September 26, 2011

See Well, Learn Well

Late last week, after a year of eager anticipation, the American Optometric Association (AOA) released a new public health report “3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well.” This national report recognizes a tremendous health benefit from viewing 3D and launches a two year national campaign to encourage the eye health of our nation’s youth. You can view or download the full report by clicking on the link above. 

September 19, 2011

3D Myth Busting II

Unfortunately, it’s time for another 3D myth busters posting, with the same hopes of correcting “some persistent inaccuracies, lest they lend themselves to the unfortunate role of myth-building.”

On September 7th, I noticed an article published in the venerated Wall Street Journal: “Coming Soon to Schools: Dissecting Frogs in 3D.”  And then today, this news broadcast hit my email. I’d like to simply and briefly address three misconceptions:

“There are no health problems…as long as videos are kept to increments of 5-10 minutes.”
“No one wants to make our kids guinea pigs with new technologies”
“Financial concerns…”

So in the interest of further myth busting, here’s the truth, unembellished and straight up:
  • Most educational 3D videos are already short in length (4 minutes on average—please refer to last week’s post). And classroom teachers don’t show 3D movies; they may use 3D vignettes or in-class simulations. Based on the See Well, Learn Well national health report being released in the first week of October, the only recommendation is to avoid showing 3D content for an entire class period, allowing the eyes to readjust to normal during the last ten minutes in class. There is no scientific evidence requiring such restrictive time limits (5-10 minutes) on viewing stereo 3D either in the classrooms, at the movies, or at home.
  • Over my 37 year career in education, most often at the very vanguard of educational technology, I have kids have never seen kids become guinea pigs. Schools, teachers and classrooms take on the roles of pioneers, early adopters, followers, or late adopters. All is undertaken for the direct benefit of student learning.
  • Costs are rapidly coming down. When I saw my first stereo 3D classroom in a community college 7 years ago, the cost of the project was $44,000 and funded by a federal grant. Three years ago, the cost fell to $15,000 per classroom in an Illinois school district. Two years ago, the cost approached $10,000 per classroom. At the start of our project in Boulder, I estimated the cost at much less than $7,500 per classroom ($4,500 without any software included). 3D glasses cost $150 a pair two years ago, and this summer I saw 3D active glasses offered in the low 30’s. Within two years, I expect the cost will approach approximately $2,500 a classroom, including software. (And remember one system was shared by 3 classrooms in one of our schools, by the way). Can you see the cost trajectory here? This happens with all cutting edge technologies, as they trace their pathway from innovation to systematic adoption. Costs come down.

September 12, 2011

What is eS3D?

As we wrap up our series on the importance of common language, let’s focus on stereoscopic 3D in the world of education (or, eS3D). Confusion about what we mean by educational 3D content is still widespread. In fact, a dozen-or-so talented 3D content producers I have chatted with recently think it is all about 3D movies.

Contrary to the thinking of many industry experts, educational stereo 3D content is not just 3D movie content with an educational purpose.  First, eS3D involves any or all of the six categories of content demonstrated in the taxonomy chart shown below:

Although some big players seem satisfied with plans to roll out content associated with the first category (movies), this is the content least in demand by educators. Second, the kind of eS3D that educators require is generally shorter in length than other 3D content. Third, it involves less rapid movement and is far more static, than the images one sees in movies, games, or 3D sports television. Fourth, eS3D is often interactive in nature. Last, eS3D more richly favors negative parallax over positive parallax in highlighting essential learning. 

Content developers that think otherwise are just barking up the wrong tree. What is your opinion? Please post your thoughts.

September 5, 2011

Why Language Matters

“I remember sitting on a National Science Foundation panel some years ago, feverishly sorting through 10-12 semi-final proposals in a high-stakes review for a major grant award. As one particular grant came to the head of the queue for a thorough panel discussion, it was clear that the technology-based theme introduced in the grant had been misinterpreted by most of the distinguished panelists crowded into our luxurious hotel conference room. I carefully tried to explain the grant writer’s intent to my peer panelists, but lack of clarity won out. Since the theme was interpreted in completely different ways by the panelists, the result was inevitable: the grant, a quite promising technology proposal, was not recommended for funding.”
This personal experience reflects the challenges we face when we don’t subscribe to a common language—a shared understanding—of the technology we embrace. I believe that this has now become a paramount issue, one vital for claiming the hoped-for footprint of 3D technology in K-16 classrooms.

Over the last year, I’ve often experienced considerable misunderstanding about the term ‘3D’.  Some of the unfortunate negative effects I’ve observed firsthand include:

-         Customers and conference attendees don’t attend sessions offered on the topic
-         Conference organizers obscure 3D presentations by shunting them toward less desirable venues, times, or days—or they deny presentation proposals altogether.
-         National think tanks, committees, publications, or thought leaders offer only the slightest consideration of stereoscopic 3D in their thinking, planning, white papers, or initiatives
-         School technology leaders think it’s just entertainment, so it’s simply not on their radar

The above happen because decision makers (and I’ve talked to so very many) are very busy people, can’t always keep current in our constantly evolving technology landscape, and simply don’t understand what stereo 3D is (or they think S-3D is something that it is not).

If we are hoping to convince school district leaders, persuade a principal, or induce parents to encourage classroom investments in 3D technology, then we need to be sure we have the same thing in mind. If we are planning to sell to schools, persuade distributors to carry and support products, or engage integrators to make it all work, then we need to be speaking the same language. 

But is educational stereoscopic 3D somewhat different from what we think stereo 3D is? I think so. So please check back with us for a concluding blog post, as we offer a startling realization about the nature of S-3D in classrooms. Cue the mystery music…