October 24, 2016

A Case Study

Selling to Schools: A Case Study

Sensavis, the Swedish 3D content company, is experiencing more success at reaching educational customers with their 3D educational science content, the 3D Classroom, than many other content producers I know.  I wanted to discover why, so I spent time interviewing Mattias Boström, a past school principal and currently Director of Product Development for Sensavis,  and Fredrik Olofsson, CEO and President of Sensavis, with this goal in mind.

What I discovered was that Sensavis pursues a different strategy than most companies do. And I think that the folds and creases of this strategy can be informative for any industry hoping to penetrate the stubborn education market.  Here’s what I learned:

It’s all about the teacher. The centerline strategy of Sensavis appears to be their focus on meeting the needs of teachers, not just supporting the curriculum or providing content directly to students. It’s the teacher that matters to Sensavis. For example, “most companies add a lot of text and voiceover to their products, because they want to appeal directly to the student”, suggests Bostrom, who is also an experienced school principal. Sensavis content “leaves room for the teacher”, he explains.  

It starts where the customer is at, not where the technology is at. Most educational customers don’t have the technical wherewithal to broadly implement stereoscopic 3D. As a solution, schools and colleges are urged to invest in the rendered 3D content and make the move to the far superior stereo 3D content when they are ready. (The Sensavis content is provided in both rendered and stereo format, upon purchase.) Rendered 3D can support a variety of classroom formats: flipped, blended, online or face to face settings, without requiring the school to invest in additional hardware. A good example is the Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, which uses both rendered and stereo 3D in the classroom, as needed. 

It’s all about rightsizing. Sensavis has  enabled their content to run on minimal devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro and  ordinary teacher computers. I saw their newest simulations running on a Surface Pro, using a minimum i5 processor, 8 gigs ram, while running Microsoft operating system 8 or X with a 64bit installation. Their 3D sims can be run in either rendered 3D, or be connected to a 3D projector/display to run in stereo 3D. Even the rendered 3D is lifelike, full HD, fully interactive content. “We wanted to be able to install our simulations on any teacher’s computer”, explains Boström. 

It’s about user-created content. Oloffson explains: “What really attracts schools is the video recording segment of the product, which enables students and teachers to create their own educational videos.” He explains: “Teachers can manipulate any process in the recording. We recognize that teachers don’t generally like to be told what and how to teach. Therefore we have added the capability for teachers to create their own simulations or walkthroughs.”

It’s about pricing. Sensavis’ pricing strategies are also teacher friendly. That makes sense. If teachers can’t afford it on their own, or teachers pass on to leadership that a product is unapproachable, that’s the end of it.

It’s about sharing. In the U.S., teachers are isolated, One of the innovative developments now under design by Sensavis is the creation of a private cloud-based solution that can house teacher- and student-created animations, sharable across schools, districts or states.  This approach eliminates the need for each teacher, each school or each district to recreate the wheel with teacher-developed content? Why not store and share the best?

October 17, 2016

Selling to Schools (2)

The five models of school decision making introduced in last week's post should prompt some worthwhile deliberative thinking. If your company is going to sell 3D or VR to schools—hardware, content, services, or solutions—can you see beyond the calmly mesmerizing river currents of what you may already believe about the educational market? Can you instead peer deeper and recognize the tremendous hidden complexity inherent in selling to schools? Here are some important questions you should ask yourself about selling to schools:

  • ·        Do we really understand the diversity of the school market? (See this insightful infographic)
  • ·     Do we have the best situational strategies in place to sell effectively to educational customers, based on the models in our previous post?
  • ·      How will we know if, in fact, we are using the right strategy for our target marketplace?
  • ·      Do your marketing plans display an “all the above” strategy for reaching the education market? (Again, I am referring to the models listed in last week's post.)
  • ·      Most importantly, do your sales reps really understand the complexities outlined in the these models, and know how to navigate these waters?
In selling to schools, do you just see a placid and unremarkable river?

