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.)


T

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. 


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.

Apply


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.

Background
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.

Procedures
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...


August 20, 2018

Musings from the Yangpu


I recently found myself near the broad waters of the Yangpu river during the late springtime, mindfully pondering the crossroads of opposites that is today's Shanghai. Earlier, I gave a spirited TEDx talk about virtual-reality at the Caohejing Hi-Tech Park Innovation Center. Parents were extremely interested in the vision health concerns associated with viewing VR in school settings. At the end of my visit, I spoke to a group of parents at a prestigious Chinese school about trends in U.S. technology for schools. Between these bookends, I listened, learned, questioned and observed. 


I learned about a popular and well attended VR expo held in China that preceded my TED talk, and saw VR prominently featured in storefronts for language instruction. It's interesting that VR may be more integrated in business culture in China than in the U.S. But it's definitely not as widely used in schools as is the case in the U.S. 

August 13, 2018

Disintermediation


Education in the U.S. is an endeavor that gravitates toward disintermediation at every level, whenever possible. Close the classroom door, and teachers can do whatever they want. 

That explains why many schools and classrooms are making VR happen on their own, not waiting in line for approval, authorization, or formalization by Google or anyone.  No, they are jumping right in. Get out of their way. If they want VR, they will get it. Impatient teachers are setting up their own carts, viewers, and curriculum. Interestingly, many experienced educators and administrators are surprised by the rapid pace of this innovation’s infusion. These school leaders are finding themselves in the unfortunate position of having to play catch up.

August 6, 2018

VRCA

“Virtual Reality Coding Academy: Teach Your Students to Code” offers a VR coding curriculum to educators, tapping into the potent coding meme present these days. By the way, VRCA is superheavyweight contender, concealing its considerable prowess underneath an ‘unknown’ boxer’s robe. They are part of EYEQXL, a company with considerable VR heft, and I presume a contender soon to expand in a greater way into the public eye. 



July 30, 2018

Coming Soon


Sometimes we see some VR developments coming up the road, capable companies “waiting in the wings” for better publicity. Here are a few:


Silas. Silas(Socially Interactive Learning Avatar Software) is an avatar-based animation software for teaching Social Skills. It lets students learn and practice social skills by creating their own animated movies on their computer. For Silas, viewing student-created VR is coming soon.

The Beamer. The Beamer has created the Stardust Mystery Game. VR is on the way for this creative learning experience.  In the game, students are sent back in time with three friends friends to find the source for your inherited stardust (atoms). In this simulation, soon to be made VR-ready, a team takes photos, collects samples, and explores the surroundings in search of their atomistic origins. That’s the way VR should be employed—not merely field trips—but in an experiential way.

Parrott Education. A UAV (drones) company, Parrott is showing their tablet-VR-drone interwoven solution, hoping for some audience appreciation.

July 23, 2018

VR: Back to School



VRCA.  “Virtual Reality Coding Academy: Teach Your Students to Code” is offering a four-course VR coding curriculum to middle and high school students, tapping into the potent coding meme so popular these days. By the way, VRCA is part of EYEQXL, a company with considerable VR heft, and I presume a contender soon to expand in a greater way into the public eye. 

July 16, 2018

ViziTech Takes Aim


Vizitech USA has been in the 3D and VR space for some time, but here's a heads up. Their strong suit, mostly ignored by other VR sluggers, is to bring the world of visualization to vocational education or career-technical education (CTE) as we call it in the States. It’s a smart move: the current U.S. administration has just begun a renewed push for both pre- and post-high school vocational education. See their website.

July 9, 2018

Advice to the VR Industry

Here's some advice for the burgeoning VR industry. These suggestions are for the hardware, content, and integration people alike, notions that will help you effectively reach and scale in the K-12 and university market place:
  • improve the digital quality and feel of your VR graphics; 
  • employ more favorable pricing for cash-strapped schools, small-sized schools, and rural schools;
  • realign your volume purchase schedules to create greater incentive to buy (currently many pricing schedules unkowingly disincentivize customer purchase);
  • offer a straight-out purchase solution (as opposed to annual pricing structures, which are distasteful, painful, and unsustainable to most schools).
Many great VR products develop minimal sales traction when they unkowingly pursue a pathway toward pricing failure. Just saying.

July 2, 2018

Being Veative

 Singapore is in the house. That’s right, Veative, a virtual reality company headquartered in Singapore with offices in India, USA, UAE, and Egypt, has hit the VR market with notable fanfare. Veative is a joint effort by two respected digital learning organizations – Piron Corporation and Almotahida Education Group – in a new and growing partnership that advances 3-D, VR, AR and MR in learning.

Veative (apparently a portmanteau combining “virtual reality” and “creative”) brings to the table a number of ‘differentiators’ when compared with other players in the ed market:

  • Veative offers interactive VR modules that include 3D models (learning objects, we call them), 360 videos, simple and complex simulations, as well as accompanying assessments.
  • They offer both Internet and local (offline) delivery options (students and teachers can choose to download VR content from the online store or from a local [offline] content access point.) 
  • Veative features greater interactivity than their competitors, integrating the use of handheld controllers throughout their content for interactivity purposes. 
  • They offer a free creative VR learning app, more than 50 free lessons for schools, and some wonderful virtual labs and simulations, which are especially valuable for online learning programs. Veative’s VR modules are now available for Middle School Math and Science, and High School Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. All lessons are currently available in multiple languages, as well.
  • Veative offers a complete ecosystem of surrounding value, including a comprehensive VR curriculum, mapped to the curriculum; VR Learn, a content delivery app for students (students can organize existing VR modules and add new ones in their own library); a teacher tablet with a management control app  (teachers can control student screens or can install/uninstall and launch VR modules remotely on student devices.)
  • They also offer VR headgear options, a wireless classroom router. a lockable/rollable charging/storage unit (called a ‘trolley’), reporting and analytics features, LMS integration, and insructional support (an in-house team of education experts available for advice and lesson/module design).

Ankur Aggarwal, CEO of Veative, reasons: “Content is a key pain point for adoption of VR.” He predicts: “We look forward to extending our 400+ apps in STEM to breadth across new content areas, including coding, language learning, and apps that are cross-curricular.”