Select the Right NOx Control Technology

Most major industrialized urban areas in the U.S. are unable to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. Atmospheric studies have shown that ozone formation is the result of a complex set of chemical reactions involving volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Those studies indicate that many urban areas with VOC/NOx ratios greater tan 15:1 can reduce ambient ozone levels only by reducing NOx emissions. Many states, therefore, are implementing NOx control regulations for combustion devices in order to achieve compliance with the NAAQS ozone standard.

This article discusses the characterization of NOx emissions from industrial combustion devices. It then provides guidance on how to evaluate the applicable NOx control technologies and select an appropriate control method.

Characterizing Emissions

Most industrial combustion devices have not been tested to establish their baseline NOx emission levels. Rather, the NOx emissions from these units have been simply estimated using various factors. In light of recent regulations, however, it is mandatory that the NOx emissions from affected units now be known with certainty. This will establish each unit’s present compliance status and allow definition of fee applicable control technologies for those units that will require modification to achieve compliance.

It is, therefore, important to test each combustion device to verify its NOx emissions characteristics. The testing process should be streamlined to provide timely and necessary information for making decisions regarding the applicability of NOx control technologies.

The basic approach is to select one device from a class of units (that is, of same design and size) for characterization testing (NOx, CO2, and 02). Testing is conducted at three load points that represent the normal operating range of the unit, with excess oxygen variation testing conducted at each load point. Figure 1 illustrates the typical characterization test results. The remaining units in the class are tested at only one load point, at or near full load.

The operational data obtained during testing, in conjunction with the NOx and CO data, are used to define the compliance status of each unit, as well as the applicable NOx control technologies for those devices that must be modified. In most instances, this approach will allow multiple units to be tested in one day and provide the necessary operational data the engineer needs to properly evaluate the potential NOx control technologies.

Fundamental Concepts

Reasonably available control technology (RACT) standards for NOx emissions are defined in terms of an emission limit, such as 0.2 lb NOx/MMBtu, rather than mandating Specific NOx control technologies. Depending on the fuel fired and the design of the combustion device, a myriad of control technologies may be viable options. Before selecting RACT for a particular combustion device, it is necessary to understand how NOx emissions are formed so that the appropriate control strategy may be formulated.

NOx emissions formed during the combustion process are a function of the fuel composition, the operating mode, and the basic design of the boiler and combustion equipment. Each of these parameters can play a significant role in the final level of NOx emissions.

NOx formation is attributed to three distinct mechanisms:

1. Thermal NOx Formation;

2. Prompt (i.e.. rapidly forming) NO formation; and

3. Fuel NOx formation.

Each of these mechanisms is driven by three basic parameters – temperature of combustion, time above threshold temperatures in an oxidizing or reducing atmosphere, and turbulence during initial combustion.

Thermal NOx formation in gas-, oil-. and coal-fired devices results from thermal fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in the combustion air. Early investigations of NOx formation were based upon kinetic analyses for gaseous fuel combustion. These analyses by Zeldovich yielded an Arrhenius-type equation showing the relative importance of time, temperature, and oxygen and nitrogen concentrations on NOx formation in a pre-mixed flame (that is, the reactants are thoroughly mixed before combustion).

While thermal NOx formation in combustion devices cannot actually be determined using the Zeldovich relationship, it does illustrate the importance of the major factors that Influence thermal NOx formation, and that NOx formation increases exponentially with combustion temperatures above 2.800°F.

Experimentally measured NOx formation rates near the flame zone are higher than those predicted by the Zeldovich relationship. This rapidly forming NO is referred to as prompt NO. The discrepancy between the predicted and measured thermal NOx values is attributed to the simplifying assumptions used in the derivation of the Zeldovich equation, such as the equilibrium assumption that O = ½ 02. Near the hydrocarbon-air flame zone, the concentration of the formed radicals, such as O and OH, can exceed the equilibrium values, which enhances the rate of NOx formation. However, the importance of prompt NO in NOx emissions is negligible in comparison to thermal and fuel NOx.