October 10, 2016

Selling to Schools (1)

The challenge of selling 3D or VR to schools reminds me of a flowing description I penned in a soon-to-be published book:

Imagine a river, deep and fast, charging downwards through a majestic canyon, slowing to a crawl as it ambles its way through a lush green valley. Although a winding river may at first seem unremarkable in its flow and function, it is actually teeming with hidden complexity. Upon closer inspection of a river we unveil a lively, changing, and connected environment, one consisting of currents, undercurrents, pools, eddies, meanders, weirs, swells, and even flood cycles.”

My careful analogy is this:  like rivers, selling 3D or VR to schools is never that simple. Much like a river, selling to schools offers hidden complexity.  In a recent discussion between a group of educators and ed-tech industry folks at a large national conference we all agreed that, in education, there is no single homogeneous customer.  To the contrary, the decisions for procurement of technology by schools can be labeled according to these diverse models:

Model 1: The district makes nearly all of the decisions. Students and teachers don’t. All purchasing is strongly controlled and filtered by organizational gatekeepers.
Model 2: The district makes the decisions, but does so in collaboration with teachers; teacher advice is solicited broadly or sought individually through teacher representation on adoption committees. I have even seen the gatekeepers overruled by these collaborators.
Model 3: Purchasing decisions are logically split. The district may be the decision maker on a core portfolio of resources, while individual schools can still go ahead and buy anything else. In other words, the district makes make some decisions, (with or without collaboration from teachers); schools can do the rest. And yes, school-level gatekeepers can be just as protective as their district counterparts—especially if they happen to be a school principal or a powerfully influential lead teacher.
Model 4: Purchasing decisions and authority are splintered. The district purchases items they perceive as enterprise-important; the schools can acquire items that are community-important; lead teachers or department heads can procure essential departmental or grade-level resources; and—wait for it—teachers can supplement through own classroom budgets. This approach is, of course, far more complex than the previous models; it’s an open playground, not a walled garden.
Model 5: Students or teachers create their own. Although this rarely applies to hardware acquisition, it is a phenomenon we see in schools in the arenas of content and services: students or teachers create the content as opposed to purchasing it; or students and teachers provide technical services within the school as opposed to procuring it from the outside.

October 3, 2016

Gimmick or Godsend (2)

In the research presented in last week's post. Dr. Green is now moving toward some new research along two probative dimensions: First, she explains “we are hopeful that through our research we can guide publishers towards some heuristics for creating 3D VR because at this point it seems like they are publishing what they think we need [for augmented  reality and virtual reality extensions].”  Second, Dr. Green’s team hopes to use these heuristics to develop an even more effective rubric for removing the ‘wow’ factor from resource consideration. Dr. Green laments: “Google cardboard VR is putting people INTO a virtual environment, but there is no inquiry involved.” She is certain than gamifying some of this VR content will also help. Identifying these requirements in a rubric is key in both regards.

The Side Story.
Although the efforts of Dr. Green initially involved a small sample of preservice educators, current samples of educators are much larger. And as a result, they are also starting to notice some other interesting observations. Anecdotal at this stage, these casual findings are certain to lead to additional research questions for 3D content in the near future. 

It is beginning to appear that AR/VR resources in classrooms may:
  • make it easier for the students to recall their learning.
  • enable students to notice things in 3D format that they would not see in the 2D format. (Students then feel compelled to go back to the book to find the answer themselves).
  • facilitate comprehension of abstract ideas. (For example,  Dr. Green describes a teacher who tried and tried to explain to students what the dark side of the moon was about: acting it out, drawing pictures—but nothing seemed to help the students understand until they saw the 3D image. “All of a sudden it clicked with them.”)
An interesting question and hypothesis she would like to posit in the future is: “Why is 3D effective in the classroom?” Does 3D visual learning reduce the cognitive load on learners?” These are all good breadcrumbs to follow.

