July 17, 2017

Key Questions

Allow me to conclude the previous four posts with a set of critical questions about VR content.  Some key questions to ponder are:

  1. When you display VR content in your classroom, does your content look like everyone else’s VR content? Are you living in an instructional echo chamber?
  2. Are all your VR content experiences found at the lowest levels of the above VR taxonomy? Or are you enriching your instrction by featuring the possibilities at the top end of the spectrum?
  3. Are you featuring passive or active educational uses of VR? Interactive? Collaborative?
  4. Has your overall experience moved beyond the obvious (wow factor, engagement, retention, gadget infatuation) to the real educational advantages highlighted in our taxonomy?

I am interested in knowing what you think. Or suggestions for improvement. Let me know.  

July 10, 2017

The Way Forward

Concluding our VR content discussion for the last four weeks, where do we go? The way forward, the prerequisite secret sauce for VR in education, is in interactivity and collaboration. And not just interactivity via head turning. In his book Think in 3D, Clyde DeSouza submits that it’s time for more interactivity in 3D and VR. “Real-time, stop-and-look-around interactivity is the way forward for a truly immersive experience,” he says. “This emotes in the audience feelings of belonging and identifying with the world being presented.”  Of course, DeSouza is on target, as usual. Although interactivity already serves as the bread and butter in the video game industry, that is not yet so with VR in education. In VR-based learning, content must change. Interactivity must be reified—it must become the thing. Current VR content manufacturers produce interactive simulations as an afterthought. There aren’t very many. That needs to change.


July 3, 2017

Way Too Passive

In last week's post, I highlighted my new taxonomy for VR content:



Although some big content developers seem satisfied with plans to roll out passive content, this is the content least in demand by educational gatekeepers (who also control the money in schools).  Remember one thing: school gatekeepers—such as district administrators, principals, and lead teachers—ferociously fight to keep passive learning experiences out of classrooms.

 One wonders: are these VR content developers “barking up the wrong tree?” Jack Ganse, a highly respected Colorado science teacher, once reminded me that they indeed are: “It's always a challenge to be mindful of and responsive to taxonomy when incorporating technology into the classroom. We run the risk of losing student engagement if we rely too heavily on just one taxonomic level, especially passive content.” He added: “Just as too many empty calories dilute our senses and compromise our nutritional health, too many passive technology experiences will dull and weaken the educational well-being of our students.” And there is ample reason for concern: while recently analyzing seventeen VR conference sessions at an ed-tech conference, I realized the interesting notion about [these] offerings is the apparent “echo chamber” at play. Too many of these sessions sound like the same content: the field trip or the gadget.

June 26, 2017

A VR Content Taxonomy

As mentioned in last week's post, I recently developed a new and improved taxonomy, one specific to educational virtual reality content:


In this revised taxonomy (see this link to download a larger image), I added a content category for collaborative virtual reality, i.e., the kind that enables participants to meet together, explore together, or work together. This kind of involvement transforms virtual reality into a shared rather than a solo experience. (A solid example of this genre of virtual reality can be found in the educational company, High Fidelity.) I also made an attempt to differentiate between spherical photography and 360° video, which dominate the Google Cardboard platform.

With an improved taxonomy in hand, I felt much better. But what didn’t change, in my way of thinking, is the core challenge: nearly all of the educational VR content I have seen to date still slides only into the first three lanes: spherical photography, more passive 360° video or animations, or learning objects. (Imagine simple walkthroughs, immersive field trips, and objects that can be rotated.) Despite their immersiveness in a VR context, these learning opportunities are all passive experiences. Yet hardly any VR content in today’s educational marketplace reaches into the more interactive lanes of micro-simulation, complex simulation, collaboration spaces, and user-generated content. These latter lanes often work well addressing a ‘wicked’ challenge in education today—the need to teach complex thinking and problem solving, not just teach for memorization.  