When nitrogen is introduced with the fuel, completely different characteristics are observed. The NOx formed from the reaction of the fuel nitrogen with oxygen is termed fuel NOx. The most common form of fuel nitrogen is organically bound nitrogen present in liquid or solid fuels where individual nitrogen atoms are bonded to carbon or other atoms. These bonds break more easily than the diatomic N2 bonds so that fuel NOx formation rates can be much higher than those of thermal NOx. In addition, any nitrogen compounds (e.g., ammonia) introduced into the furnace react in much the same way.

Fuel NOx is much more sensitive to stoichiometry than to thermal conditions. For this reason, traditional thermal treatments, such as flue gas recirculation and water injection, do not effectively reduce NOx emissions from liquid and solid fuel combustion.

NOx emissions can be controlled either during the combustion process or after combustion is complete. Combustion control technologies rely on air or fuel staging techniques to take advantage of the kinetics of NOx formation or introducing inerts that inhibit the formation of NOx during combustion, or both. Post-combustion control technologies rely on introducing reactants in specified temperature regimes that destroy NOx either with or without the use of catalyst to promote the destruction.

Conbustion Control

The simplest of the combustion control technologies is low-excess-air operation–that is, reducing the excess air level to the point of some constraint, such as carbon monoxide formation, flame length, flame stability, and so on. Unfortunately, low-excess-air operation has proven to yield only moderate NOx reductions, if any.

Three technologies that have demonstrated their effectiveness in controlling NOx emissions are off-stoichiometric combustion. low-NOx burners, and combustion temperature reduction. The first two are applicable to all fuels, while the third is applicable only to natural gas and low-nitro-gen-content fuel oils.

Off-stoichiometric, or staged, combustion is achieved by modifying the primary combustion zone stoichiometry – that is, the air/fuel ratio. This may be accomplished operationally or by equipment modifications.

An operational technique known us burners-out-of-service (BOOS) involves terminating the fuel flow to selected burners while leaving the air registers open. The remaining burners operate fuel-rich, thereby limiting oxygen availability, lowering peak flame temperatures, and reducing NOx formation. The unreacted products combine with the air from the terminated-fuel burners to complete burnout before exiting the furnace. Figure 2 illustrates the effectiveness of this technique applied to electric utility boilers. Staged combustion can also be achieved by installing air-only ports, referred to as overfire air (OFA) ports, above the burner zone. redirecting a portion of the air from the burners to the OFA ports. A variation of this concept, lance air, consists of installing air tubes around the periphery of each burner to supply staged air.

BOOS, overfire air, and lance air achieve similar results. These techniques are generally applicable only to larger, multiple-burner, combustion devices.

Low-NOx burners are designed to achieve the staging effect internally. The air and fuel flow fields are partitioned and controlled to achieve the desired air/fuel ratio, which reduces NOx formation and results in complete burnout within the furnace. Low-NOx burners are applicable lo practically all combustion devices with circular burner designs.

Combustion temperature reduction is effective at reducing thermal N0x but not fuel NOx. One way to reduce the combustion temperature is to introduce a diluent. Flue gas recirculation (FGR) is one such technique.

FGR recirculates a portion of the flue gas leaving the combustion process back into the windbox. The recirculated flue gas, usually on the order of 10-20% of the combustion air provides sufficient dilution to decrease NOx emission. Figure 3 correlates the degree of emission reduction with the amount of flue gas recirculated.

On gas-fired units, emissions arc reduced well beyond the levels normally achievable with staged combustion control. In fact, FGR is probably the most effective and least troublesome system for NOx reduction for gas-fired combustors.

An advantage of FGR is that it can be used with most other combustion control methods. Many industrial low-NOx burner systems on the market today incorporate induced FGR. In these designs, a duct is installed between the stack and forced-draft inlet (suction). Flue gas products are recirculated through the forced-draft fan, thus eliminating the need for a separate fan.

Water injection is another method that works on the principle of combustion dilution, very similar to FGR. In addition to dilution, it reduces the combustion air temperature by absorbing the latent heat of vaporization of the water before the combustion air reaches the primary combustion zone.

