July 28, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (2)

The St. Francis 3D project described in last week's post began in a single school, in a single fourth grade classroom. But last year, it was extended to all of the other schools in this innovative district. How did they do it? Here are two of the keys to success we can unpack from this timely success story:

The Champion. The vision began with a lone fourth-grade teacher, Holli Hillman. She was struck with the potential of 3D visualization in learning and acted upon her vision. She became a force of one. A ‘champion’ is the term we often use in education. She ached for a chance to employ this technology to improve student learning. That’s how all good educators improve classrooms—with a yearning, an ache, and by untiringly wondering, “what if?”

The Allies. The reality is that a force of one doesn’t really work in education. You might think so, but it doesn’t. Ms. Hillman had to find allies in order to truly realize her vision. She presented her ideas to her principal, colleagues, peers, parents, district leaders, superintendent, and even I.T. technical leaders. She sought their support, their advice, and their blessing. She convinced them, but she did so based on trust, passion, and the promise of value-added learning. In doing so, she grew and nurtured a large ‘family’ of co-travelers. She wrote: “My Superintendent along with his entire District Leadership Team were some of the first to view the 3D content only 12 short hours after it was up and running. I have been enthusiastic about this pilot project for quite some time and was ecstatic to share it immediately once it was up and running. My Superintendent couldn’t stop grinning as he walked from one corner of the room to the other watching the stereoscopic imagery travel with him. He was stunned that what I had been describing for several months was exactly as incredibly visual as I explained. He and I talked extensively about how this would be used in the classroom as a teaching and learning tool; and why this content is so incredible.”

In next week's blog post, we will unpack six more vital keys for scaling up 3D in your setting.

July 21, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (1)

If you look at 3D in education across country, almost all implementations involve isolated, individual schools. These pioneer 3D-using sites are often magnet, STEM-focused, private, charter, or otherwise impassioned schools that simply caught the vision and saw the potential for 3D visualization in learning. 

In some U.S. school districts, mobile 3D carts have been purchased for every school, but almost all of these ‘district’ efforts have grown quiet, languishing due to lack of vision, training, and leadership. In my opinion, you cannot simply “buy 3D” and throw it loosely into classrooms; rather, effective and log-lasting  3D programs must be seeded, grown, nurtured, and cultivated. Above all, they must be led.

The St. Francis school district 3D project may well be the only successful district-level implementation of 3D learning in the U.S. Certainly, this group of forward-thinking educators offers key strategies for successfully pursuing district-wide implementation of 3D in almost any setting. What we can learn from this district will help all of us better support, sustain, and leverage future 3D initiatives in schools.

The St. Francis project began in a single school, in a single fourth grade classroom. But this last year, it was extended to all of the other schools in this innovative district. How did they do it? In our next blog posts, we unpack some of the keys to success for scaling educational 3D.

July 14, 2014

When 3D Falls Short

In my previous posts in this series, I took time to translate many of the powerful creative thoughts of Clyde Dsouza into the context of classroom learning. In this sequel, I will draw upon Dsouza’s expertise to answer the countervailing question: “Why is some eS3D content so darn lackluster?

3D falls short in classrooms when:

Clyde Dsouza,
author of Think in 3D
It’s too flat. In his book, Think in 3D, Dsouza proposes that [when viewing 3D] “the screen really is a stage for all purposes. It is no longer a flat wall.” Dsouza accurately understands that, whenever 3D educational content is so close in appearance to flat movies, it loses its appeal. Think about it. Why would schools pay for the extra costs of 3D if they are only a little bit better than a 2D classroom video? It’s so obvious! He concludes, “A subtle look 3D film may as well be 2D.” So, too, in classroom 3D. In education, depth ‘rules’ and flat ‘drools’. (Please excuse my use of middle school vernacular).

It’s too subtle. Dsouza believes that is a mistake to assume that "subtle 3D is good 3D." He warns that “subtle 3D at all times  creates safe – [and] boring 3D. I agree. Anyone who knows educations is well aware that ‘boring’ ushers in an“irreversible kiss of death.”

It moves too fast. According to Dsouza, “the familiar montage like style , made up of rapid cuts, frequently changing camera angles, or fast camera motion that is normally used to convey anticipation, excitement, or other emotions into 2D movies” just doesn’t work in 3D film. I can say the same for the classroom. The classroom is different than the movie theater or entertainment ride.

3D content still has a long way to go. Some companies—like zSpace, CubeDigiCo, and Sensavis—are leading the way. Hardware and software companies alike would be wise to pick up Dsouza's book, connect with his ideas, and start to really think in 3D.

July 7, 2014

When eS3D content is amazing

Think in 3D by Clyde Dsouza
Recently reading Think in 3D made me think about those moments when 3D content is absolutely amazing in the classroom. How does that work? According to Dsouza, 3D content becomes truly amazing when:

It tells a story. Dsouza  is never apologetic in his passion for “the art of 3D storytelling.” Great eS3D doesn’t just focus student attention, it tells a vital story, one which students need to learn about in a given subject area.

It offers dwell time. Dsouza explains: “By its very nature, stereo 3D invites the user to look around a panoramic vista when presented… Giving the eyes and brain time to sample and savor a scene in these establishing shots key to successfully telling a story in stereo 3D.” This is something I have noticed in using great eS3D in the classroom—it compels more dwell time.

It offers out-of-screen real estate. Dsouza agrees with most teachers when he offers the opinion that “true stereographers know that out of screen real estate is invaluable to immersive 3D ...”  I can confirm his view. Out-of-screen real estate really matters to students.

It leverages 3DDsouza teaches that using 3D well “means that the unfolding story should know when to leverage 3D to heighten, ebb, or even alienate the audiences from the protagonist at appropriate stages during the screenplay.” Great eS3D in schools works in much the same way. The right learning object or scene geography is found at exactly the right depth—and for the right reason.

It activates our reflexesDsouza has observed that 3D is “a powerful phenomenon that can even activate our physical reflexes.” He notes “this is why we flinch or duck when we see something ‘flying’ out of the screen in a 3D movie. We don't usually have the same reaction in a 2D movie.” Great eS3D has the same effect on students—time after time.

It serves as a powerful triggerDsouza wonders: “Can stereoscopic 3D imagery be a ‘trigger?’ Could a scene in a 3D movie of balloons at a kid’s party trigger an emotional response in the audience remembering his childhood?” In education, we know that the mental images of stereo 3D content do indeed work the other way: eliciting greater recall, triggering, in the “mind’s eye,” a picture of a difficult or abstract concept.