September 26, 2016

Gimmick or Godsend (1)

Gimmick or Godsend: AR/VR in Education

Marybeth Green (Associate Professor of Instructional Technology and Graduate Coordinator for the Instructional Technology Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville) and her colleagues are actively researching 3D augmented and virtual reality as it plays out in the K-12 classroom. This story begins with a conundrum.

The Problem.
Dr. Green noticed a phenomenon occurring in classrooms using augmented and virtual reality: “We have found is that there is a "wow" factor when people first see 3D images; but this enthusiasm often obscures the quality of the content,” which can be outright poor.

The Backdrop.
Dr. Green and her colleagues recently pursued a small grant to purchase augmented reality books, books that also required the purchase of AR/VR viewing apps. They acquired more than 100 books. Using an iPad, the student could view augmented reality 3D images or even click off the AR image and explore a virtual reality simulation right in the classroom. According to Dr. Green, who is putting a list of these resources together, about 20-25% of the available AR resources provide students with a combined mixed and virtual reality experience.

The Discovery.
“Initially, preservice teachers find the content enthralling. When seeing 3D, it is so unexpected; so when they see 3D images emerge, they don’t see the quality of what’s there. It is only after repeated exposures that they begin to examine the content and find its weaknesses. Some of the content is quite good and builds on students' understanding of the content, but some is hardly worth the effort or price,” explains the researcher. Inservice teachers appear to be more discriminating, however. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t really help with comprehension or learning—some of the content is a bit disappointing,” she adds.  “Teachers are much more appreciative of the content that really does enhance the value and understanding of the textual content.”

The Parry.

Dr. Green and her associates identified a workable method to get past the unreasonable ‘wow’ factor of middling quality AR/VR content,: they provided teachers with a basic academic rubric that could be used to sift less-than-stellar AR/VR content out of consideration.  The rubric appears to be effective. “It enables us to ask the question: ‘Is this content a gimmick or godsend’ ”, she states.

September 19, 2016

Unity Invests in Education

Unity is the well-known and respected development platform for games, virtual worlds, virtual reality, and interactive simulations. Unity development has long been a staple in student clubs, high school and vocational school curricular offerings, professional/ professional technical institutes, and even university computer science and game design programs. So why the tremendous rise in educator interest over the last two years at major ed-tech conferences? Clearly, increased fascination with gamification, virtual reality, STEM, and student-created content helps explain this swelling of customer interest.

Another factor behind the surging interest of educators is that Unity used the recent ISTE conference venue to announce some education-specific breaking news:
A refreshed mission. Unity now explains that they are “dedicated to working with educational institutions worldwide to help foster innovative learning and exploration in variety of areas including game development and interactive experiences and content, including virtual reality.” 
A structural update. Unity has recently formed a dedicated GlobalEducation unit.
A certification for education program. This includes Unity-certified developer courseware, certification exams, and even certification events. 
A training and certification partner program.  Unity Technologies aims to give “academic institutions, training businesses, and resellers the opportunity to tap into the growing community of Unity developers seeking professional development and certification.” 
New academic pricing. Aimed at supporting game development programs, education software license bundles (i.e., educator pricing) are now available for purchase by academic institutions. 
Free Resources for Educators. Unity has developed an Educator Toolkit aimed at helping educators to create, tailor, or shape a Unity teaching curriculum for their classrooms. 
An educator grant program. Free Unity education software licenses to help K-12 instructors implement game development courses.
On another note, I noticed that Unity is not shying away from the emerging virtual reality market either. I find them as one of the most knowledgeable vendors on the floor in relationship to VR in eduation; they are also knowledgeable about the stubborn vision health issues that can plague VR implementations in education.

Although still a small team, Unity appears to be on target with a seven-pronged strategy aimed at investing in the education market.