Few full-scale retrofit or test trials of water injection have been performed. Until recently, water injection has not been used as a primary NOx control method on any combustion devices other than gas turbines because of the efficiency penalty resulting from the absorption of usable energy to evaporate the water. In some cases, water injection represents a viable option to consider when moderate NOx reductions are required to achieve compliance.

Reduction of the air preheat temperature is another viable technique for culling NOx emissions. This lowers peak flame temperatures, thereby reducing NOx formation. The efficiency penalty, however, may be substantial. A rule of thumb is a 1% efficiency loss for each 40º F reduction in preheat. In some cases this may be offset by adding or enlarging the existing economizer.

Post-Combustion Control

There are two technologies for controlling NOx emissions after formation in the combustion process – selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and selective noncatalytic reduction (SNCR). Both of these processes have seen very limited application in the U.S. for external combustion devices. In selective catalytic reduction, a gas mixture of ammonia with a carrier gas (typically compressed air) is injected upstream of a catalytic reactor operating at temperatures between 450º F and 750º F. NOx control efficiencies are typically in the 70-90% percent range, depending on the type of catalyst, the amount of ammonia injected, the initial NOx level, and the age of the catalyst.

The retrofit of SCR on existing combustion devices can be complex and costly. Apart from the ammonia storage, preparation, and control monitoring requirements, significant modifications to the convective pass ducts may be necessary.

In selective noncatalytic reduction, ammonia- or urea-based reagents are injected into the furnace exit region, where the flue gas is in the range of 1,700-2,000º F. The efficiency of this process depends on the temperature of the gas, the reagent mixing with the gas, the residence time within the temperature window, and the amount of reagent injected relative to the concentration of NOx present. The optimum gas temperature for die reaction is about 1,750°F; deviations from this temperature result in a lower NOx reduction efficiency. Application of SNCR, therefore, must be carefully assessed, as its effectiveness is very dependent on combustion device design and operation.

Technology Selection

As noted previously, selection of applicable NOx control technologies depends on a number of fuel, design, and operational factors. After identifying the applicable control technologies, an economic evaluation must be conducted to rank the technologies according to their cost effectiveness. Management can then select the optimum NOx control technology for the specific unit.

It should be noted that the efficiencies of NOx control technologies are not additive, but rather multiplicative. Efficiencies for existing combustion devices have been demonstrated in terms of percent reduction from baseline emissions level. This must be taken into account when considering combinations of technology.

Consider, for example, the following hypothetical case. Assume a baseline NOx emissions level of 100 ppmv and control technology efficiencies as follows: low-excess-air operation (LEA), 10%; low-NOx burners (LNB), 40%; and flue gas recirculation (FGR). 60%. The three controls are installed in the progressive order of LEA-LNB-FGR.

It should also he noted that combining same-principle technologies (for example, two types of staged combustion) would not provide a further significant NOx reduction than either of the combination, since they operate on the same principle.

It must be emphasized that virtually all of the available control technologies have the potential for adversely affecting the performance and/or operation of the unit. The operation data obtained during the NOx characterization testing, therefore, must be carefully evaluated in light of such potential impacts before selecting applicable control technologies. Operational limitations such as flame envelope, furnace pressure, forced-draft fan capacity, and the like must he identified for each potential technology and their corresponding impacts quantified. (Reference (4), for example, discusses these items, in detail.)

As anyone familiar with combustion processes knows, one technology does not fit all. Careful consideration must he used to select the appropriate, compatible control technology or technologies to ensure compliance at least cost with minimal impact on performance, operation, and capacity.

History of Wireless Technologies

The development of Wireless technology owes it all to Michael Faraday – for discovering the principle of electromagnetic induction, to James Maxwell – for the Maxwell’s equations and to Guglielmo Marconi – for transmitting a wireless signal over one and a half miles. The sole purpose of Wi-Fi technology is wireless communication, through which information can be transferred between two or more points that are not connected by electrical conductors.

Wireless technologies were in use since the advent of radios, which use electromagnetic transmissions. Eventually, consumer electronics manufacturers started thinking about the possibilities of automating domestic microcontroller based devices. Timely and reliable relay of sensor data and controller commands were soon achieved, which led to the discovery of Wireless communications that we see everywhere now.

