May 20, 2019

Reality Check (3)

Is VR truly popular in classrooms these days? [Pivotal] Unfortunately, I am seeing too few yeses and too many noes in the conversation. In the recent months, here is even more insightful data I have been wrestling with:

No More? Has Google conquered the education world, claiming more than 2 million Google Expedition users worldwide? [Enables exploration] Sounds like real penetration of the ed market, doesn’t it? Not really. First, their actual penetration rate is miniscule. UNICEF estimated there are 650 million children of primary age in the world, and nearly double that if you include secondary students. Based on these assumptions, Google has only reached 0.003 (less than a third of 1 percent) of elementary students worldwide, and only 0.0015 of all students, both primary and secondary. Second, “having used” (just once or a few times) is much different in schools than “are using” (daily, weekly, monthly, frequently). Sounds like hype, doesn’t it? You bet.
Only a Bit More. Google conquers the U.K. is what some people say, with over a half million students having used their singular Google Expeditions platform. [Builds understanding] But if you assume in excess of 10 million students in the U.K. at minimum, that converts into a 0.05 penetration rate. (And, of course, we must still own the “having used” versus “are using” verbiage.) Translated, more than 95% of UK students have not used Google Expeditions. Oh well.
Remember, in order to keep our blog readers from falling off the feared precipice of despair, I have deliberately embedded words of hope throughout this series, as seen in the top paragraph, in [bracketed italics]. These are expressions that literally shout the promise and potential of virtual reality, while counterbalancing the bad news.  These words are not just taken magically from the air, but consist of actual text snatched from the VR-related exhibit hall booths and sales literature at a recent ed-tech conference, ‘designer’ phraseology that help sell VR to tech-hungry educators. 

May 13, 2019

Reality Check (2)

So, let’s start our VR reality check, which is based on a recent avalanche of data points occurring in schools, not in the artificially glorified environments of conferences and expo halls. [Democratizing education]
Is VR very popular in classrooms? [Pivotal] Unfortunately, I am seeing too few yeses and too many noes in the conversation. In the recent months, here is a flood of feedback about VR I have been receiving from educators or some of the insightful data I have come across:
No Show. One educator I spoke with told me how their school leaders, excited by the educational possibilities of using virtual reality in their public school classrooms, offered a dedicated break-out session on VR on their first “professional development day” for teachers. [Learning] Not one teacher attended the VR session. No one. [Revolutionary]
No Go. In another public school, an elementary school, a district-level tech expert visited the school to offer a VR workshop (that, in this case, teachers were required to attend). [Transporting] According to one attendee, most teachers present at this workshop felt it wasn’t something immediately useful for them. Fast forward three months. Not a single teacher had taken up this technology in their classrooms. No takers. None. Zilch. [Impactful]
No Time. Laura Tickle, a K-5 technology coordinator at Ben Franklin Academy, a high-performing Charter school in Colorado, reported that “’zero’ teachers are using VR currently.” [Exciting] When asked to explain why, she responded: “Time would be the main issue with not using VR.” Teachers have so little of it. She added “and we do not have any equipment for it.” [A real turn-on]

No Priority. Joy Vigil, a middle school technology coach at a respected Colorado magnet school, The Academy of Charter Schools, noted that teachers at her school are also not yet using VR in instruction. [Illustrious] She explained, “This is due to lack of equipment and training”. And when schools don’t buy—and don’t train—it’s simply a technology that is not high up on their priority scale. [Powerful]
Remember, in order to keep our blog readers from falling off the feared precipice of despair, I have deliberately embedded words of hope throughout this series, as seen in the top paragraph, in [bracketed italics]. These are expressions that literally shout the promise and potential of virtual reality, while counterbalancing the bad news.  These words are not just taken magically from the air, but consist of actual text snatched from the VR-related exhibit hall booths and sales literature at a recent ed-tech conference, ‘designer’ phraseology that help sell VR to tech-hungry educators. 

May 6, 2019

Reality Check (1)

There is so much hype surrounding VR in education nowadays, it seems particularly wise to stop and do a reality check, at least once in a great while. [Enticing]
Although I am personally quite bullish on VR, this will not be another one of those cheerleading series about the potential of VR in education. [Amazing] No, what I am about to report may prove downright depressing. [Inspiring]
Thus, in order to keep our blog readers from falling off the feared precipice of despair, I have deliberately embedded words of hope throughout this series, as seen in the very first paragraph above, in [bracketed italics]. These are expressions that literally shout the promise and potential of virtual reality, while counterbalancing the bad news. [Elevating] These words are not just taken magically from the air, but consist of actual text snatched from the VR-related exhibit hall booths and sales literature at a recent ed-tech conference, ‘designer’ phraseology that help sell VR to tech-hungry educators. [Engaging]
Our in depth reality check begins next week!

