September 1, 2014

Constructing 3D (2)

Tools for Stereo 3D Video Production

I am often asked the question "What software can I have my students use to make video content in stereo 3D?" There are many options, but here is my short list: 


Final Cut Pro

Adobe  Premiere Pro and Cineform Neo3D

Houdini offers a free apprentice/educator version of this tool used to make most Hollywood movies!

Feel free to post a comment highlighting other tools not listed.

On a side topic, if you want to get started now and don’t have 3D projectors and glasses, you can start with what I call a precursor 3D experience in stitched rendered 3D through Microsoft PhotoSynth

August 25, 2014

Constructing 3D (1)

Tools for Stereo 3D Authoring 

I am often asked the question "What tools can I have my students use to construct images and content in stereo 3D?" There are many options, but here is my short list. Feel free to post a comment highlighting other tools not listed.

Unity offers a free version for educators. Used in heavily in North Carolina schools

Blender is a free open-source tool for educators. Used in heavily in Iowa and VREP schools

Reallusion offers iClone V, a low-cost design tool

Houdini offers a free apprentice/educator version of this tool used to make most Hollywood movies!

Maya (just google maya stereoscopic 3d for more resources; the word stereoscopic is important)

Eon Reality offers Eon Creator, a commercial tool

Sculptris is a tool some of the schools in the VREP program are using to great effect.

August 18, 2014

Nifty 3D Camera

Here’s a welcome resource for your budding 3D classroom: Phogy, a free 3D parallax camera. 

This app (produced by Vivoti) runs on the Android platform (download here) or the iPhone platform (download there). Short instructions are available on the app, but the English isn’t quite correct, so it may take some re-reading to get started. Nevertheless, a great tool for the classroom. And the price is right.

Special note: The Apple version requires iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for the iPhone 5. 

August 11, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (4)

In our previous posts in this series, we highlighted five of the strategies for scaling 3D beyond the single school installation or pilot project. In this post we will unpack three more practical strategies worth emulation: 

The Leveraging. Once the stories are being told, once the results are seeing the light of day, it’s time to connect those stories with an urgent need for action. The underlying premise is to use your past success to leverage even more success. The basic approach is to demonstrate that a technology-based intervention resulted in clear benefits and then request the resources required to expand the capabilities or reach of that intervention.  Here’s a chart that shows how that is supposed to work:

A technology-based project is producing notable results in a fourth grade classroom…

Let’s do better by extending the project to other classrooms.
A technology-based initiative is producing notable results in pilot schools…

Let’s grow this successful effort to more schools, so more students can benefit.

A smart educator will now raise the stakes, perhaps submitting a funding proposal to your superintendent, the school board, the PTO, a local business partner, a local educational foundation, or a probable grant source. Leveraging efforts must begin in earnest if scaling is to become a reality.

The Swell. Great technology efforts have wheels. They somehow inch beyond the artificial curbs associated with “pilot technology projects” entering the thoroughfare of relevance as they extend to other schools. Ms. Hillman explained early on in the St. Francis initiative: “I am currently working with teachers from the High School in an effort to expand… I am certain I will find teachers just as enthusiastic as myself to step outside of the box and implement this innovative instructional approach. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.”

The Anticipated Wrinkle. Surprises happen and good technology implementers know it. Recently, Ms. Hillman learned that both her highly supportive superintendent and her wise and sympathetic I.T. Director were leaving for new opportunities. This normally sounds a death knell for scaling and sustaining any budding technology initiative. Surviving leadership changes and knowing how to sustain an initiative for the long haul require quick thinking, agility, and no shortcuts in in the eight scaling principles identified in this piece. Since Holli Hillman has carefully built the proper scaffolding described in the eight principles above, there is far less worry over unanticipated transitions.

Following these principles, scaling educational 3D from single-school projects to district-wide initiatives is in the cards.

August 4, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (3)

In our previous post we highlighted two of the strategies used by Holli Hillman used in scaling 3D beyond the single school installation or pilot project. In this post we will unpack three more practical strategies worth emulation: 

The Plan.  Most school technology efforts use an approach like this: “Fire, Aim, Ready!” Ms. Hillman’s paradigm became “Ready…Aim… Fire!” She knew that “you don’t just buy 3D.” You plan for 3D; you think it through; and you try to remove as many obstacles as you can before you begin. In developing her action plan, Ms. Hillman sought help from both inside and outside the district, ensuring that her efforts would indeed be successful.