History

With the radios being used for wireless communications in the World war era, scientists and inventors started focusing on means to developing wireless phones. The radio soon became available for consumers and by mid 1980s, wireless phones or mobile phones started to appear. In the late 1990s, mobile phones gained huge prominence with over 50 million users worldwide. Then the concept of wireless internet and its possibilities were taken into account. Eventually, the wireless internet technology came into existence. This gave a boost to the growth of wireless technology, which comes in many forms at present.

Applications of Wireless Technology

The rapid progress of wireless technology led to the invention of mobile phones which uses radio waves to enable communication from different locations around the world. The application of wireless tech now ranges from wireless data communications in various fields including medicine, military etc to wireless energy transfers and wireless interface of computer peripherals. Point to point, point to multipoint, broadcasting etc are all possible and easy now with the use of wireless.

The most widely used Wi-Fi tech is the Bluetooth, which uses short wavelength radio transmissions to connect and communicate with other compatible electronic devices. This technology has grown to a phase where wireless keyboards, mouse and other peripherals can be connected to a computer. Wireless technologies are used:

· While traveling

· In Hotels

· In Business

· In Mobile and voice communication

· In Home networking

· In Navigation systems

· In Video game consoles

· In quality control systems

The greatest benefit of Wireless like Wi-Fi is the portability. For distances between devices where cabling isn’t an option, technologies like Wi-Fi can be used. Wi-fi communications can also provide as a backup communications link in case of network failures. One can even use wireless technologies to use data services even if he’s stuck in the middle of the ocean. However, Wireless still have slower response times compared to wired communications and interfaces. But this gap is getting narrower with each passing year.

Progress of Wireless technology

Wireless data communications now come in technologies namely Wi-Fi (a wireless local area network), cellular data services such as GPRS, EDGE and 3G, and mobile satellite communications. Point-to-point communication was a big deal decades ago. But now, point-to-multipoint and wireless data streaming to multiple wirelessly connected devices are possible. Personal network of computers can now be created using Wi-Fi, which also allows data services to be shared by multiple systems connected to the network.

Wireless technologies with faster speeds at 5 ghz and transmission capabilities were quite expensive when they were invented. But now, almost all mobile handsets and mini computers come with technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although with variable data transfer speeds. Wireless have grown to such a level, where even mobile handsets can act as Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling other handsets or computers connected to a particular Wi-Fi hotspot enabled handset, can share cellular data services and other information. Streaming audio and video data wirelessly from the cell phone to a TV or computer is a walk in the park now.

Wireless Technology today, are robust, easy to use, and are portable as there are no cables involved. Apart from local area networks, even Metropolitan Area networks have started using Wi-fi tech (WMAN) and Customer Premises Equipment ( CPE ). Aviation, Transportation and the Military use wireless technologies in the form of Satellite communications. Without using interconnecting wires, wireless technologies are also used in transferring energy from a power source to a load, given that the load doesn’t have a built-in power source.

However, the fact that ‘nothing comes without a drawback’ or ‘nothing is perfect’ also applies to Wi-fi technology. Wireless technologies still have limitations, but scientists are currently working on it to remove the drawbacks and add to the benefits. The main limitation is that Wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can only be used in a limited area. The wireless signals can be broadcasted only to a particular distance. Devices outside of this range won’t be able to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But the distance limitation is becoming reduced every year. There are also a few security limitations which hackers can exploit to cause harm in a wireless network. But Wireless technologies with better security features have started to come out. So this is not going to be a problem for long.

Speaking of progress, Wi-Fi technology is not limited to powerful computers and mobile handsets. The technology has progressed enough that Wi-Fi enabled TVs and microwaves have started appearing in the markets. The latest and the most talked-about wireless technology is the NFC or Near Field Communication, which lets users exchange data by tapping their devices together. Using wireless technologies are not as expensive as it used to be in the last decade. With each passing year, newer and better wireless technologies arrive with greater benefits.