April 29, 2019

A Researcher's Reveal

I was recently interviewed by a researcher from a respected think tank and consultancy group about the newest trends in educational VR. I am sure that my interview slid in at the end of their interviewing process, because the researcher uncharacteristically revealed some of her preliminary findings culled from other interviews.

The first reveal is that, at least in higher education, many educators don’t really know how to fit VR within any curriculum or how to use it for educational impact. 

A second reveal is that most of her higher-ed interviewees pointed to K-12 educators as doing much more with VR than they were in their own universities. 

Both reveals are not a surprise whatsoever. In a recent article, I cited a 2017 survey by Pearson that came to the same conclusion as the first reveal shown above. But I would disagree with the second reveal. I find contrarily that the effective use of VR in K-12 schools is statistically exaggerated. 

April 22, 2019

Fluent Words

One trend I have noticed, from China to the U.S., is the growing use of virtual reality to improve conversational and situational fluency in world language acquisition. Take a look at Fluent Worlds.

April 15, 2019

Actual Reality

Actual Reality is basically a new type of XR

This Actual Reality video, courtesy of Green.TV has gone viral, plus it’s popular with educators. Take a look. It’s good to laugh at ourselves, at least sometimes.

Actual Reality from Len Scrogan on Vimeo.

April 8, 2019

Stuck at First Base

Are you stranded on First Base?

Everywhere I go, teachers are stuck at first base: using VR for virtual field tips, like this one: Project Pakistan

This is certainly a very nice experience, but I can’t wait until educators move on to second base, using interactive simulations to teach rigorous topics (see SuperChem VR) or third base, where students begin to create their own VR content. But it’s also possible to hit a four-bagger, a home run, when kids create their own VRhardware.

April 1, 2019

SImple VR Creation

One of the most under-emphasized areas in the booming field of virtual reality involves user-generated content. I’ve noticed at many tech conferences that a keen interest for student-created content options is resonating at an all-time high, especially for folks in higher education.

Enter WhooshVR. These folks are chiefly known for Whoosh3D, a 3D-enabled 9H tempered glass screen protector which comes with its own app.  Whoosh3D enables a conventional smartphone or tablet device to create, convert, stream, and display 2D and stereo 3D content, in a glasses-free format.  But WhooshVR is a pleasant addition to their platform, something I see as having high potential in the education market.

Basically, WhooshVR is an app that enables a conventional phone to capture a
2D photo with a single click, convert it to 3D VR format, and create tilt-view VR photos and video, whereby the edges of the frame expand beyond one’s peripheral vision. Its current photo capture constraint is 140 degree FOV with a phone’s camera and 180 degrees with a fisheye lens.  Interestingly, all photo capture is via a single photo shot; I do not need to rotate the phone or exhibit socially awkward photo capture behaviors, thank goodness. According to Simon Gemayel, CEO of 3DVT: “We're changing the face of  VR content by shifting people from being content consumers to “content creators” simply by using their phone – the camera we all carry around in our pocket – and using it in a way which is natural to human behavior; photo capture with a single click.” He gleams:   “This is a powerful change in paradigm.  Never before has 3D and VR3D been so simple, so affordable, and so accessible. “

The introductory app is free, yet basic. Users can upgrade for additional features, such as the ability to capture 180 and 360 without a fisheye lens; and to access virtually any photo from their device’s own photo and video libraries.  The upsell version will also allow users to access VR and 3D content on YouTube.

From the perspective of the consumer, I see this as a low-cost and non-complicated way to capture 3D pictures and video, enjoying the ability to click through a mass of images using my VR headgear or the auto-stereo display. I can print what I see on a either a color printer or 3D printer and can email or post my images from the app. From an educator’s perspective, I like the hands-free use, enabled through gaze control on an onscreen dashboard. The intuitive dashboard allows immediate depth editing, zooming, and quick visual tweaking. In my way of thinking, it provides an easy way for the youngest children, or beginning students at higher levels, to jump right into the fray, using a tool I consider a valuable precursor to more sophisticated and time-consuming content generation tools. 

March 25, 2019

"Majoring in VR"

Across the U.S., we are seeing the growing frequency of private programs (NYTedu and the Academy of VR) designed to teach students to design VR. Then it should be no large surprise  that now we have a college in Florida offering a full major in VR design and creation: Ringling College.

March 18, 2019

What it takes

What does it take to make VR projects successful?