September 12, 2016

VR @ InfoComm

Frankly, this year’s InfoComm hoopla—from an educator’s perspective—left me underwhelmed. There were no blockbusters, killer educational technologies, nor grand entrances as in past years. There was little to get us to stand to our feet and applaud great educational potential. This was a tepid year—a year of stolid incrementalism at best. Given the recent hubbub that is usually associated with virtual reality nowadays, I was surprised to find a subdued presence for VR at InfoComm 2016. In fact, the VR presence may have been a bit smaller than in previous years at InfoComm, if memory serves me well. I was expecting more from the VR meme at InfoComm 2016. I didn’t get it. Nevertheless, here are some of my VR observations:

  • 360° cameras and software. The fresh appearance of a slate of 360° and VR cameras caught my attention. Nokia featured their OZO camera, while Elmo touted their QBiC camera with its free VideoStitch post production software for creating 360°VR videos. Kodak was pushing their PIXPRO 4K editing software for producing spherical videos, while Ricoh showcased their low-cost Theta 360 s. I should mention: I noticed educators in significant numbers trolling the booths dedicated to 360° and VR cameras, with outspoken interest in having student use such cameras to produce educational content.
  • Stampede offered a “wild west” shootout corral. The popular corral experience, run by staffers from VRstudios, showcased their multiuser wireless virtual reality solution. Although they expressed no interest in the ed market whatsoever, feverishly grinning instead about the bullish gaming and entertainment market, I envisioned three implications for the ed market: 1) the wireless capabilities make a lot of sense for the ‘freedom’ demanded by the ed market: (tethered products don’t do as well, historically); 2) the multiuser nature of the VRstudios technology is an advantage, bringing cooperative learning to virtual reality. (Imagine an entire class meeting on the surface of Mars to learn about gravity, survival, and the challenges of exploring the planet with a mobile rover); and 3) it will make teachers and children sick. It made me sick, and that practically never happens. (They need to figure this one out: see my article, “I love VR; I hateVR.”

  • Canon Eye 2 Eye. Canon physically involved passersby in their interactive Eye 2 Eye VR dance and motion experience, which was quite impressive at first glance. Implications for the ed market: this technology could eventually evolve into an interactive environment that would be extremely motivating for physical education. I know… it’s a stretch.
  • Christie. In an interesting twist, Christie showcased their Mystique suite of virtual reality-assisted design tools. (I wonder: did they know that Mystique is the beautiful shapeshifter in the X-Men comic series? Oh, well.) The demo was tucked deep in the bowels of the Christie booth experience, and was hard to navigate to, so I imagine that not many people saw it. Still, their design tool was interesting, because it represents Christie’s venture into software solutions, not just hardware solutions. Implications for the ed market: VR can make inroads in education as a tool to solve problems not only in design, but also in visualization (before and after views), simulating dangerous experiments or conditions, or conducting historical “what ifs.”

Although Infocomm 2016 offered little overlap this year to the world of education, the time I spent foreshadowing what is possible is instructive. For now, most of the VR companies at InfoComm (camera companies excluded) feel that education is not on their short-term market horizon. And that's okay, because most educators still sense that virtual reality is just too impractical, experimental, and expensive.

September 5, 2016

3D @ InfoComm 2016

I’ve been an educational technology director for 25 years, with a significant track record in large educational technology and AV purchases. I  returned from walking every aisle of InfoComm 2016, searching for promising trends, developments, and products that might offer value for the education market.

What does an educator see? I look for both memes that make sense in education as well as the practical solution: the product that potentially meet a need or solves a pain somewhere in my organization. Something crisply new and eye-catching can also spark a burgeoning idea in an educator’s mind. And at times, we chuckle when we see the emperor’s new clothes (vaporware, hype, or solutions in search of a problem to solve).

The Third Dimension at InfoComm
Even though there is still interest in this technology in higher ed, a muted presence of 3D technologies was the case at InfoComm 2016. Two booths featuring autostereoscopic displays were underwhelming, and a few other glasses-based 3D stations were easy to forget. One large display manufacturer with an impressive floor presence and lots of traffic, Central China Display Laboratories, was the exception. Yet the content they were showing was ineffective, bordering on useless. This company has a featured LED installation here in Colorado, at the University of Denver. I wish they were showing that content instead.