June 19, 2017

Toward Better VR Content

In a previous post (Is educational VRcontent ready for prime time) I tackled the notion of educational content categories for both 3D and virtual reality. I wrote: “…3D educational content came in a diversity of approaches and design--six flavors, if you will,” adding that “contemporary VR content for the education market today still fits clearly into these same lanes.” See my original thinking in the chart below.



Upon further reflection, I knew I was wrong—or at least missing something in my taxonomy.  I refined my thinking and developed this new, improved taxonomy, one specific to educational virtual reality content:



Come back next week for a careful drill down on this new taxonomy.

June 12, 2017

A New Name

In January 2016, I penned a somewhat predictive post entitled “By Any Other Name.” At that time, I noted that the 3D world was significantly changing. It was rapidly transforming itself into the new stereoscopic world of Virtual Reality. In fact, VR has long since overtaken and swallowed the 3D movement, as we knew it. This has been especially true in the field of education . For this stark reason, I am renaming this long-standing legacy blog. It will become Future-Talk 3D VR.

I will continue to cover all relevant 3D related topics, research, and developments, but will move in a full-throated voice to the immersive future of virtual reality.

June 5, 2017

Panel Feted

The ISTE 3D Network’s annual panel presentation at the upcoming ISTE 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas promises to be a jaw dropper.


At this [always] well-attended panel, Payod Panda will speak about content creation in VR and why we need more people (especially kids) to create for VR.  He will look at how VR creation can help students learn certain topics and help educators teach them. He will also highlight the Panoform tool for VR creation. Michael Fricano II from Hawaii will explore VR creation with tools like Thinglink VR and CoSpaces, with plenty of student examples to share with attendees. Joy Schwartz will explain how students not only learn to use CAD and 3d printing as tools but they also can learn to stretch their heart muscles, as she demonstrates how 3d printed prosthetics for children has changed the lives of her students, including how she modified American Girl dolls to have a matching 3d printed prosthetic.  Finally, Len Scrogan will close out the session by offering seven practical go-to resources for moving forward with VR learning experiences in your classroom.


The panel will run from 2:45-3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27 in the HBGCC Hemisfair Ballroom 

May 29, 2017

Critical Friend

The annual SXSWedu phenomenon remains one of the most innovative, fresh, and prognostic venues in the U.S. for envisioning the future of the education and technology marketplace. Clearly, the 2017 SXSWedu conference held in March exhibited two thematic ‘darlings’: social justice and VR/AR/MR technologies. Both themes were hugely present, weaving their irresistible charms into conference sessions, playground exhibits, startup competitions, and even the exhibit hall. And of course, these two themes [social justice and VR/AR/MR] sometimes found an astute nexus, combining themselves into such demonstrations as a pair of Global Nomad VR presentations on promoting international social consciousness through VR-delivered empathy; and the use of popular hip-hop messaging through modern video and VR media by Rapport Studios.

But the main notion I want to convey is that VR/AR/MR (and chiefly, VR) was ubiquitous: as I declared previously—a conference ‘darling.’ But something else changed this year. The whole notion of virtual reality in education is becoming a bit more mature. A tad more thoughtful in nature. We are witnessing (as relates to VR in education) a phenomenon we educators call the “critical friend” role. A critical friend communicates accurately, candidly, yet constructively about the strengths, weaknesses, and potential ‘in-the-field” pitfalls associated with a technology, aiming for improvement, success, and greater potential. Other than the sheer numbers of presentations on the VR/AR/MR theme, a palpable wave of critical thinking about this new educational medium is now emerging. What has changed is this: almost every presentation at SXSWedu was equal parts critical assessment and excitement for VR/AR/MR technologies in schools. No more Sham Wow.  Let’s get down to business. I mean education. 

