tuned.

Our friend Alan Kay is fond of saying “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” See page 3 to learn more, via teacher selected links and YouTube videos.

Ready or not, here comes the future!
Set aside all the bad news about how Facebook and Google uses your personal information, and take a look around on a macro level. If you’re reading this, you a member of an exclusive club that belongs to the first generation with more “firsts” than any other. We’re entering a once-in-a-lifetime renaissance, driven by amazing microprocessor driven technology. We’re the first to make a call from a cell phone, use a GPS find an airport, or chat with a smart speaker. As one of the few early childhood educators on the floor of this year’s CES show, I asked myself “how can these new technologies create happier, healthier children? Can we use these tools help more children live up to their genetic potential?”  This article is a result. The first step is to be aware of the new technologies. Here’s what I saw, along with my thoughts about how the next generation might be affected.

Having a baby? 
Remember those grainy blobs that were generated by yesterday’s ultrasounds? I saw a DIY ultrasound kit for home use that can show the babies facial features. And once your baby arrives, there are now a variety of bluetooth connected monitors that can track vital sounds, from anywhere. For feeding, a smart bluetooth bottle can measure temporators and track amounts See the Miku baby monitor Or, if you’re a working mom, tiny, powerful, rechargeable batteries have given working mothers an in-the-bra breast pump.
We’ve grown used to taking a child’s temperature with light, and car seats, vaccines, and modern medical procedures increase your babies chance of growing into a teen (I think disposable diapers are still pretty amazing). The next generation of medical gear on display included better, faster mobility devices and medical-grade information gathering bracelets. Of course all this information gives new parents new ways to worry -- as we monitor their sleeping patterns with an app, or follow their route to school using a GPS.

We’ve been able to hand a curious child a search engine for over a decade, but recent advances in mobile devices have made the effect more pronounced. Case in point -- Google’s next generation touch screen Chromebooks. I spotted a laptop designed specifically for 3D holographic material, and Qi technology desks for quick charging. No more plugs, cords or hassles. It’s fun to visualize libraries and classrooms with 8K resolution walls which could make it possible to turn a classroom into an underwater submarine, a space station on Mars or a webcam view from the North Pole. See the Samsung Wall Some students could benefit from on-the-fly translation earbuds that could turn a teacher’s mumble into crystal clear speech in the language of choice.

For better or for worse, a modern baby is being tracked by a swarm of cameras and cookies (of the browser variety). The “worse” part of this equation has been well documented, but what about the “better” use of this information? For example, why couldn’t a teacher see a child’s facebook information, to better understand a child? They might spot an early sign of giftedness that can be flagged and nurtured. When it comes to instructional settings, more information is good.

Think how the jet engine has made the world smaller by connecting more people. Now think about how ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber have created app driven on-demand access to transportation. Mix in the technology inside a self driving vehicle, and take your toy drone’s ability to fly on a windy day. All of these technologies come together in the Bell Nexus air taxi. A prototype was on display that makes it easy to imagine how a fleet of self flying shuttles might soon get our children to school. It’s very likely our Grandchildren will ask us what it was like to pilot our own cars, as a crash-prone humans.

But wait, there’s more!
Sensors, magnets, bluetooth and batteries are creeping into all sorts of devices that can help our children live and learn in the next decade. I saw a shoe that dials 911 if you fall down and a bike helmet that turns into an airbag. A latchkey kid will no longer need a key, because door locks can now use fingerprints or a voice signature for entry. A child’s voice will also command the kitchen sink to deliver an exact cup of water (no waste) and your refrigerator will send you a daily shopping list that reminds you that your milk will expire in three days.

None of the above is science fiction. In fact every item I’ve mentioned was on display at this year’s CES, and most were on display in the 2019 CES Hall of Innovation (see the video tour, at

As the adults responsible for the next generation, we must keep a watchful eye on these emerging technologies. It’s helpful to remember that child development theories always dictate how a technology can help or harm a child. There’s never been a more important time to have this knowledge, and thoughtfully apply it to something untested.