October 30, 2017

Cool VR @ SXSW

The predictive education bazaar that we know as SXSWedu is held each year in Austin, Texas in the Spring. 

Over the last two years, virtual reality made its presence known in a big way at SXSWedu. The diversity of approaches and angles is mind-boggling, such as:
  • Mike Cuales and Bethanne Tobey (North Carolina State University) talking about the use of 360 spherical video as a teaching tool .
  • Ilan Bren Yakov (MidCET) demonstrating the empathy-creating potential of virtual reality by placing your own head/vision in the body of a dog, chasing cats and living a dog’s life in general.
  • Carlos Castaneda (University of Chihuahua MX) demonstratingvirtual reality combined with gesture control (using a jerry-rigged Leap motion controller creatively mounted on VR headgear.
  • Renee Hobbs (University of Rhode Island) demonstratingthe Google Cardboard phenomenon.
  • In their presentation, “Virtual Exchange Meets Virtual Reality”, Grace Lau and Hanna Weitzer (Global Nomads Group) introducing their innovative project combining virtual reality with distance learning, called “Reimagine: Syria”. " (In this project, students from Los Angeles were dropped into a virtual reality recreation to understand the realities of the Syrian Crisis, and then later, were connected with actual refugee youth in Amman, Jordan in a live skyped session.)
  • Jennifer Holland (Product Manager for Google Expeditions) and Benjamin Scrom (Project Manager, Google) conductinga two-hour workshop entitled“Explore Your Worlds with Google Expeditions”, designed to take students “places a school bus can’t go”. 
  • Dr. Jennifer Simonson and Len Scrogan providing a medical perspective about the intersection of virtual reality, reading, learning, and healthy vision for children. 
  • Emory Craig, (Director of eLearning at the College of New Rochelle) and Maya Georgieva, (Co-Founder, Digital Bodies) [see their interesting web site] conducting a workshop raising fundamental questions about future media, storytelling, and narrative using this new medium. 
  • Lizzie Edwards (Education Manager, Samsung Digital Learning Programme [Samsung Digital Discovery Centre at the British Museum]) describing the museum’s effort to host a “virtual reality” weekend in which families were able to explore the Museum’s first virtual reality environment—a bronze Age round house—set within a realistic landscape, and showcasing 3D scans of real objects from this period in history.
  • The Digital Media Academy demonstratinghow they help students learn to create virtual reality environments through their community-based programs.
  • A college demonstrating how they use virtual reality as a recruiting tool to attract new students to their campus by featuring innovative virtual reality walkthroughs of their innovative learning spaces, experiencing the look and feel of the campus before having to commit to a college site visit.

As you can see, VR can take on numerous roles in education. In a few months I will provide a preview of virtual-reality sessions being offered at the upcoming SXSW 2018 conference.

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