May 15, 2017

Where to go from here


The 3D/VR industry itself can help us move away from the unwarranted bandwagoning.  (See previous three posts.) Moving beyond the gratuitious hype of the exhibit hall booth, the VR industry can perform some of its own heavy lifting. Yes, the 3D/VR industry can speed up the momentum of VRin education.  How you ask? It can be stimulated by: 
  • simplifying the technology; 
  • establishing reasonable technical standards; 
  • training school-facing distribution and support people; 
  • implementing insightful and transportable case studies; 
  • developing interesting use cases; 
  • conducting both action research and more rigorous educational research; 
  • providing recognition programs and publicity for successful educators; 
  • providing recognition and momentum for effective educational s3D/VR content creation by carving out an educational category in industry awards; 
  • providing platform stability and consistency; 
  • committing to unceasing drip marketing and consistent messaging via social media; 
  • deemphasizing hyperbole; and 
  • talking to educators.

Yet, sadly, much of the industry is following hard after 3D, 4K and UHD in search of the “next big thing” for the education market. Déjà vu all over again.

May 8, 2017

Waiting for GenZ

Trying to push 3D VR to Generation X is like waiting for Godot. I find that, as far as 3D VR is concerned, older generations can take it or leave it. And for those Generation Xers in educational leadership positions, their timorousness can easily translate into defensive gatekeeping. (Their idea of the “next big thing” now demands  1:1 tablets and open educational resources.) 

Not so with Generation Y and Z. They enjoy 3D VR and yearn for more. (Except for those who cannot comfortably 'see' it, due to a personal vision issue.) Some of the heavy lifting required to move 3D VR toward its true educational promise will come from these younger generations, as they acquire more influence over the years. For now, they are nearly invisible.

May 1, 2017

Heavy Lifting

As 3D VR (see the post from two weeks ago) moves aggressively into the educational space, I remain worried. My extensive conversations with folks in the ed-tech or related industries suggest that these people are not interested in the heavy lifting required to push an innovation out of the trough of disillusionment upwards into Gartner’s slope of enlightenment and plateau of productivity.  This unwholesome attitude, this notion of 3D VR as a windfall, somehow sticks in my craw.

Again, they hope for the downwards gravity of an avalanche, anticipating that the “next big thing” in education will rush at them, money in hand. No, selling 3D VR in education will require some heavy lifting. It will require hard work to get this right. And Google cannot do it on its own...

April 24, 2017

Short Deadline!

Don't you love short headlines? There is currently a competition running with $50,000 in prizes up for grabs for solving public safety challenges that affect millions of people. Interested? 

Introducing the Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge. The competition offers a total prize of $50,000 USD for the design of a physical measurement environment that uses immersive virtual reality tools for testing new first responder technologies. 

Find out more and sign up to the Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge. https://herox.com/NISTvr

- The submission deadline is May 3rd, 2017 so don’t dawdle! -

April 17, 2017

TEDx Shanghai

Ni hau, 

If you live or work in the Shanghai area, I will be presenting at TEDx Caohejing Park Salon on the "Great Virtual Reality Mystery Caper," a journey of curiosity and gumshoe sleuthing as we attempt to solve one of the biggest mysteries surrounding  virtual reality and your vision health. 

Just in case there is an opportunity to have coffee or shake hands with you while I am in Shanghai from May 16-22, I decided to post this. https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/22296

April 10, 2017

Chasing the Hype

At every conference I attend., I try to either interview or investigate what is currently happening with the big “3D players” of the past—some of the largest vendors selling to the education market four-five years ago, when the hype was at a high point. 

These days, these firms are not featuring 3D in their booths. Frankly, many of these sales people and manufacturers felt burned and betrayed by the educational market. They expected an avalanche of 3D sales and got only a dusting of 3D snow; they anticipated a gold rush of activity and only extracted a few nuggets. Their viewpoint, as expressed to me, was simple: if 3D doesn’t generate considerable volume in sales in the education market, they must move on to new and more attractive opportunities. These well-meaning manufacturers, integrators, and sales reps live for an avalanche mindset, delighting in the hopes of selling the “next big thing.”