The Promotion. In a famous Russian farce by Ilf and Petrov, “Christopher Columbus Discovers America,” there’s a saying uttered by Christopher Columbus that goes like this: “Without publicity—there’s no prosperity!” Effective scaling of 3D from one school to many schools requires marketing and promotion. In the midst of her project, Ms. Hillman wrote the following note to me: “This morning I had a VIP visitor. Brenda Cassellius, the Commissioner of Education for the state of Minnesota came in to view our district’s 3D set up and the way in which we are using it. Then on Monday,  I will have a Congresswoman here also. Very exciting things happening!”

The Results. In education, effective promotion is more likely to see scale increase if results are strongly evident. Simply using technology is never as convincing as is producing results with technology. Ms. Hillman didn’t merely show off the technology, she marketed the results of using 3D in the classroom. She began to gather informative student anecdotes or stories, collect data on student performance and improvement, and document  how well—or how quickly—students were learning.

In our next and final post in this series about scaling educational 3D, we will explore three more critical strategies. Please come back next week.

July 28, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (2)

The St. Francis 3D project described in last week's post began in a single school, in a single fourth grade classroom. But last year, it was extended to all of the other schools in this innovative district. How did they do it? Here are two of the keys to success we can unpack from this timely success story:

The Champion. The vision began with a lone fourth-grade teacher, Holli Hillman. She was struck with the potential of 3D visualization in learning and acted upon her vision. She became a force of one. A ‘champion’ is the term we often use in education. She ached for a chance to employ this technology to improve student learning. That’s how all good educators improve classrooms—with a yearning, an ache, and by untiringly wondering, “what if?”

The Allies. The reality is that a force of one doesn’t really work in education. You might think so, but it doesn’t. Ms. Hillman had to find allies in order to truly realize her vision. She presented her ideas to her principal, colleagues, peers, parents, district leaders, superintendent, and even I.T. technical leaders. She sought their support, their advice, and their blessing. She convinced them, but she did so based on trust, passion, and the promise of value-added learning. In doing so, she grew and nurtured a large ‘family’ of co-travelers. She wrote: “My Superintendent along with his entire District Leadership Team were some of the first to view the 3D content only 12 short hours after it was up and running. I have been enthusiastic about this pilot project for quite some time and was ecstatic to share it immediately once it was up and running. My Superintendent couldn’t stop grinning as he walked from one corner of the room to the other watching the stereoscopic imagery travel with him. He was stunned that what I had been describing for several months was exactly as incredibly visual as I explained. He and I talked extensively about how this would be used in the classroom as a teaching and learning tool; and why this content is so incredible.”

In next week's blog post, we will unpack six more vital keys for scaling up 3D in your setting.

July 21, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (1)

If you look at 3D in education across country, almost all implementations involve isolated, individual schools. These pioneer 3D-using sites are often magnet, STEM-focused, private, charter, or otherwise impassioned schools that simply caught the vision and saw the potential for 3D visualization in learning. 

In some U.S. school districts, mobile 3D carts have been purchased for every school, but almost all of these ‘district’ efforts have grown quiet, languishing due to lack of vision, training, and leadership. In my opinion, you cannot simply “buy 3D” and throw it loosely into classrooms; rather, effective and log-lasting  3D programs must be seeded, grown, nurtured, and cultivated. Above all, they must be led.

The St. Francis school district 3D project may well be the only successful district-level implementation of 3D learning in the U.S. Certainly, this group of forward-thinking educators offers key strategies for successfully pursuing district-wide implementation of 3D in almost any setting. What we can learn from this district will help all of us better support, sustain, and leverage future 3D initiatives in schools.

The St. Francis project began in a single school, in a single fourth grade classroom. But this last year, it was extended to all of the other schools in this innovative district. How did they do it? In our next blog posts, we unpack some of the keys to success for scaling educational 3D.