What does it take to get muscular with your VR project?
I have found that the following combined strategies can beat down the failure phenomenon. In successful implementations, your project or venture will likely evidence:
  • A respected champion (teacher, principal, or district administrator)
  • A clear and sustained plan for scaling the innovation
  • Attention density, an instructional focus that is consistent and stable over time. (See (Rock, D., and Schwartz, J. (2009) The Neuroscience of Leadership; and Olivero, Bane, Kopelman (1997)
  • Unyielding systematization of the innovation within the culture and curriculum of the school. (It’s not just a fun add-on, but a both a required and culturally acceptable methodology.)
  • A plan for minimizing the predictable organizational entropy associated with any innovation: loss of key staff, equipment obsolescence, technical difficulties, newly competing priorities, ongoing training, and curricular systematization, to name a few)
  • Constant evaluation, continuous improvement, and evidencing of results. (We value only what we measure, what works.)


March 11, 2019

Why Technology Fails

Imagine this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario occurring in a pilot project implementing VR in an educational setting:

After completing a twelve- month pilot project in a dozen schools in this European capitol, the final results were in. Kids loved the technology and felt it improved their learning and even the relevance of the curriculum itself. Yet teachers appeared consistently resistant to the technology: they could not envision its use and did not want to continue to use it.

Of course, this is a true story. Why does this happen?  And most importantly, when teachers are way out of step with where the kids are at, what can we do about it? Read our next series of posts to understand this unfortunate paradox and how we can deal with it.

March 4, 2019

Why Projects Fail

Why do VR projects sometimes fail?
Research shows that teachers are a volunteeristic and idiosyncratic lot. Teaching itself is a volunteeristic and idiosyncratic profession. Teachers will tackle innovation only if they want to, and stay with it only if the technology suits their style and preferences. You can’t expect much else. So what happened in the previously posted scenario unfortunately sounds about right. It’s for these reasons that it’s always a tough proposition to implement technology innovation in educational settings. Only highly creative, intrinsically motivated, or curiously inventive teachers break out of this pattern. And a few creative teachers will not create overwhelming scalability for exciting VR products or solutions.

Why don’t more teachers kick in?
Even if a given technology is popular with young people, most teachers tend to put themselves in lanes of instructional practice and habit, and it becomes stubbornly difficult to move them into other lanes. For example, three teachers may show an interest, but many other teachers do not—and won’t—because they feel the implementing teachers have this innovation ‘covered’. In schools and universities, time is a limited commodity for teachers. Any time that would be taken to implement a technology would clearly complete with the taut limits of volunteerism and the narrowed preferences or idiosyncrasies of teachers. And, sometimes, pushing for technology innovation may take on a “mean-spirited” twist. For example, in some school districts or universities, a technology using teacher/professor may be viewed as a technology or innovation diva (in the negative sense of the word) —an attention hog—and they can be mocked or avoided by other ‘normalized’ educators. “Not for us,” they cry!

February 25, 2019

More Smart People

VR in Education has a lot of smart people doing interesting work. For example, these two experts are exploring the promise and potential of VR in education, demonstrating some quite successful implementations. Take a look at the links  below.

Julian McCrea of the Virtual Film School 

Grace Lau of the Global Nomads Group

February 18, 2019

VR and 3D Innovation

There is one thing for certain these days: there are a lot of smart people working in the VR field. many of them considering its wisest application within education practice. Smart people like:

Max Orozco, co-founder of Lumeum VR, who is dedicated to “bringing VR to those who need it the most” (such as those with limited mobility and the elderly).

Darius Clarke, a VR instructor, who once told me he aims to give youth nothing less than "x-ray vision and fantasy vision” through VR. An interesting perspective, isn't it?

John Rupkalvis, the well-travelled stereo and VR expert, is also bullish on the possibilities for VR in education: “Having conducted numerous tutorials at a variety of educational institutions, including colleges, universities, trade schools, and even K-12 schools, I have gained an appreciation for the numerous ways that complex concepts may be conveyed with clarity through the use of stereoscopic 3D, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality systems.”

February 11, 2019

zSpace Laptop

Have you heard? The New zSpace AR/VR Laptop?

zSpace has outdone themselves with their new AR/VR-capable laptop (VR defined here as 3D), now in growing use in the Atlanta Public Schools. See the laptop’s specs here.

February 4, 2019

NSA 3D Convention

Readers should be aware of the upcoming 3D-Con 2019 convention, an effort supported by the National Stereoscopic Association Convention , being held in Akron (OH), July 30-August 5, 2019.  I have attended one of these conferences, and they are quite interesting, from the perspective of legacy 3D and moving forward into its VR future. 

January 28, 2019

VR and the Idealism/Realism Tussle

The case study I have related in the previous two posts is a fairly positive one. This school district is definitely on the right track toward addressing the achievement gap problem. But I routinely like to temper these feel-good anecdotes with just a dab of scrutiny. It's part of my job—to be a "critical friend" of otherwise successful efforts at classroom innovation. 