Unfortunately, these folks fell for the trap illustrated in the well-travelled Gartner Hype Cycle.  They built their business sandcastles in the ebb tide of inflated expectations, only to lose their faith as the flood tides of disillusionment washed away their expectations.  The “next big thing” never panned out, at least in the realm of 3D in education. As VR now moves aggressively onto the world stage, will things turn out any different? See next week’s post for an answer.

April 3, 2017

Before and After (2)

The evidence of the informal action research (cited in last week's blog post) gives us some useful insight as to how 3D learning actually works in a classroom. Here are samples of before and after (before 3D visualization, and after) with Ms. Hillman's students:
Water cycle before
Water cycle after
Another before/after

Another water cycle after
The Lesson Learned.
Perhaps one fourth grader described it best: “you can picture it in your head better." Ms. Hillman beamed: “the visualization is so rich that it provides an experience unlike anything you can provide through teacher talk, or even hands-on investigation.” She added : “[3D simulation] takes students on virtual field trips to places they would otherwise never be able to go; the color, imagery, and the depth is attractive and captivating.”

Holli Hillman then asks the reader a clever rhetorical question: “The difference in visual understanding speaks for itself, right?” Right. 


March 27, 2017

Before and After 3D

It’s important to periodically unpack some of the emerging research on 3D, VR, and other dynamic visualization technologies. In today’s post, we are highlighting some informal, classroom-based “action research” effort conducted in a Minnesota elementary school.


One of first questions people ask me about 3D, VR and HD visualization technologies) concerns its instructional effectiveness. “What is the difference some of these technologies make in learning?” “How effective are these technologies with young learners?” they ask. “Action research”, as it is called, is informal research conducted in live classrooms by practicing teachers. It can provide very useful empirical insight about learning with technology. The next two posts highlight one story worth our attention. (Later I will report on a similar study using VR that had identical results.)

The Problem.
Holli Hillman, a 4th grade teacher in Minnesota knew that her new 3D visualization technology was having an impact on young learners, but she needed a way to demonstrate that learning effectiveness to the leaders who funded her classroom grant. Accountability was expected. Ms. Hillman decided to conduct a focused action research effort, showing before and after examples of actual student work.

The Backdrop.
For her project, Ms. Hillman used stereo 3D projectors, along with science simulation content in her fourth grade classroom over several years. Typically, she used age-appropriate parts of 3D simulations, but would mute the software, providing her own personal voice as narrator.  Ms. Hillman would have the children watch each simulation—regularly pausing the simulations for timely discussion, comments, and questions—and then have the students watch the simulation again to allow for optimal comprehension.

The Protocol.
In her effort to create a before and after perspective, Ms.Hillman followed a specific protocol:
I taught the water cycle using books, posters and discussions; kids were then asked to draw their visual understanding of the water cycle. A few months later, I completely retaught the water cycle using the stereo 3D simulations only (not the books and posters.)  Again I asked the kids to draw their visual understanding of the water cycle.
Through her action research, Ms. Hillman wanted to compare the two treatments. How did the children fare? See for yourself in next week's posting.

March 20, 2017

Sham Wow!

Last week, I wrote that "virtual reality is virtually—everywhere." I lamented that I often have an uneasy feeling. Here's my surpise conclusion:


VR-themed conference presentations often leave me with that uncomfortable “Sham Wow” feeling. (Sham Wow was an ill-famed infomercial in the United States, a hyped-up advertisement that featured Vinnie, the sales hawker promoting a ‘miracle’ cleaning towel. Speaking rapidly and rhythmically, with his rich Bronx accent and gel-spiked hair, Vinnie whittled away every excuse you could muster against buying his amazing product. Then the obligatory customer testimonials followed. But the viewer was always left wondering if s/he was being ‘played.’)


At every conference I attend, I am confirmed in the notion that VR is still having its own Sham Wow moment. (Watch the commercial, but substitute the phrase “VR” every time you hear the phrase “Sham Wow” for a surreal experience.) As a result, I leave most conferences writhing in palpable uncertainty, the kind that occurs when hype collides with potential; when exposure to exciting new technology meets with equal parts shudder and disdain. Sham Wow. 