July 14, 2014

When 3D Falls Short

In my previous posts in this series, I took time to translate many of the powerful creative thoughts of Clyde Dsouza into the context of classroom learning. In this sequel, I will draw upon Dsouza’s expertise to answer the countervailing question: “Why is some eS3D content so darn lackluster?

3D falls short in classrooms when:

Clyde Dsouza,
author of Think in 3D
It’s too flat. In his book, Think in 3D, Dsouza proposes that [when viewing 3D] “the screen really is a stage for all purposes. It is no longer a flat wall.” Dsouza accurately understands that, whenever 3D educational content is so close in appearance to flat movies, it loses its appeal. Think about it. Why would schools pay for the extra costs of 3D if they are only a little bit better than a 2D classroom video? It’s so obvious! He concludes, “A subtle look 3D film may as well be 2D.” So, too, in classroom 3D. In education, depth ‘rules’ and flat ‘drools’. (Please excuse my use of middle school vernacular).

It’s too subtle. Dsouza believes that is a mistake to assume that "subtle 3D is good 3D." He warns that “subtle 3D at all times  creates safe – [and] boring 3D. I agree. Anyone who knows educations is well aware that ‘boring’ ushers in an“irreversible kiss of death.”

It moves too fast. According to Dsouza, “the familiar montage like style , made up of rapid cuts, frequently changing camera angles, or fast camera motion that is normally used to convey anticipation, excitement, or other emotions into 2D movies” just doesn’t work in 3D film. I can say the same for the classroom. The classroom is different than the movie theater or entertainment ride.

3D content still has a long way to go. Some companies—like zSpace, CubeDigiCo, and Sensavis—are leading the way. Hardware and software companies alike would be wise to pick up Dsouza's book, connect with his ideas, and start to really think in 3D.

July 7, 2014

When eS3D content is amazing

Think in 3D by Clyde Dsouza
Recently reading Think in 3D made me think about those moments when 3D content is absolutely amazing in the classroom. How does that work? According to Dsouza, 3D content becomes truly amazing when:

It tells a story. Dsouza  is never apologetic in his passion for “the art of 3D storytelling.” Great eS3D doesn’t just focus student attention, it tells a vital story, one which students need to learn about in a given subject area.

It offers dwell time. Dsouza explains: “By its very nature, stereo 3D invites the user to look around a panoramic vista when presented… Giving the eyes and brain time to sample and savor a scene in these establishing shots key to successfully telling a story in stereo 3D.” This is something I have noticed in using great eS3D in the classroom—it compels more dwell time.

It offers out-of-screen real estate. Dsouza agrees with most teachers when he offers the opinion that “true stereographers know that out of screen real estate is invaluable to immersive 3D ...”  I can confirm his view. Out-of-screen real estate really matters to students.

It leverages 3DDsouza teaches that using 3D well “means that the unfolding story should know when to leverage 3D to heighten, ebb, or even alienate the audiences from the protagonist at appropriate stages during the screenplay.” Great eS3D in schools works in much the same way. The right learning object or scene geography is found at exactly the right depth—and for the right reason.

It activates our reflexesDsouza has observed that 3D is “a powerful phenomenon that can even activate our physical reflexes.” He notes “this is why we flinch or duck when we see something ‘flying’ out of the screen in a 3D movie. We don't usually have the same reaction in a 2D movie.” Great eS3D has the same effect on students—time after time.

It serves as a powerful triggerDsouza wonders: “Can stereoscopic 3D imagery be a ‘trigger?’ Could a scene in a 3D movie of balloons at a kid’s party trigger an emotional response in the audience remembering his childhood?” In education, we know that the mental images of stereo 3D content do indeed work the other way: eliciting greater recall, triggering, in the “mind’s eye,” a picture of a difficult or abstract concept.

June 30, 2014

Think in 3D (1)

I have recently come to the conclusion that content developers who design 3D educational software can learn a lot from creative 3D stereographers and cinematographers. 

I took the time during a recent trip to picturesque Fajardo, Puerto Rico to finish my copy of Clyde Dsouza’s Think in 3D: Food for Thought for Directors, Cinematographers and Stereographers (2012). A stereographer and a 3D consultant, Dsouza is not an educator, yet his musings warmly resonate with my thinking as an educator in terms of what matters about great 3D educational content.
Think in 3D by Clyde Dsouza

Reading Think in 3D made me ask myself the obvious question: “Why are some 3D educational content pieces so very superlative, while others appear tired, tedious, and ho-hum?” Dsouza’s book holds many of the keys that will help answer this question.  