Again, InfoComm 2016 seemed like a celebration of incrementalism—simultaneously in its best and worst form. But who knows? As they say, sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

August 29, 2016

Prime time (2)

Is 3D VR content ready for prime time?

Well, I hate to pile on, but it’s always useful to temper exuberance with a stout dose of business reality. Five years ago, I developed a taxonomy of content types for educational 3D content.  At that time, in analyzing the available 3D content specifically designed for the educational market, I first recognized that 3D educational content came in a diversity of approaches and design--six flavors, if you will:

In revisiting my taxonomy, I realized that contemporary VR content for the education market today still fits clearly into these same lanes. But here’s the problem: Nearly all of the educational VR content I have seen to date fits only into the first three lanes: video shorts, shorter animated segments, or learning objects. (Imagine simple walkthroughs, immersive field trips, and objects that can be rotated.) Despite their immersiveness, these VR learning opportunities are all passive experiences. (Incidentally, school gatekeepers—such as district administrators, principals, and lead teachers—ferociously fight to keep passive learning experiences out of classrooms.) Yet hardly any VR content in today’s educational marketplace reaches into the more interactive lanes of micro-simulation, complex simulation, and user-generated content. (Micro and complex simulation often work well addressing a ‘wicked’ challenge in education today—the need to teach complex thinking and problem solving, not just teach for memorization.)  

So that’s the stinky elephant in the room. Until this content reality changes, VR will never reach its potential in the educational market; VR will not scale to the level hoped for by the VR industry. Instead, educators will rapidly disinterest themselves with the lower, more passive forms of VR content and move on to other things. I hope the momentum will not be lost.

Now I know what you are thinking: “haters gonna hate and ain'ters gonna ain't” is what’s rolling through your head. But I’m no hater, mind you. As an executive board member of the ISTE 3D Network, I’ve been working to advance the implementation of 3D VR into schools.  And as the online community manager for the 9000 members of LinkedIn’s Stereoscopic 3D Media and VR Technology group, I continue fighting to keep this agenda on the table. I just haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid. Thanks, Karl.

August 22, 2016

Prime Time (1)

I was delighted to read TI Fellow Karl Guttag’s piece on Display Daily entitled "VR and AR Head Mounted Displays – Sorry, but there is no Santa Claus." In this remarkable piece, Guttag brings the reader back down to earth on the readiness of VR and AR technologies for the marketplace based on the absence of solutions for the many human factor challenges associated with VR and AR hardware.

Guttag’s article immediately led me to think about my area of specialty—schools and universities—and about another building block of scalability that he did not address, but remains an equally significant hurdle to broad adoption of these technologies in schools (or frankly, in any market.): 

VR content

In the grand scheme of things, content really matters. Then I wondered: “Is educational VR content ready for prime time in schools?”  In the next few posts, we will take a closer look at this issue. Stay tuned...

August 15, 2016


Hi, would you do me the privilege of voting for my SXSW proposal on 3D Virtual Reality in Education? (One must be ‘crowdsource’ voted to get accepted.) To vote, just click on the Link or the voting icon below. You will need to create an account and log in to vote, unfortunately. It would be so appreciated!

My proposed Panel Picker Session: Fishbowl: Virtual Reality in Education

August 8, 2016

3D's Real Plus-one

Some tech heads and gadget geeks suggest that 3D goes better with friends. That is to say, 3D will only thrive when combined with another technology. And they suggest the same will hold for virtual reality--that 3D VR needs a "plus-one."

