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Nascent vision of technology: A quick example of innovation

February 20, 2011

I’m still thinking a lot about technology, and my current fascination is with the idea of intellectual curiosity and the drive for innovation. Why are some faculty constantly finding new things to do with technology, while others are still struggling to figure out their email? Is it the same question as why some faculty are continually innovating and re-inventing their curriculum, while others are satisfied they’ve set the perfect syllabus and just re-play it each year?

This is a question I want to explore more deeply in the future, but in the meantime, I want to present a great example of intellectual curiosity and innovation in practice. I had recently sent an email to the language department about the new google translate for iOS app. I often send out emails with cool lesson ideas, lectures, or tech ideas I find to colleagues. I do this because I really appreciate it when people take the time share ideas with me, and every now and then, I get a response that makes me feel like it’s a valuable thing. Here’s one such response from a wonderful colleague, A.

Thanks for the link you sent a few days ago for the Google Translate. Let me update you on what’s been going on in the Language Department, thanks to your initial email 🙂

There was immediately an email/water cooler buzz on it. I read about it and found out the app also works for iTouch.
Since I could not check out an iTouch from T (they don’t have them) I purchased one for the Language Lab.
I downloaded the free Google Translate app. You need to be connected to the wi-fi to use it. I’m guessing on the iPhone you can use it all the time.
Anyhow, good enough for our purpose. Teachers just wanted to see/experience what it was about.
Every other Thursday, I have 3 Tech@Lunch sessions: 11:20, 12:20, 1:20. They are drop in. I generally have about 6-8 people, total. The idea is that these sessions are quasi one-on-one.
Anyway, this past Thursday, 10 language teachers came to the first session alone!

We all played with the google translate. It still has a ways to go, because the iTouch has a very difficult time recognizing speech. You have to vocalize just so, and repeat, etc. but we all know that this is just the beginning. As rudimentary as it is at this point, it is also pretty revolutionary. It does not do well at all with everyday talk, but does well with tourist sentences, such as “Where is the bathroom?” and the likes.

On Monday, our language department is going to get together during the lunch hour that we have, and we will be discussing much technology.

By the way, I also downloaded (and paid 9.99 for) the Word Lens. Another fascinating feature. Very primitive at this point, but amazing too. Thanks for sending that our way a few months back.

I took advantage of the Google Translate Tech@Lunch session this past Thursday to borrow an iPad from T, so people could see what it looked and felt like and play with it. I was surprised by the number of faculty members that had not handled one.

Anyway, I don’t think any of this would have happened this week without your initial email.

Thanks a bunch,

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