Based on the thinking of Dsouza, in the next few posts I intend to highlight some of the reasons why certain educational stereo 3D (eS3D) titles are great, while others are lacking. Understanding these principles can help anyone in this market (content developers, hardware manufacturers, resellers, writers, and consultants) do a better job of reaching and keeping their customers. And understanding these ideas can help educators know what to ask for in 3D, what will work the best with students.

June 23, 2014

Wassup @ ISTE

The annual ISTE conference is rapidly approaching, convening this year in Atlanta. Besides the 3D Network events mentioned in last week's post, there are many other exciting 3D things happening at this large ed-tech conference.

In the Conference Sessions

The upcoming ISTE conference has currently scheduled twenty-one 3D-related presentations in their slate of sessions. Of these, five sessions feature Rendered-3D solutions; six sessions highlight 3D printing; five sessions showcase 3D design in education; and five sessions specifically focus on stereo 3D in education.

Traditionally offering only a few sessions a year, this session expansion at ISTE represents the largest increase in recent history.

In other news, Holli Hillman (see Best 3D Educator in the U.S.) will be presenting jointly with me for Depth-defying Learning: the top 10 new developments in educational 3D on Monday, June 30, 1:15 pm - 3:15 pm (GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 24).

In the Exhibit Hall

Preliminary details indicate that 3D design (3D Gamelab, Autodesk, and Realalusion), 3D visualization (DesignMate, Lumens, CubeDigiCo, Sterling Pixels, and zSpace), and 3D printing (Makerbot and Stratasys) will be there in force. Also, AV Rover will be exhibiting.

June 16, 2014

3D Network @ ISTE

It’s almost time for the annual ISTE conference in late June, convening this year in Atlanta. As you recall, SIG3D has been rebranded into the new ISTE 3D Network, now 1600 members strong. Two 3D Network events are now scheduled:

ISTE Network Open House – Saturday , June 28, 3-5 PM
This is an open house for all ISTE conference attendees to investigate various Professional Learning Networks. The 3D network invites attendees to visit their booth and mix with each other and potential new members. 

3D Network Gathering – Monday, June 30, 5-6:15 PM
This is the official 3D Network meeting, which will incorporate a variety of activities: getting acquainted, a 3D Network overview, teacher poster sessions*, and breakout sessions by interest. 

Special Opportunities:
We want to remind vendors that we will have a dedicated table to display (without cost) any sales material you would like to make available. Just bring your materials personally to any of the executive board members prior to the start of the event.

If any manufacturers have items or resources they would like to make available for our educator raffle, please contact us here.

*Please note that the 3D Network is soliciting teacher poster presentations (on stereo 3D or 3D printing) to be conducted in the meeting during a 15-20 minute rotation period. Vendors are encouraged to sponsor talented classroom teachers or professors to attend and present at this event. Only educators may present, however. Submit your proposals or questions here.

June 9, 2014

Hashtag, learnmorefaster

Let’s conclude our series on Learning Efficiency (when teaching using 3D) with a few crucial takeaways.

Learning efficiency is easy to track, document, demonstrate, and report. Research projects, pilot projects, reference sites, or case studies can easily collect quantifiable data on learning efficiency.

Sadly, those involved in promoting 3D in the classroom—hardware manufacturers, content providers, integrators, and resellers—are more interested in conveying the “wow factor” or “student engagement” benefits of 3D instruction than demonstrating the solid benefits of learning efficiency. Plucking the low-hanging fruit of “retention” also seems popular with many 3D companies or school projects. But why settle for anecdotal evidence, folksy stories, or meaningless retention data?

I am simply suggesting that folks will impress, attract, convince, and sell to far more leaders, decision makers, or teachers if they remember the value of learning efficiency when they design or implement planned 3D pilot projects, case studies, and rollouts. What do you think?

June 2, 2014

What Educators Say

After reviewing last week's post, what do you think educators actually say about “chasing efficiency” when using 3D in instruction? Below are a few insights on this topic.