Here are some key reservations that worry me about VR in classrooms:
  • In order to be effective, VR must be inset within the curriculum and not stand on its own;
  • High costs ($7000 for a classroom set,as described in last week's post) is simply and arguably unsustainable in today's classrooms. Neither is it scalable.
  • In many case studies, I often notice the presence of more than one eudcators. The presence of so many adult ‘guides’ (3 in the previous case study) in a single classroom also forestalls true scalability and sustainability. 
  • Safety concerns (that students stay in their seats and not bump into each other), is a real problem; 
Closing the achievement gap is a worthy goal for the use of VR in today's classrooms. I encourage a contnued research. However, let's measure and report on the gains of disadvantaged students in relationship to more privileged students, so we know how big a difference we are actually making.

January 21, 2019

Case Study Findings

In last week's posting, we looked at an interesting case study on the use of VR to address the achievement gap in learning. For a quick background, start there, and then return here to review the findings. 

Three outcomes were notable:

  • Before the VR experience, class conversations about the marine world were shallow and lacking, because the students had never been to the ocean before. After the treatment, class conversation lit up. Students were far more willing to share ideas and talk about the things they saw.
  • According to Seymour, the 30 minute virtual trip seemed to have a lasting effect on most students. They constantly referred back to things they saw, heard or learned during their virtual trips.
  • Overall, writing was more descriptive, vivid and detailed after the VR treatment.

Interestingly, these results are consistent with past research using stereoscopic 3D in classrooms, not just the more recent VR phenomenon. In fact, they are almost identical. None of these findings should surprise us, though. VR merely leverages the cognitive principles and advantages of visualization and ‘transfer’ of learning.

January 14, 2019

Grant Opportunity

Here's an opportunity you may want to look at, with a deadline of January 25:

"Recognizing the experiential storytelling potential of immersive technologies like virtual reality, Digital Promise Global, the United Nations SDG Action Campaign, and Oculus have launched MY World 360°, supporting youth worldwide to create 360° media as a way to share their perspectives and advance positive action toward the Sustainable Development Goals."

As part of MY World 360°, Digital Promise Global is providing a limited number of 360° media production kits to support schools and youth organizations around the world to create 360° media.


January 7, 2019

A VR Case Study

"Can virtual-reality help close the achievement gap?" For those not fluent in this topic, in the United States the "achievement gap" signifies the persistent gap we see in the academic performance levels of students of differing social economic status, race/ethnicity, and gender. In U.S. schools, the efforts to shrink this gap are relentless.

Brian Seymour, Director of Instructional Technology with the Pickerington Local School District Ohio, campaigns passionately about reducing some of these disparities with the help of virtual reality. Seymour, named the Ohio IT IP Outstanding Technology Using Administrator for 2017, laments that “educators around the world are looking for ways to close the achievement gap that exists between privileged students in disadvantaged students” and has acted on the hunch that “virtual-reality [could do] a fantastic job of allowing students to have virtual experiences that they might not have otherwise.” This is his story, his case study.

Seymour began by rolling out a two-part case study on using VR to reduce the achievement gap at Tussing Elementary, a diverse school where 58% of students receive free or reduced lunch and more than 25 languages are spoken at home. The plan was to use VR within a three-week unit on oceans and marine animals. “For students in Ohio, going to the beach is no easy outing”, he explained. “Those with means can fly to the East or West Coast during summer vacation. But many will never see the ocean up close." The lack of ocean experience for these landlocked students would ordinarily “leave students disengaged with the material.” With VR, however, they hoped to take students on a field trip to the beach, try a bit of snorkeling, and experience the inside of a shark cage.

Using Viewmaster VR goggles, purchased in four classroom sets (28  goggles per set, at roughly $7000 per kit), a core group of educators first learned how to use them and then matched up the best content possible in order to meet their unit learning objectives.

At first, students were taught traditionally for two weeks. When the first day of VR instruction arrived, the goggles were set up in the classroom while the kids were at lunch, and the app was loaded, and launched for use. The kids returned from lunch and recess and, after just 3 minutes of how-to instruction, the children were off exploring the ocean. (Yes, today's students are bright, able to learn what they need to know and proceed on their own in minutes.)

Three adults facilitated the learning in the room, ensuring that students stay in their seats and not bump into each other. These educators also circulated around the room, asking questions and reminding the children kids to explore in all directions, not just what was in front of them.

In a second experience, the educators pursued a blended learning approach, having half of the students on the VR goggles, while the remaining children read a story related to their VR experience and then switched.  This technique had only half of the students on the VR goggles at any one time. (Note that these classroom sets are a shared resource, travelling around the district.)

What were the results? Come back next week for the interesting findings...