March 13, 2017

That Uneasy Feeling

Virtual Reality seems to be making its presence known these days with a collective shout. At conferences, virtual reality is virtually—everywhere. From a marketer’s perspective, this is a dream-come-true: the excited potential of virtual reality in the education space. But still, I have an uneasy feeling. It’s that queasy uneven feeling you get when bandwagon carelessly thumps into powerful innovation. No—virtual reality’s coronation pathway to the palace of ed-market success is not paved with gold bricks—at least not just yet. Here’s a reasoned look at why:
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I view struggle with granular, lower-resolution imagery; resolution far less sharp than students demand;
  • Most of the VR sims I view demonstrate noticeable latency; and latency issues can lead to the distasteful “virtual reality sickness” phenomenon.
  • I worry about an over-dependence on spherical photography for content, or at least defined as VR content.
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I view are passive observational experiences (viewing), and not particularly interactive.
  • Everyone I know grumbles about the need for more educational content. Clearly, there is not enough educational content available for critical mass adoption in schools and universities. Period.
  • Only a rare presenter has a proper answer to address the vision issues associated with binocular viewing of stereo virtual reality experiences. Typically, I hear the argument that the solution depends solely on improved VR content or enhanced hardware. 

Come back next week for my suprise conlusion on "that uneasy feeling."

March 6, 2017

Fishbowl

The annual SXSWedu phenomenon has rapidly outpaced the TED talk as the most innovative, fresh, and prognostic venue for envisioning the future of the education and technology marketplace. This year, the SXSWedu® Conference & Festival will be held in Austin, Texas from March 6-9. 

The following ed-market trends emerging at SXSWedu are noteworthy, appearing in great frequency and with strident emphasis at this trailblazing conference:
  • STEAM education
  • Virtual Reality
  • MakerSpaces
  • Coding
  • Learning Space Redesign
  • Re-designing Schooling
  • Social Justice

The remarkably stout presence of the virtual reality meme, one totally expected, now appears to be one of the biggest ed-tech footprints at 2017 SXSWedu conference. This meme has literally doubled or tripled since last year. 

If you are in the neighborhood, I’ll be presenting on Wednesday at 11am in Salon H of the JW Marriott hotel. Joined by Dr. Michael Duenas, the Chief Public Health Officer from the American Optometric Association, we will be pushing past the hype and executing a “deep dive” with our joint 2-hour workshop, Fishbowl: Virtual Reality in Education. See this link for a preview. This unique “deep learning” session addresses the challenges, logistics, scaling, classroom management, research, pedagogical strategies, and vision health (medical) issues surrounding the roll out of VR in U.S. classrooms. No breathless cheerleading here. Just the heavy lifting.



February 27, 2017

Good-Better-Best

Here is an insightful chart, which succinctly summarizes what we know to date about the instructional effectiveness of 3D (and to a lesser extent VR and HD visualization technologies):



It is interesting to note that the buzzwords of ‘engagement’ and ‘retention’ – the low-lying fruit—are  the most frequently and popularly employed terms for marketers and business development managers. For educators, however, the remaining categories are the findings that really draw their attention. The Good-Better-Best findings are very important to experienced teachers and educational leaders alike.

In the last few years, there has been a flurry of activity on the research front for 3D VR, and visualization technologies. But these reports and findings have little traction in the press, often replaced by more populist sound bites preferred by reporters and editors.  

For me, all types of research matter. I am not a purist. For example, when the European LiFe studies were first released---many experts I spoke with mocked them, due to their lack of rigor.  Not me. I prefer to read and report on all of it.

Each study, survey, action research effort, or anecdotal collection provide us with the clues, contacts, and stepping stones to learn more. Each enables us to grow wiser, gather fresh insight, and seize upon new perspective. Each grows our database of knowledge.