Educators in last year’s Sensavis study of 3D in the classroom noted:
  • “Lesson speeds can also be positively impacted with 3D content. For example, a lesson that normally required two to three class periods to complete was taught in just one class period.”
  • “The majority of teachers felt that teaching with 3D saved class time as they were able to teach more and to more depth than without the 3D.”

Similarly, classroom teachers involved in the European LiFE study observed:
  •  “We find we can cover more material in a shorter amount of time. Also what the children are learning is more complicated and deep compared to what they would have learnt before. “
  • “The pupils can learn all at the same time and they learn a lot at once and so I find I can actually cover more in the same time. “
  • “I would definitely say that it shortens the time to teach concepts.”

Whether the technology’s use frees up instructional time, or it enables the learners to cover more ground, learning efficiency matters because time is the scarcest resource in schools. Time is at the top of every teacher’s list of needs. Number one. Period.

May 26, 2014

Chasing Efficiency: Learning with 3D

We learn more in less time," 9 year-old Preston explains, sitting cheerfully in his Minnesota classroom. This trumpeting of learning efficiency is one of the increasingly apparent benefits of teaching in the 3D classroom. Learning efficiency simply means that students can reach a deep understanding of their learning goals in a shorter amount of time.  This economy in learning really matters. When teachers and learners are more efficient, it frees up more time in the curriculum to cover or learn [more topics]—or to go deeper than the students were able to go before.

Learning efficiency is not evidenced solely in the 3D classroom, of course; many technologies, when used well, usher in the same advantage to learners. Consider the time-saving advantages of such a familiar educational technology as the word processor; or think about the omnipresent graphing calculator, which enables students to complete ten times the number of transformations than possible with pencil and graph paper in the same amount of time. 

That’s learning efficiency in a nutshell. 3D visualization, however, promises a brain-based renaissance for promoting learning efficiency like never before.

May 19, 2014

Mature Strategies (2)

As stated in a previous post, effective 3D instruction certainly depends on good equipment and well-crafted content. But the effectiveness of 3D in learning also hinges on creative teaching strategies used by talented educators.

We simply don’t show 3D movies in classrooms. Not ever. To the contrary, 3D educators add value. Here are some of the important value-added practices employed by Hillman in her successful 3D pilot project:
  • using only parts of the 3D simulation that are age appropriate
  • muting the narrator because vocabulary might be too advanced
  • providing the teacher’s own narration in order to simplify the content for the learner
  • pausing the 3D simulation for discussion, allowing for questions or  further explanation of the topic
  • watching, discussing, then watching again – repeating as needed (repetition encourages mastery and comprehension)
  • previewing a topic in 3D before the chapter/unit begins
  • creating a KWL chart together with the students, after showing a 3D simulation or animation
  • using 3D as a form of enrichment and/or expansion on a topic for those students who are ready for more
  • using the 3D simulation AS the lesson (Holli explains: “the visualization is often so rich that it provides an experience unlike anything one can offer through lecture or even hands-on; of course, the teacher can still provide elaboration, clarification, and guide discussion, since a 1-4 minute 3D simulation will never replace the teacher.”)
  • taking a virtual field trip (Holli notes: “3D can take students places they would never otherwise be able to go—and the color, imagery and depth is attractive and captivating!”)

In her own words, Holli Hillman hopes to “step outside of the box and implement [3D as an] innovative instructional approach.” Her enthusiasm is palpable and each of the above strategies helps us understand what a gifted 3D educator actually does with this powerful new medium of instruction. She is not afraid of sharing her insight and enthusiasm both with interested visitors and questioning skeptics alike. “I can’t wait to watch it all unfold,” she declares, as she makes plans to explore even more creative teaching angles in the months to come. 

May 12, 2014

A Must-See Webinar!

The ISTE 3D Network (formerly known as SIG 3D) has slated a unique webinar entitled “3D Comes to School.” The webinar will be held on Tuesday, May 20 at 8 PM ET / 5 PM PT. It will feature Kristin Donley, one of the original teachers in the Boulder 3D in Education (BVS3D) research project. According to Donley, “the ‘3D Comes to School’ presentation will focus on recent research supporting the use of stereoscopic 3D in the classroom, lesson ideas, and best practices.” She plans to share the continued results of a 4-year pilot study in Colorado where teachers and students were introduced to stereoscopic 3D videos, simulations and interactives in the classroom. After this webinar, you'll know why 3D technologies can make a big impact on teaching and learning in schools.