Conclusion

Wi-fi technologies have become vital for business organizations and ordinary consumers alike. Offering speed, security and mobility, wireless backhaul technologies are used even in Voice over Internet Protocols (VOIP). Schools and Educational institutions have started using Wi-fi networks. Technical events and video game tournaments now use Wireless connections to connect users to a network. The applications, use and demand of Wireless technologies keep increasing every year, making it one of the most significant inventions of this century. It can be concluded that Wireless technologies will be advancing to greater heights in the coming years.

Technology and Our Kids

With most people plugged in all the time, I often wonder what effect technology is having on our kids. Some say technology is another helpful learning tool that is making our kids smarter and some say it is having no significant effect at all. Still, others propose that technology use is encouraging social isolation, increasing attentional problems, encouraging unhealthy habits, and ultimately changing our culture and the way humans interact. While there isn’t a causal relationship between technology use and human development, I do think some of the correlations are strong enough to encourage you to limit your children’s screen time.

Is television really that harmful to kids? Depending on the show and duration of watching, yes. Researchers have found that exposure to programs with fast edits and scene cuts that flash unrealistically across the screen are associated with the development of attentional problems in kids. As the brain becomes overwhelmed with changing stimuli, it stops attending to any one thing and starts zoning out. Too much exposure to these frenetic programs gives the brain more practice passively accepting information without deeply processing it. However, not all programs are bad. Kids who watch slow paced television programs like Sesame Street are not as likely to develop attentional problems as kids who watch shows like The Power Puff Girls or Johnny Neutron. Educational shows are slow paced with fewer stimuli on the screen which gives children the opportunity to practice attending to information. Children can then practice making connections between new and past knowledge, manipulating information in working memory, and problem solving. Conclusively, a good rule of thumb is to limit television watching to an hour to two hours a day, and keep an eye out for a glossy-eyed transfixed gaze on your child’s face. This is a sure sign that his or her brain has stopped focusing and it is definitely time to shut off the tube so that he can start thinking, creating, and making sense out of things again (all actions that grow rather than pacify the brain).

When you do shut off the tube, don’t be surprised if you have a melt down on your hands. Technology has an addictive quality because it consistently activates the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and reward. There have been cases of addictions to technology in children as young as four-years-old. Recently in Britain, a four-year-old girl was put into intensive rehabilitation therapy for an iPad addiction! I’m sure you know how rewarding it is to sign onto Facebook and see that red notification at the top of the screen, or even more directly how rewarding playing games on your computer can be as you accumulate more “accomplishments.” I am guilty of obsessive compulsively checking my Facebook, email, and blog throughout the day. The common answer to this problems is, “All things in moderation.” While I agree, moderation may be difficult for children to achieve as they do not possess the skills for self discipline and will often take the easy route if not directed by an adult. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend about 5 hours watching television and movies, 3 hours on the internet, 1 1/2 hours texting on the phone, and a 1/2 hour talking on the phone each day. That’s almost 75 hours of technology use each week, and I am sure these results are mediated by parental controls and interventions. Imagine how much technology children use when left to their own defenses! In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Larry Rosen summed it up well, “… we see what happens if you don’t limit these active participation. The child continues to be reinforced in the highly engaging e-world, and more mundane worlds, such as playing with toys or watching TV, pale in comparison.” How are you ever going to get your child to read a black and white boring old book when they could use a flashy, rewarding iPad instead? Children on average spend 38 minutes or less each day reading. Do you see a priority problem here?

With such frequent technology use, it is important to understand if technology use encourages or discourages healthy habits. It’s reported that among heavy technology users, half get C’s or lower in school. Light technology users fair much better, only a quarter of them receiving low marks. There are many factors that could mediate the relationship between technology use and poor grades. One could be decreased hours of sleep. Researchers from the Department of Family and Community Health at the University of Maryland found that children who had three or more technological devices in their rooms got at least 45 minutes less sleep than the average child the same age. Another could be the attention problems that are correlated with frequent technology use. Going further, multitasking, while considered a brilliant skill to have on the job, is proving to be a hindrance to children. It is not uncommon to see a school aged child using a laptop, cell phone, and television while trying to also complete a homework assignment. If we look closer at the laptop, we might see several tabs opened to various social networks and entertainment sites, and the phone itself is a mini computer these days. Thus, while multitasking, children are neglecting to give their studies full attention. This leads to a lack of active studying, a failure to transfer information from short term to long term memory, which leads ultimately to poorer grades in school. Furthermore, it is next to impossible for a child to engage is some of the higher order information processing skills such as making inferences and making connections between ideas when multitasking. We want our children to be deep thinkers, creators, and innovators, not passive information receptors who later regurgitate information without really giving it good thought. Therefore, we should limit access to multiple devices as well as limit duration of use.