Some experts feel that the next "plus-one" will be gesture recognition. Technologies like Leap Motion are indeed a sexy proposition as 3D’s and VR's potential plus-one, but my instinct says this may be merely a gadget crush. In the education market, delivery outscores feature set. Instead, imagine this:
Being able to deliver stereo 3D via the Internet, enabling 3D companies to dispense with the complexity, copy protection, installation, and reinstallation schemes that so agitate customers. Putting 3D in the cloud will simplify the storage, delivery, and frequent refresh of 3D and VR learning objects and simulations.

Is internet delivery of 3D a chimera? Look what smartphone delivery with Google Cardboard has done for 3D and VR. It looks like the plus-one for VR and 3D may have stepped onto the scene.  Or maybe not...

August 1, 2016

Growing 3D Organically (2)

The second phase of expansion of 3D visualization at Nevada State College (see last week's post) involves their advanced pre-med experiences, specifically, their human dissection cadaver lab. Nevada State is ramping up plans to provide both live and recorded stereo 3D cadaver dissections, using a head-mounted GoPro camera and stereo-displaying Panasonic projectors in the dissection lab and other classrooms. Hoping to deliver instruction as close to reality as possible, Dean Kuniyuki submits: “We want to have students prepared well. “He continues: “In the past, when we were only able to have two cadavers, it was the MDs that performed the dissections. [With 3D] we want more students to do hands on, rather than just passively watching what the MDs are doing.”

Currently, Nevada State has grown to six chambers, hosting three human cadavers and one synthetic cadaver. The synthetic cadaver is constructed of materials that feel like real human flesh (a real cadaver is stiff) and maintains natural coloration (real cadavers lose coloration). The synthetic cadaver looks and feels like a live human body, including a fat layer that oozes. Fluids can also be pumped into it. The synthetic cadaver, however, is still a consumable resource. Fortunately, the synthetic cadaver qualifies for free replacement after it has been used repeatedly. Not so with the human cadavers. The cost of cadavers runs the show. For that reason, the use of 3D video recording and display translates well, economically speaking. Students will make fewer mistakes on costly cadavers, becoming familiar with the tasks at hand (through visualization) before they work with the cadaver. “We want students, besides observing, to get their hands dirty, so to speak,” explains  Kuniyuki.  He also expects students to view 3D videos 3-4 times before making the hands on switch. (In our observing other 3D visualization projects world-wide, this is something we have called “learning replay”—the willingness of students to watch and re-watch 3D visualization for learning advantage.) Then, “when they are then working with the human cadavers, they know exactly what to expect,” he says.

Since many educators can be fiercely traditional-minded, it begs the question: “how did this growth of 3D visualization come to be?” Well, there is a mix of reasons. One reason is that the college had an existing infrastructure in place. “Because we had invested in the original 3D visualization infrastructure, we knew we had the possibility of expanding it in this manner,” beamed Dean Kuniyuki. In addition, school administrators are clearly listening to students, valuing the overall effectiveness of visualization, and seeking to provide improved learning experiences at a more affordable cost.

Currently, one of their challenges is exploring a transition from passive to active 3D in other areas of the campus. The jury is still out on this change up. I’ll have to return to see how the active-passive scuffle turns out. 

July 25, 2016

Growing 3D Organically (1)

(For the backstory, see last week's blog post)

Dr. Andy Kuniyuki
3D visualization (stereo, using passive display technology) continues to be integrated into every anatomy and physiology offering on campus at Nevada State. Systematized, if you will. And college leaders and faculty have not held pat. They have also integrated 3D visualization into their new student orientation activities. Dr. Andy Kuniyuki, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences explains exactly how they do it:Every new student orientation is conducted in rooms where they show, side-by-side, 2d (PowerPoint) and stereo 3D visualization.” Dean Kuniyuki chuckles as he reminisces, asking the question: “which do you prefer?”  He knows the answer beforehand, but he is trying to excite students for the first time, exposing them to this valuable learning tool even before students attend their first classes. “They are thrilled that we have that possibility [3D visualization].”