Donley, the presenter, is no lightweight in the field of education. She is a highly effective science and STEM instructor at Monarch High School with the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). Due to her passion, innovative teaching methods and commitment to her students, Kristin was recognized as the 2012 Colorado Teacher of the Year and 2011 Colorado Top Technology Teacher of the Year. She has recently expanded her work to include serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado-Denver and as a District Science Research Seminar Coordinator. To register for the May 20th seminar, please follow this link.

May 5, 2014

Mature Strategies (1)

In my first post of this series, “The Hillman Files,” I introduced our readers to the pilot project underway in the St. Francis area schools for the last two years. In the second post, “What the 3D Kids Say,” I shifted the spotlight to what the children have to say about learning in 3D in this intriguing Minnesota pilot project. In this post, I focus on the effective and varied teaching strategies used by the project leader, fourth-grade teacher Holli Hillman. What she does—and how she does it—is of great importance for those of us trying to understand how to best advantage 3D classroom instruction.

Texas Instruments uses the term “3D educator” to describe those brave innovators who push the power of 3D visualization in learning to its
Holli Hillman
instructional limits.  Holli Hillman is a 3D educator in every sense of the term. And by the time I am done, you may learn why I consider Holli Hillman to be the best elementary school 3D educator in the country.

Great 3D instruction certainly depends on good equipment and well-crafted content. But the effectiveness of 3D in learning also hinges on creative teaching strategies used by talented educatorsAs I have stated many times, we simply don’t show 3D movies in classrooms. Not ever. To the contrary, 3D educators add value. In the next post of this series, we will identify some of the important value-added practices employed by Hillman in her successful 3D pilot project. 

April 28, 2014

What the 3D Kids Say

The recent YouTube craze “What the Fox Says” is amusing to most, but carries a confusing message. Not so with “What the 3D kids say” in a two-year pilot project led by 4th grade teacher-innovator, Holli Hillman.  In this week’s installment of the St. Francis school success story, we’re going to listen chiefly to the voices of the children involved in the project over the last two years. Face it—we can learn more from the sincere words of children, spoken in a few minutes, than we can learn from lengthy ramblings of marketing experts or educational experts.

What the 3D Kids Say
Cedar Creek Community School
I am going to bring you these quotes in a straight and unadulterated way—directly from the mouths of the 4th grade children in this 3D project. I am only going to comment indirectly; the italics in each quotation below are mine. They represent my silent smile, pointing the reader to a key understanding or brain-based principle about “learning with depth.” By remaining silent, I feel I will provide greater voice to these nine-year-old students.  So, in that spirit, here is “what the 3D kids say” about learning with 3D:

"It's visual. You can see the actual water cycle and how it really is. A poster doesn't rain. Makes you feel like you are there and it helps you understand it better."

"The visual is good because we remember pictures and not words."

“We remember better and can visualize it [at] another time.”

"It makes it seem like you slow everything down and it makes it easier to learn it because you want to pay more attention to it and we're not just reading about it. You get to see more angles of things and more of the close up more details."

"It's more exciting to see things pop out because you feel like you're there and you learn more facts as someone tells you about what you're looking at. The screen moves and you actually feel like you're in the mountains."

"It's more exciting for us to learn in 3D because it shows you the system and how it works."

"When you show us a picture, you see the picture, and copy the picture because it doesn’t talk. But when you see the 3D, you don't copy it - you see it differently so you draw what you learned."

"You can picture it in your head better."

"We learn more in less time."

 “Ssshhh!” [whispered by children when adults are talking while students are viewing 3D content]”

Holli Hillman, the teacher extraordinaire leading this project adds: “My students are ready for more. They ask me daily if we get to view 3D. Although it's not something I use daily, as I continue to discover more content, my students and I will look forward to viewing concepts in 3D in other subject areas very soon!”

Well, there you have it. Consider going back to re-read each child's statement. Think about the brain-based research I highlighted with each italicized phrase. It make you wonder why 3D isn’t adopted more broadly, doesn’t it?