June 27, 2016

Echo Chamber

At the ISTE 2016 conference, being held this week, virtual reality is no doubt turning out to be the new popular kid on the block. (See last week’s post.) But there’s a problem afoot: We are seeing an “echo chamber” effect at play in educational settings. Too many of these sessions sound like the same content: the field trip or the gadget. Both represent education ‘light.’ That’s not a good thing.

“Hardware has run ahead of content,” bemoans Rene Pinell of Kaleidoscope VR . She’s right. You can see it here at the ISTE conference. In the Wall Street Journal, Chrisotpher Mims lambasts the fact that “most content is demos.” He’s right, too. Can you whisper “hype cycle?” With the exception of zSpace and my own workshops (the last two on the list posted last week), there is nothing much new here. Unlike VR at the recent SXSWedu festival, which featured many creative twists for VR (e.g., online learning, virtual reality mashups, vision health, emotional intelligence, and the future of storytelling), VR at ISTE is, like many new technologies, pursuing the lowest common denominator. Ouch.

June 20, 2016

ISTE 2016 Preview

The annual ISTE conference is convening this year in Denver, Colorado. The ISTE conference is the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S, and will offer more than 1,000 educational sessions to more than 23,000+ teachers, professors, and administrators. Examining the ISTE 2016 conference landscape goes a long way in informing us about what is trending in education. Let’s zoom in on some of these developments from the perspective of 3D and virtual reality.

In the Conference Sessions
The upcoming ISTE conference will offer forty-six 3D-VR-AR-related events in their slate of sessions: five showcase 3D design in education; ten feature AR solutions; fourteen highlight 3D printing; and seventeen sessions specifically focus on VR in education. In the VR arena, the session titles convey particular meaning:
  • Google Cardboard, Virtual Field Trips, and Visual Learning: The Power of Maps
  • Google Cultural Institute and Google Cardboard (VR) for the Classroom K-12
  • Gizmos and Gadgets for Use in (but mostly out of) the Classroom
  • The Basics of the New 3"R's" in Education: AR, VR, QR
  • Classrooms, Made of, Virtual Reality Field Trips
  • Virtual Field Trips: Bringing the World to Your Classroom
  • Virtual Reality Bridges the Gap for ESL Learners
  • Virtual reality tour with Google Cardboard to amazing places!
  • 3D and Virtual Reality in the Classroom
  • Augmenting and Virtualizing Reality through Computer Science
  • Breaking out of the Norm with Virtual Reality
  • Tripping Out! Virtual Field Trips for All
  • Student Led Virtual Field Trips around the World
  • Discovering Immersive 3D and Virtual Reality in a STEAM classroom with zSpace
  • Creating a Customized Street View Experience for Your Classroom
  • Your First ISTE 3D VR Bootcamp
  • See 2 Achieve: Virtual Reality, 3D, Vision, and Learning

In the Exhibit Hall
3D and virtual reality stalwarts like zSpace, Unity, Google, Samsung, AV Rover, Sterling Pixels, and Sensavis are returning to the expo floor. New to the ISTE exhibit hall finds Mursion and Omniglobe with their first-ever presence.

3D Network Events

ISTE’s personal learning network (PLN)—the 3D Network—will also continue its educational advocacy for all things 3D. This group is expected to raise the decibel level of 3D and VR in education by again hosting three special events: their popular membership open house; the annual meet-and-greet event; and a panel presentation (entitled Designing, Visualizing, and Making in 3D) at the conference. (Companies wishing to have a presence—in person or with literature—at the 3D Network meet-and-greet event, scheduled for Tuesday morning should contact this author sooner rather than later.)

June 13, 2016

Accelerator (3)

In the two previous posts, we have focused on the notion of 3D as a learning accelerator. So, how does this all work? It’s no surprise. It's the power of visualization in learning. Sofia Kruth, the innovative school teacher identified in the last two posts, makes the following conclusions about the power of 3D visualization in the classroom:

In my view it is simply outstanding, I have never before seen or experienced this level of complexity when children this young talk and explain the process of making oxygen. If given a chance they can perform on a much higher level then given levels in the curriculum.”

Even the U.S. National Science Foundation National Institutes of Health note in their seminal report, calling for more visualization tool development: “Visualization plays a role in saving lives, accelerating discovery, and promoting education through improved understanding.”

June 6, 2016

Accelerator (2)

Last week’s post is an example of accelerated curriculum in action. It begs the question: can 3D visualization help even younger children learn more advanced topics, more thoroughly?

The answer is “Yes.” Here’s another compelling story, told by teacher Sofia Kruth at Sandhultskolan, evidencing how a teacher approached curriculum acceleration using the 3D Classroom to teach photosynthesis at a much lower grade level than is the norm— in first grade.

We started our school year (year 1) by planting seeds to see the growth. We went outdoors to look at trees and plants and how they change throughout seasons. Our curriculum for the younger years entails changes in seasons, along with simple lifecycles of plants and animals. One day in autumn a pupil in one of the upper classes found parts of a deer in the woods. We took care of it, processed the parts, and looked at them in class – we found a hip, upper hind leg, and bits of the backbone. The younger pupils wanted to be part of those discoveries, too. I allowed my younger pupils to examine the skeleton parts and after that we went to watch the human skeleton in 3D. My pupils were fascinated with the human skeleton and drew conclusions about the thorax movements as the person breathes. With these positive remarks, and the attention and curiosity that my young pupils showed, it made me think about other areas for using 3D visualization. 
In the Swedish curriculum the photosynthesis is mentioned for year 4-6, nothing in the earlier years. With my positive experience with the 3D-Classroom in studying the skeleton, I thought: “Why not? I will challenge my pupils and let them deepen their understanding of plants, carbon dioxide, oxygen and their correlation—and if it doesn’t work I will know that they are not ready.” 
Said and done. We took the time to set up the 3D-Classroom and clicked trough the menus together. My pupils were fascinated with the look of the leaf, the stomata and how the stomata open and close depending on access to light. We followed the cell and saw the “factory” inside, how everything moved while light and stopped when dark; we saw the “explosion” inside the leaf as carbon dioxide molecules met the water molecules and through solar energy created new substances in a chemical reaction; we saw the carbohydrates the plant used and the oxygen that is released into the air for us to breathe.

The 3D captured my pupils’ curiosity, but also helped them see and think beyond their normal capacity. One student spontaneously remarked “What luck there is daytime on the other side of the globe when we have night, otherwise there wouldn’t be any more oxygen.”  This pupil made correct assumptions and connections that included the earth’s axis and earth movements around its own axis and the sun with the chemical reaction inside a leaf. Rather complex thoughts and revelations from this young pupil (7 years old). The entire class drew complex schemata of how the photosynthesis works, schemata that entail the stomata, water molecules, carbon dioxide molecules, and the importance of light.