July 1, 2013

Kids Make the Coolest Things

It’s funny how the 3D educational world works: good things are in fact happening, but often no one knows about them. That’s because educators rarely toot their own horn; it’s also because the education industry is highly isolated and successful programs are often geographically pigeonholed. Rarely do successes get the broad recognition they deserve.  One such success story takes place in Iowa. It involves the Virtual Reality Educational Pathfinders program or VREP.  Check out their VREP website.

In previous columns, I've mentioned that we see seven types of 3D content at play in education settings:
It is the last category—the constructivist notion of student-created content—that is exampled in this article. 

How It Works
The VREP program, underway for six years, enables students to take control of their own learning by designing  3D landscapes, objects, games, or simulations. (Examples include models of cells, DNA, ships, and etc.)

The VREP initiative is flexible. The VREP experience can be embedded in its own class; in other cases, it is offered as an after school activity. Students will often extend their new 3D expertise to other classrooms, collaborating with students and teachers to create an educational project that can be used directly in social studies, science or world language classes.  Similarly, students are able to use these student-designed 3D projects in fulfillment of their own course requirements in the same core content areas. Students are provided with opportunities to share their work with engineers and design experts in the work force, many of whom offer constructive feedback to the students. 

It should be noted that students begin their work in rendered 3D using the Blender freeware product, but often present their results in stereoscopic 3D. Stay tuned for part two of this three part series coming next week...

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