Age comes into play when discussing the harmful effects of technology. For children younger than two-years-old, frequent exposure to technology can be dangerously detrimental as it limits the opportunities for interaction with the physical world. Children two-years-old and younger are in the sensorimotor stage. During this stage it is crucial that they manipulate objects in the world with their bodies so that they can learn cause-effect relationships and object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object disappears from sight, it still exists. This reasoning requires the ability to hold visual representations of objects in the mind, a precursor to understanding visual subjects such as math later in life. To develop these skills, children need several opportunities every day to mold, create, and build using materials that do not have a predetermined structure or purpose. What a technological device provides are programs with a predetermined purpose that can be manipulated in limited ways with consequences that often don’t fit the rules of the physical world. If the child is not being given a drawing app or the like, they are likely given programs that are in essence a lot like workbooks with structured activities. Researchers have found that such activities hinder the cognitive development of children this age. While researchers advise parents to limit their baby’s screen time to 2 hours or less each day, I would say it’s better to wait to introduce technology to your children until after they have at least turned 3-years-old and are demonstrating healthy cognitive development. Even then, technology use should be limited enormously to provide toddlers with time to engage in imaginative play.

Technology is changing the way children learn to communicate and use communication to learn. Many parents are using devices to quiet there children in the car, at the dinner table, or where ever social activities may occur. The risk here is that the child is not witnessing and thinking about the social interactions playing out before him. Children learn social skills through modeling their parents social interactions. Furthermore, listening to others communicate and talking to others is how children learn to talk to themselves and be alone. The benefits of solitude for children come from replaying and acting out conversations they had or witnessed during the day, and this is how they ultimately make sense of their world. The bottom line is, the more we expose our children to technological devices, the worse their social skills and behavior will be. A Millennium Cohort Study that followed 19,000 children found that, “those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not.” If you are going to give your child screen privileges, at least set aside a time for just that, and don’t use technology to pacify or preoccupy your children during social events.
There’s no question that technology use can lead to poor outcomes, but technology itself is not to blame. Parents need to remember their very important role as a mediator between their children and the harmful effects of technology. Parents should limit exposure to devices, discourage device multitasking, make sure devices are not used during social events, and monitor the content that their child is engaging in (ie. Sesame Street vs. Johnny Neutron). Technology can be a very good learning tool, but children also need time to interact with objects in the real world, engage in imaginative play, socialize face-to-face with peers and adults, and children of all ages need solitude and time to let their mind wander. We need to put more emphasis on the “Ah-ha!” moment that happens when our minds are free of distractions. For this reason alone, technology use should be limited for all of us.

How Can Instructional Technology Make Teaching and Learning More Effective in the Schools?

In the past few years of research on instructional technology has resulted in a clearer vision of how technology can affect teaching and learning. Today, almost every school in the United States of America uses technology as a part of teaching and learning and with each state having its own customized technology program. In most of those schools, teachers use the technology through integrated activities that are a part of their daily school curriculum. For instance, instructional technology creates an active environment in which students not only inquire, but also define problems of interest to them. Such an activity would integrate the subjects of technology, social studies, math, science, and language arts with the opportunity to create student-centered activity. Most educational technology experts agree, however, that technology should be integrated, not as a separate subject or as a once-in-a-while project, but as a tool to promote and extend student learning on a daily basis.

Today, classroom teachers may lack personal experience with technology and present an additional challenge. In order to incorporate technology-based activities and projects into their curriculum, those teachers first must find the time to learn to use the tools and understand the terminology necessary for participation in projects or activities. They must have the ability to employ technology to improve student learning as well as to further personal professional development.

