April 28, 2014

What the 3D Kids Say

The recent YouTube craze “What the Fox Says” is amusing to most, but carries a confusing message. Not so with “What the 3D kids say” in a two-year pilot project led by 4th grade teacher-innovator, Holli Hillman.  In this week’s installment of the St. Francis school success story, we’re going to listen chiefly to the voices of the children involved in the project over the last two years. Face it—we can learn more from the sincere words of children, spoken in a few minutes, than we can learn from lengthy ramblings of marketing experts or educational experts.

What the 3D Kids Say
Cedar Creek Community School
I am going to bring you these quotes in a straight and unadulterated way—directly from the mouths of the 4th grade children in this 3D project. I am only going to comment indirectly; the italics in each quotation below are mine. They represent my silent smile, pointing the reader to a key understanding or brain-based principle about “learning with depth.” By remaining silent, I feel I will provide greater voice to these nine-year-old students.  So, in that spirit, here is “what the 3D kids say” about learning with 3D:

"It's visual. You can see the actual water cycle and how it really is. A poster doesn't rain. Makes you feel like you are there and it helps you understand it better."

"The visual is good because we remember pictures and not words."

“We remember better and can visualize it [at] another time.”

"It makes it seem like you slow everything down and it makes it easier to learn it because you want to pay more attention to it and we're not just reading about it. You get to see more angles of things and more of the close up parts...like more details."

"It's more exciting to see things pop out because you feel like you're there and you learn more facts as someone tells you about what you're looking at. The screen moves and you actually feel like you're in the mountains."

"It's more exciting for us to learn in 3D because it shows you the system and how it works."

"When you show us a picture, you see the picture, and copy the picture because it doesn’t talk. But when you see the 3D, you don't copy it - you see it differently so you draw what you learned."

"You can picture it in your head better."

"We learn more in less time."

 “Ssshhh!” [whispered by children when adults are talking while students are viewing 3D content]”

Holli Hillman, the teacher extraordinaire leading this project adds: “My students are ready for more. They ask me daily if we get to view 3D. Although it's not something I use daily, as I continue to discover more content, my students and I will look forward to viewing concepts in 3D in other subject areas very soon!”

Well, there you have it. Consider going back to re-read each child's statement. Think about the brain-based research I highlighted with each italicized phrase. It make you wonder why 3D isn’t adopted more broadly, doesn’t it? 

April 21, 2014

The Hillman Files

There are a lot of good things happening with educational 3D across the country, yet I find that most of the great stories about 3D in classrooms somehow seem to fly under the radar. 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. 

This is a story about 3D project that began at Cedar Creek Community School (Cedar, MN) and is now extending district-wide.

The St. Francis Schools are no stranger to innovative technology use, being well-equipped with projectors, SMARTboards, document cameras, and other innovative technologies. More than two years ago, however, they began a planning process to bring teaching with depth—stereo 3D visualization—into their classrooms. Led by 4th grade teacher-innovator, Holli Hillman, this project represents what I believe to be the single most successful district-level 3D implementation in the nation. Bar none. And for that reason, there’s much to be learned from these humble yet daring St. Francis innovators. Let’s continue our story.

Holli Hillman
Hillman, a seasoned and bright educator, summarizes the St. Francis project in this way:

We are exploring stereoscopic 3D content, currently in the areas of Science and Mathematics, for our STEM initiative. Because many of the 3D lesson topics were produced using the Common Core Standards, many directly correlate with our Minnesota state standards, making this content worthy of replacing some curriculum.”
The content being used by Hillman includes stereoscopic 3D simulations created by DesignMate. She explains the advantages of teaching with depth in this way:

 “3D brings concrete, abstract concepts to life and allows for optimum visualization and comprehension of some very conceptual topics. This content is fascinating and the sky is the limit for how it can be used. I believe this to be a ground-breaking approach to instruction as well as comprehension for students. The color and imagery are beyond bold and attention-grabbing.”
Remarkably, Hillman’ innovative efforts began with her 4th grade classroom. That is significant because the far majority of 3D projects in the nation are being implemented in middle and high schools.

Folks, there’s so much more to this story. That is why I am turning this piece into an off-and-on-again series. I consider Holli Hillman to be the best 3D educator in the U.S., and in future installments, you will clearly find out why. 

April 14, 2014

Efficiency in Sweden (2)

One of the most interesting findings coming out of the Vällingbyskolan and Högalidsskolan 3D case studies involves learning efficiency. In the Swedish studies, teachers report that 3D seems to help students learn information faster. Here is our second post on this theme, which briefly highlights the experience of Vällingbyskolan. (See previous post for details on the Högalidsskolan 3D case study.)
Vällingbyskolan in Sweden 

Fredrik Boström
Fredrik Boström, the principal leading the Vällingbyskolan school case study, agreed with his counterpart, Mattias, who was quoted in our previous post. Fredrik added: “We have seen that students can learn more in less time and therefore that their understanding of complex context is getting better.”

In the recent eBook, “The Future of 3D Education: What every educator should know about 3D in the classroom,” I was quoted as saying:  “It’s the first clue we’ve ever had in 3D research about learning efficiency. It’s a pointer. To me it’s a pointer that further research needs to be done.”  Learning efficiency, as one of the apparent benefits of 3D in education, is a phenomenon we will need to keep our eyes on.

April 7, 2014

Efficiency in Sweden (1)

One of the most interesting findings coming out of the Vällingbyskolan and Högalidsskolan 3D case studies involves learning efficiency. In the Swedish studies, teachers report that 3D seems to help students learn information faster
Högalidsskolan in Sweden
This educational phenomenon is called learning efficiency and its implications are profound.  Learning efficiency simply means that students can reach a deep understanding of their learning goals in a shorter amount of time. When teachers and learners are more efficient, it frees up more time in the curriculum to cover or learn more—or to go deeper than the students were able to go before.

Mattias Boström
Mattias Boström, the principal that lead the Högalidsskolan case study, noted that teachers often observed significant efficiency in learning during their 3D coursework.  He  explained: “We have students with a deeper and more complex knowledge about the heart in fifth grade, than any of our previous ninth grade students have had.” He recognizes that these learning efficiency results are “based on observations and teacher experience,” so he carefully added: “We don't have any data yet [on learning efficiency], but we are trying to get the researchers to look into this.” “What we have learned so far is that we can teach much more complicated and complex topics than we were able to before. We see that it takes less time to get to deeper knowledge for the students, time we can use to get more topics.” 

This economy in learning really matters.  Come back for  next week's post to learn more.