A Different Way Of Going Mobile

Vans, busses, trucks, and trailers are hitting the road with EdTech experiences.

When I hear the term, “mobile,” I think smartphone or similar device, not something on wheels.

Well, it turns out there’s a niche for mobile technology that’s just that—on wheels. I’m not talking about robots or toys. I’m talking about vans, busses, trucks, and trailers hitting the road with EdTech experiences.

Back in the early 2000s, I was working in Antigua and Barbuda with the teachers’ union. My role was to help them integrate technology into their professional studies and to enable their participation in online programs. I remember asking about technology in the local schools and hearing about the Computer Bus, an air-conditioned vehicle with laptops and connectivity that would spend select amounts of time at the secondary schools across the island.

Around that same time, I met a colleague from South Africa, who told me his wife drove the secondary school Computer Bus in their town outside of Johannesburg. I distinctly remember him referring to the bus as “mobile” technology.

ROLLING, ROLLING, ROLLING

Fast forward to the present, and we have Google’s Rolling Study Hall program: With a focus on serving rural communities, the Rolling Study Hall program enables students with long bus rides to access Wi-Fi, Chromebooks, and onboard teacher-educators. According to Google, the initiative has helped thousands of students reclaim more than 1.5 million learning hours. Magic school bus for sure!

Poking around in the space, I found that in the McComb School District in Mississippi, primary school students have access to the zSpace STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) lab aboard two recycled school buses. Focusing on immersive virtual reality (VR) learning experiences, the zSpace lab enables students to experience the inside of a volcano, dive into the Earth’s core, travel into outer space, dissect small animals, explore the human body, and experience other natural wonders.

All on a bus. Granted, the zSpace lab isn’t very mobile anymore, but it’s still a bus!

And if you’ve ever attended a Training magazine event, you may have seen the Verizon 5G Experience bus parked outside. On this bus, you get to experience augmented and virtual reality environments supported by 5G. You can explore some of the projects Verizon is working on while experiencing the speed of 5G.

EDTECH ON WHEELS

Thinking about this kind of “mobile” technology, I recall a conversation I had with a colleague about taking Training magazine’s Technology Test Kitchen on the road (the Technology Test Kitchen is a makerspace installation I facilitate at Training magazine conferences, where we bring a variety of tools, technologies, and applications for attendees to learn about and play with. The spaces we create and crazy mix of technology we bring with us are meant to spark curiosity, facilitate dialogue, and get people interacting with things they would not necessarily use in their work.) My colleague casually offered to buy me a 30-foot RV and equip it with any and everything I could ask for. He wasn’t serious, but all I’ve wanted since that conversation was a tractor trailer filled with emerging technologies I could take on the road to schools, conferences, and other events with my fellow Technology Test Kitchen chefs. Road trip!

Imagine my delight when in conversation with the team at Metropolitan Community College’s Workforce Innovation Division, they happened to mention their Prototype Design Trailer. Yes…52 feet of innovation on wheels!

Their promotional materials invite you to step on board and learn more about these innovative technologies: robotics, the Internet of Things, digital electronics, 3D printing, SolidWorks, and CNC design. You even can reserve the Prototype Design Trailer for your own event.

Currently, the trailer houses a laser cutter (60W), Carvy CNC router, 3D printer, and AMY the robot. There’s also an Internet of Things (IoT) project taking place in the trailer involving a Visual Process Monitor (VPM), which is a camera that captures and posts pictures to a user’s Twitter account when a chosen hashtag is tweeted.

Kim L. Whiteside, director of Workforce and IT Innovation – Corporate Online at Metropolitan Community College (MCC) shares:

“The Prototype Trailer brings emerging technology directly to the people through its travels to various locations. Stepping inside the trailer transports you into the world where innovation rules and ideas are put into action. This is the world we also see daily inside our MCC Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on campus. We enjoy witnessing the countless positive reactions and experiences when people see, touch, and engage with emerging technology and prototyping first-hand.”

The MCC team also shared that my dream trailer has traveled all over the Omaha area to other higher-education facilities, public libraries, festivals, and more. They estimate between 100 and 150 attendees at events, with the largest event including 250 people.

Count me in! Hop on the bus, van, RV, trailer— you name it. Let’s hit the road and make some mobile EdTech innovation happen!

Resources

Metropolitan Community College’s Workforce Innovation Division 

https://www.mccneb.edu/Community-Business/workforce-training-innovation/ 

Google Rolling Study Halls https://edu.google.com/why-google/our-commitment/rolling-study-halls

Phylise Banner is a learning experience design consultant with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, and private pilot.

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