August 25, 2014

Constructing 3D (1)

Tools for Stereo 3D Authoring 

I am often asked the question "What tools can I have my students use to construct images and content in stereo 3D?" There are many options, but here is my short list. Feel free to post a comment highlighting other tools not listed.

Unity offers a free version for educators. Used in heavily in North Carolina schools

Blender is a free open-source tool for educators. Used in heavily in Iowa and VREP schools

Reallusion offers iClone V, a low-cost design tool

Houdini offers a free apprentice/educator version of this tool used to make most Hollywood movies!

Maya (just google maya stereoscopic 3d for more resources; the word stereoscopic is important)

Eon Reality offers Eon Creator, a commercial tool

Sculptris is a tool some of the schools in the VREP program are using to great effect.

August 18, 2014

Nifty 3D Camera

Here’s a welcome resource for your budding 3D classroom: Phogy, a free 3D parallax camera. 

This app (produced by Vivoti) runs on the Android platform (download here) or the iPhone platform (download there). Short instructions are available on the app, but the English isn’t quite correct, so it may take some re-reading to get started. Nevertheless, a great tool for the classroom. And the price is right.

Special note: The Apple version requires iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for the iPhone 5. 

August 11, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (4)

In our previous posts in this series, we highlighted five of the strategies for scaling 3D beyond the single school installation or pilot project. In this post we will unpack three more practical strategies worth emulation: 

The Leveraging. Once the stories are being told, once the results are seeing the light of day, it’s time to connect those stories with an urgent need for action. The underlying premise is to use your past success to leverage even more success. The basic approach is to demonstrate that a technology-based intervention resulted in clear benefits and then request the resources required to expand the capabilities or reach of that intervention.  Here’s a chart that shows how that is supposed to work:

A technology-based project is producing notable results in a fourth grade classroom…

Let’s do better by extending the project to other classrooms.
A technology-based initiative is producing notable results in pilot schools…

Let’s grow this successful effort to more schools, so more students can benefit.

A smart educator will now raise the stakes, perhaps submitting a funding proposal to your superintendent, the school board, the PTO, a local business partner, a local educational foundation, or a probable grant source. Leveraging efforts must begin in earnest if scaling is to become a reality.

The Swell. Great technology efforts have wheels. They somehow inch beyond the artificial curbs associated with “pilot technology projects” entering the thoroughfare of relevance as they extend to other schools. Ms. Hillman explained early on in the St. Francis initiative: “I am currently working with teachers from the High School in an effort to expand… I am certain I will find teachers just as enthusiastic as myself to step outside of the box and implement this innovative instructional approach. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.”

The Anticipated Wrinkle. Surprises happen and good technology implementers know it. Recently, Ms. Hillman learned that both her highly supportive superintendent and her wise and sympathetic I.T. Director were leaving for new opportunities. This normally sounds a death knell for scaling and sustaining any budding technology initiative. Surviving leadership changes and knowing how to sustain an initiative for the long haul require quick thinking, agility, and no shortcuts in in the eight scaling principles identified in this piece. Since Holli Hillman has carefully built the proper scaffolding described in the eight principles above, there is far less worry over unanticipated transitions.

Following these principles, scaling educational 3D from single-school projects to district-wide initiatives is in the cards.

August 4, 2014

Scaling Educational 3D (3)

In our previous post we highlighted two of the strategies used by Holli Hillman used in scaling 3D beyond the single school installation or pilot project. In this post we will unpack three more practical strategies worth emulation: 

The Plan.  Most school technology efforts use an approach like this: “Fire, Aim, Ready!” Ms. Hillman’s paradigm became “Ready…Aim… Fire!” She knew that “you don’t just buy 3D.” You plan for 3D; you think it through; and you try to remove as many obstacles as you can before you begin. In developing her action plan, Ms. Hillman sought help from both inside and outside the district, ensuring that her efforts would indeed be successful.

The Promotion. In a famous Russian farce by Ilf and Petrov, “Christopher Columbus Discovers America,” there’s a saying uttered by Christopher Columbus that goes like this: “Without publicity—there’s no prosperity!” Effective scaling of 3D from one school to many schools requires marketing and promotion. In the midst of her project, Ms. Hillman wrote the following note to me: “This morning I had a VIP visitor. Brenda Cassellius, the Commissioner of Education for the state of Minnesota came in to view our district’s 3D set up and the way in which we are using it. Then on Monday,  I will have a Congresswoman here also. Very exciting things happening!”

The Results. In education, effective promotion is more likely to see scale increase if results are strongly evident. Simply using technology is never as convincing as is producing results with technology. Ms. Hillman didn’t merely show off the technology, she marketed the results of using 3D in the classroom. She began to gather informative student anecdotes or stories, collect data on student performance and improvement, and document  how well—or how quickly—students were learning.

In our next and final post in this series about scaling educational 3D, we will explore three more critical strategies. Please come back next week.