In last week's post, we highlighted some of future trends predicted in the National Education Technology Plan (NETP). Most notably to our blog readers, the interactive three-dimensional imaging software trend spotlights a well-known company frequenting U.S. educational conferences: zSpace. Quoting from page 16 of the 2016 NETP:
Interactive three-dimensional imaging software, such as zSpace, is creating potentially transformational learning experiences. With three-dimensional glasses and a stylus, students are able to work with a wide range of images from the layers of the earth to the human heart. The zSpace program’s noble failure feature allows students constructing a motor or building a battery to make mistakes and retry, learning throughout the process. Although the content and curriculum are supplied, teachers can customize and tailor lesson plans to fit the needs of their classes. This type of versatile technology allows students to work with objects schools typically would not be able to afford, providing a richer, more engaging learning experience.
It's important to realize that some visualization technologies, like zSpace, can multi-task in their purpose: they can serve several educational agendas at the same time.Take for example the NETP’s four categories for future technologies that offer educational promise (remembering that 3D visualization is mentioned in only the third category):
Increased use of games and simulations. The zSpace curriculum itself is designed around a rich collection of STEM-based games and simulations.
New ways to connect physical and virtual interaction. The “near-holographic” zSpace hardware platform makes the content appear not on a screen, but in the students’ own personal space, manipulated by a physical stylus. And the cooperative (paired) learning approach promoted by the zSpace STEM Lab also brings a physical presence and process to the visualized lesson.
Interactive three-dimensional imaging software. ‘Interactive’ being the key word here, this tool is not just about viewing or watching—it’s mainly about doing, constructing, testing, evaluating, and rebuilding.
Augmented reality. Interestingly, the zSpace zView enhancement lets an entire class—not just the students wearing passive glasses—see each simulation in starkly vivid augmented reality.
Although, in the 2016 NETP, the 3D visualization meme was positioned solely in the third category above, clearly some technologies work across lanes. I am suggesting that some successful 3D visualization products, like zSpace, operate in all four of these domains.