Nevada State is also moving forward on their visualization agenda. First, 3D visualization is making a big move into the School of Nursing. Use of 3D visualization in anatomy and physiology classes initially caused the word to get out and spread. Hearing from the students themselves, college administrators were hearing that older students wanted these richly visual learning experiences, as well. Nursing school leaders knew that there was huge evidence that pathophysiology is a defining course for nursing students. The current emphasis for instruction is a nursing/whole person perspective. Yet, a firm grasp of pathophysiology is known to be a real predictor of how students will perform as nurses in the field. What the school was missing was a teaching perspective that zoomed down to the tissue, cellular, and molecular levels. 3D visualization could help with this specific instructional challenge by filling a missing link in their instruction. A plan was developed to have instructors from both the liberal arts/sciences and the school of nursing co-teach these nursing courses in the NSC visualization labs. The first co-taught offerings begin this coming spring.

In our next post, we will take a close look at a second wave of 3D visualization strategy at Nevada State College.

July 18, 2016

Flash in the Pan

I’ve noticed something interesting about educational institutions over the years. Usually, once they have researched, procured, and installed
showcase 3D or VR environment, that’s the last you will hear about it.  That’s explains why I often pursue a long-term reporting strategy. Simply stated, I like to follow up. I am curious to see what has happened, to see if a project has evolved or quietly vanished into educational anonymity. Take the 3D visualization initiative at Nevada State College, for example. After I penned my first piece, Nevada State College Flies High, I wrote a follow-up piece, Unparalleled Learning.  That explains why I returned to the outskirts of Las Vegas to visit Nevada State for a third time. 

In the past two years, Nevada State College has experienced a building and enrollment boom. But with their venerable 3D instructional infrastructure in place, and new construction becoming the new major emphasis, did 3D visualization and display technology take a back seat? Stay tuned for next week’s post on what I saw on my third trip. It's all about the long view...

July 11, 2016

3D Content Update

Stereo 3D Content Providers - July 2016 Edition

Once or twice a year I provide a last of world-wide 3D content providers. It’s a top question I am asked at conferences across the U.S. Here is the latest list:

July 4, 2016

Mystery Theater

The Suspicious Case of the Mysteriously Vanishing 3D

Educational 3D has been mysteriously vanishing, without a trace. Has 3D become nothing more than an apparition, a fleeting wisp in the evolving fabric of education? Put on your gumshoe hat, read on, and be prepared to solve the troubling case of the mysteriously vanishing 3D.

The Mysteriously Vanishing 3D
Exhibit 1. 3D signs have been slowly disappearing from exhibit halls. Is there a deliberate thief at work, stealing away these popular signs?
Exhibit 2. Even though nine out of ten money-making blockbuster movies are still produced in 3D, the term 3D is never seen in educational technology articles in most school journals. Stolen in the night it seems.

Is something ominous happening here, something beyond the obvious? Is 3D in education dying a slow and predictable death? It’s time to play the Sherlock. Let’s explore the true story behind the erratic behavior we see in the evidence presented above.

The Strangely Reappearing 3D

Is 3D really disappearing from conferences and the literature? I once posed this question  on LinkedIn, and the response I received suggested that there are many 3D “haters.” That's a lot of suspects. But no, the solution is at hand. The mystery is about to be solved. At every conference I attend, and in all the journals I read, 3D is still there. It just changed its name. I wonder why? Maybe trying to avoid old and unwanted friendships, a tarnished reputation, a furious ex? No, 3D never left town. It never went off the grid.  It simply changed its name to VR. Most VR is 3D, you know. It's still there. Have you seen it?

June 27, 2016

Echo Chamber

At the ISTE 2016 conference, being held this week, virtual reality is no doubt turning out to be the new popular kid on the block. (See last week’s post.) But there’s a problem afoot: We are seeing an “echo chamber” effect at play in educational settings. Too many of these sessions sound like the same content: the field trip or the gadget. Both represent education ‘light.’ That’s not a good thing.