Instructional technology empowers students by improving skills and concepts through multiple representations and enhanced visualization. Its benefits include increased accuracy and speed in data collection and graphing, real-time visualization, the ability to collect and analyze large volumes of data and collaboration of data collection and interpretation, and more varied presentation of results. Technology also engages students in higher-order thinking, builds strong problem-solving skills, and develops deep understanding of concepts and procedures when used appropriately.

Technology should play a critical role in academic content standards and their successful implementation. Expectations reflecting the appropriate use of technology should be woven into the standards, benchmarks and grade-level indicators. For example, the standards should include expectations for students to compute fluently using paper and pencil, technology-supported and mental methods and to use graphing calculators or computers to graph and analyze mathematical relationships. These expectations should be intended to support a curriculum rich in the use of technology rather than limit the use of technology to specific skills or grade levels. Technology makes subjects accessible to all students, including those with special needs. Options for assisting students to maximize their strengths and progress in a standards-based curriculum are expanded through the use of technology-based support and interventions. For example, specialized technologies enhance opportunities for students with physical challenges to develop and demonstrate mathematics concepts and skills. Technology influences how we work, how we play and how we live our lives. The influence technology in the classroom should have on math and science teachers’ efforts to provide every student with “the opportunity and resources to develop the language skills they need to pursue life’s goals and to participate fully as informed, productive members of society,” cannot be overestimated.

Technology provides teachers with the instructional technology tools they need to operate more efficiently and to be more responsive to the individual needs of their students. Selecting appropriate technology tools give teachers an opportunity to build students’ conceptual knowledge and connect their learning to problem found in the world. The technology tools such as Inspiration® technology, Starry Night, A WebQuest and Portaportal allow students to employ a variety of strategies such as inquiry, problem-solving, creative thinking, visual imagery, critical thinking, and hands-on activity.

Benefits of the use of these technology tools include increased accuracy and speed in data collection and graphing, real-time visualization, interactive modeling of invisible science processes and structures, the ability to collect and analyze large volumes of data, collaboration for data collection and interpretation, and more varied presentations of results.

Technology integration strategies for content instructions. Beginning in kindergarten and extending through grade 12, various technologies can be made a part of everyday teaching and learning, where, for example, the use of meter sticks, hand lenses, temperature probes and computers becomes a seamless part of what teachers and students are learning and doing. Contents teachers should use technology in ways that enable students to conduct inquiries and engage in collaborative activities. In traditional or teacher-centered approaches, computer technology is used more for drill, practice and mastery of basic skills.

The instructional strategies employed in such classrooms are teacher centered because of the way they supplement teacher-controlled activities and because the software used to provide the drill and practice is teacher selected and teacher assigned. The relevancy of technology in the lives of young learners and the capacity of technology to enhance teachers’ efficiency are helping to raise students’ achievement in new and exciting ways.

As students move through grade levels, they can engage in increasingly sophisticated hands-on, inquiry-based, personally relevant activities where they investigate, research, measure, compile and analyze information to reach conclusions, solve problems, make predictions and/or seek alternatives. They can explain how science often advances with the introduction of new technologies and how solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge. They should describe how new technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new areas of research. They should explain why basic concepts and principles of science and technology should be a part of active debate about the economics, policies, politics and ethics of various science-related and technology-related challenges.

Students need grade-level appropriate classroom experiences, enabling them to learn and to be able to do science in an active, inquiry-based fashion where technological tools, resources, methods and processes are readily available and extensively used. As students integrate technology into learning about and doing science, emphasis should be placed on how to think through problems and projects, not just what to think.

Technological tools and resources may range from hand lenses and pendulums, to electronic balances and up-to-date online computers (with software), to methods and processes for planning and doing a project. Students can learn by observing, designing, communicating, calculating, researching, building, testing, assessing risks and benefits, and modifying structures, devices and processes – while applying their developing knowledge of science and technology.
Most students in the schools, at all age levels, might have some expertise in the use of technology, however K-12 they should recognize that science and technology are interconnected and that using technology involves assessment of the benefits, risks and costs. Students should build scientific and technological knowledge, as well as the skill required to design and construct devices. In addition, they should develop the processes to solve problems and understand that problems may be solved in several ways.