“Hardware has run ahead of content,” bemoans Rene Pinell of Kaleidoscope VR . She’s right. You can see it here at the ISTE conference. In the Wall Street Journal, Chrisotpher Mims lambasts the fact that “most content is demos.” He’s right, too. Can you whisper “hype cycle?” With the exception of zSpace and my own workshops (the last two on the list posted last week), there is nothing much new here. Unlike VR at the recent SXSWedu festival, which featured many creative twists for VR (e.g., online learning, virtual reality mashups, vision health, emotional intelligence, and the future of storytelling), VR at ISTE is, like many new technologies, pursuing the lowest common denominator. Ouch.

June 20, 2016

ISTE 2016 Preview

The annual ISTE conference is convening this year in Denver, Colorado. The ISTE conference is the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S, and will offer more than 1,000 educational sessions to more than 23,000+ teachers, professors, and administrators. Examining the ISTE 2016 conference landscape goes a long way in informing us about what is trending in education. Let’s zoom in on some of these developments from the perspective of 3D and virtual reality.

In the Conference Sessions
The upcoming ISTE conference will offer forty-six 3D-VR-AR-related events in their slate of sessions: five showcase 3D design in education; ten feature AR solutions; fourteen highlight 3D printing; and seventeen sessions specifically focus on VR in education. In the VR arena, the session titles convey particular meaning:
  • Google Cardboard, Virtual Field Trips, and Visual Learning: The Power of Maps
  • Google Cultural Institute and Google Cardboard (VR) for the Classroom K-12
  • Gizmos and Gadgets for Use in (but mostly out of) the Classroom
  • The Basics of the New 3"R's" in Education: AR, VR, QR
  • Classrooms, Made of, Virtual Reality Field Trips
  • Virtual Field Trips: Bringing the World to Your Classroom
  • Virtual Reality Bridges the Gap for ESL Learners
  • Virtual reality tour with Google Cardboard to amazing places!
  • 3D and Virtual Reality in the Classroom
  • Augmenting and Virtualizing Reality through Computer Science
  • Breaking out of the Norm with Virtual Reality
  • Tripping Out! Virtual Field Trips for All
  • Student Led Virtual Field Trips around the World
  • Discovering Immersive 3D and Virtual Reality in a STEAM classroom with zSpace
  • Creating a Customized Street View Experience for Your Classroom
  • Your First ISTE 3D VR Bootcamp
  • See 2 Achieve: Virtual Reality, 3D, Vision, and Learning

In the Exhibit Hall
3D and virtual reality stalwarts like zSpace, Unity, Google, Samsung, AV Rover, Sterling Pixels, and Sensavis are returning to the expo floor. New to the ISTE exhibit hall finds Mursion and Omniglobe with their first-ever presence.

3D Network Events

ISTE’s personal learning network (PLN)—the 3D Network—will also continue its educational advocacy for all things 3D. This group is expected to raise the decibel level of 3D and VR in education by again hosting three special events: their popular membership open house; the annual meet-and-greet event; and a panel presentation (entitled Designing, Visualizing, and Making in 3D) at the conference. (Companies wishing to have a presence—in person or with literature—at the 3D Network meet-and-greet event, scheduled for Tuesday morning should contact this author sooner rather than later.)

June 13, 2016

Accelerator (3)

In the two previous posts, we have focused on the notion of 3D as a learning accelerator. So, how does this all work? It’s no surprise. It's the power of visualization in learning. Sofia Kruth, the innovative school teacher identified in the last two posts, makes the following conclusions about the power of 3D visualization in the classroom:

In my view it is simply outstanding, I have never before seen or experienced this level of complexity when children this young talk and explain the process of making oxygen. If given a chance they can perform on a much higher level then given levels in the curriculum.”

Even the U.S. National Science Foundation National Institutes of Health note in their seminal report, calling for more visualization tool development: “Visualization plays a role in saving lives, accelerating discovery, and promoting education through improved understanding.”