Rapid developments in the design and uses of technology, particularly in electronic tools, will change how students learn. For example, graphing calculators and computer-based tools provide powerful mechanisms for communicating, applying, and learning mathematics in the workplace, in everyday tasks, and in school mathematics. Technology, such as calculators and computers, help students learn mathematics and support effective mathematics teaching. Rather than replacing the learning of basic concepts and skills, technology can connect skills and procedures to deeper mathematical understanding. For example, geometry software allows experimentation with families of geometric objects, and graphing utilities facilitate learning about the characteristics of classes of functions.

Learning and applying mathematics requires students to become adept in using a variety of techniques and tools for computing, measuring, analyzing data and solving problems. Computers, calculators, physical models, and measuring devices are examples of the wide variety of technologies, or tools, used to teach, learn, and do mathematics. These tools complement, rather than replace, more traditional ways of doing mathematics, such as using symbols and hand-drawn diagrams.

Technology, used appropriately, helps students learn mathematics. Electronic tools, such as spreadsheets and dynamic geometry software, extend the range of problems and develop understanding of key mathematical relationships. A strong foundation in number and operation concepts and skills is required to use calculators effectively as a tool for solving problems involving computations. Appropriate uses of those and other technologies in the mathematics classroom enhance learning, support effective instruction, and impact the levels of emphasis and ways certain mathematics concepts and skills are learned. For instance, graphing calculators allow students to quickly and easily produce multiple graphs for a set of data, determine appropriate ways to display and interpret the data, and test conjectures about the impact of changes in the data.

What Is the Relevance of Technology?

Technology in the long-run is irrelevant”. That is what a customer of mine told me when I made a presentation to him about a new product. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something to that effect, as one of them. That is when he made his statement. I realized later that he was correct, at least within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I began thinking about whether he could be right in other contexts as well.

What is Technology?

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

1

a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2medical technology

b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge a car’s fuel-saving technology

2

: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge

3

: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor

Wikipedia defines it as:

Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.

Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.

Technology is an enabler

Many people mistakenly believe it is technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that is clearly not the case. It is opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You might have the technology to build a better mousetrap, but if you have no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there is no opportunity and then the technology to build a better one becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are overrun with mice then the opportunity exists to innovate a product using your technology.

Another example, one with which I am intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. I’ve been associated with both those that succeeded and those that failed. Each possessed unique leading edge technologies. The difference was opportunity. Those that failed could not find the opportunity to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. In fact to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they could take advantage of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the original technology wound up in the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. In order to be relevant, it needs to be used to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.

Technology as a competitive advantage?

Many companies list a technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.

Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.

A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously not possible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. Lots of microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a host of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS is a good example of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of Unix (a competing technology), caught up relatively quickly. The reasons for this lie not in the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were brought to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and the differences in the strategic visions of each company.

Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the base revolutionary technology. But by it’s very nature, the incremental change is easier for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Take for example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products prior to Company A and while it may have had a short term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage due to technology disappeared. The consumer went back to choosing Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. Thus technology might have been relevant in the short term, but in the long term, became irrelevant.

In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.

Technology’s Relevance

This article was written from the prospective of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is removed from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can look like a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it is highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a set of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables is relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what’s the price, what’s the quality, etc., and not so much with how it is achieved, thus the technology used is much less relevant to them.

Recently, I was involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of the people on those posts slammed the phone for various reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There were also plenty of knocks on the fact that it didn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC One which were priced similarly. What they failed to grasp is that whether the manufacturer used 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores in the end makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best of class) feature set, functionality, price, and user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, and yet it runs on a dual-core processor. It still delivers one of the best user experiences on the market. The features that are enabled by the technology are what are relevant to the consumer, not the technology itself.

The relevance of technology therefore, is as an enabler, not as a product feature or a competitive advantage, or any myriad of other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it is an impressive piece of software technology, and yet Google gives it away. Why? Because standalone, it does nothing for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services which then act as enablers for Google’s products and services. To Google, that’s where the real value is.