Virtual Reality is Here and We’re Not Ready

***This article is a summary of the incredible presentation by EdTech teacher, Greg Kuloweic who has done extensive research on VR in education. Here is a link to the presentation and his resources. I highly recommend looking at the current research from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

The EdTech Teacher Summit 2017 created a more realistic picture of where the world is going in technology and how quickly education must change to keep up. From virtual and augmented reality to wearables that measure emotion, modern technology brings exciting and moral implications to our world. These tools open major opportunities for bringing learning to life but they also pose serious threats to our understanding of truth and intellectual property.

The Answer for Teaching Empathy

Current research is quickly discovering that the immersion of people in a virtual world is an unbelievable tool to teach empathy. Imagine giving a middle schooler a headset that brings them to a Syrian refugee camp. They can see and hear things as if they were there. As they turn, so does the camera: up, down and side-to-side. Now imagine that while they are wearing the headset, they also are wearing a suit that hits more senses like feel, or smell to make the experience more realistic. You actually don’t have to imagine because these tools are already available.

Moral Implications

But with this great tool comes a lot of ethical questions. Imagine how scary or haunting an experience like this could be for someone because of how real it feels. The research has shown that people who have VR experiences actually remember the moments as if they were really there. And, the memories trigger from the emotional response. Think about the biases of the creators and how this might impact reality. Should textbook companies be creating these? News companies? Religious institutions?

Why should we care? In the age of ‘fake news’ our obligation to teach students to critically analyze the bias and intent of a media source is about to get a lot harder. Think about it. If consumers of VR actually remember experiences as if they were actually there, VR creators have the power to shape memories and therefore perceived truth.

Next Steps for Teachers

What should we do about it? Well, waiting for VR headsets to be as ubiquitous as iPhones to address this issue is definitely not the responsible response. We did that with social media and look where it has gotten us. Instead, expose your students to VR and while doing so, have open discussions about the pros and cons. Give them opportunities to critically examine these technologies by asking the right questions and taking the novelty away early. This could have an important impact on its growth and regulation in the future.

Let Students Consume VR

VR can be consumed or produced. The easiest way to immerse the students in your subject area and experience VR in a meaningful way is through the Google Expeditions app. The virtual tours allow students to travel around the world, outer space and even inside the human body. You guide the tour by giving them directions for where to turn. When they hit certain places, you can read information provided or guide them with your own information. This is basically PowerPoint on steroids. They can use iPads or they can use Google Cardboard headsets with their phones. Best of all, it’s free!

Give Opportunities to Produce VR

There are a ton of amazing ways you or your kids can produce VR. You don’t even need to take a 360 degree photo. Use one that already exists to create VR tours of famous places and museums. Open source 360 degree photos are available on 360cities.net and Flickr. In Flickr, you can search ‘The Commons’ for open source pictures and then ‘equirectangular’ to get a curation of 360 degree photos that are available for personal use. For 360 videos, go to YouTube and type “360 degrees” in the search.

Take 360 degree photos yourself! With the Google Streetview app, you can take them anywhere, and it’s free! This app does not seem to exist on the iPad. There are other apps that do a better job for a low cost.

After you have the picture, you can create a virtual reality tour for others to experience being in ‘your’ shoes. There are rumors that Google Expeditions will soon be allowing others to create their own Expeditions. This could be amazing for teachers especially if there is a library of non-Google created content for others to use. This will be an awesome way to make projects for a real purpose.

Google Tourbuilder, Roundme and Story Spheres are all programs that allow you to build your own tours although all are limited in what you can add. while one allows audio, the others only allow added texts. Tourbuilder is not available through an iPad. I encourage you to look through these as there are amazing examples on each of the websites.

CoSpace Edu seems by far the most expansive. You can add your own picture, one you downloaded from the above sources or you can choose from their library. Some environments are fictional and cartoon-like. You can add 3D models created on Tinkercad to your virtual world and you can access Google Poly library for open source 3D .stl files. Finally, there is a coding component you can add using block coding like Scratch to make the 3D objects move. It is fantastic and second graders can use it.

Ideas for Producing VR in your class:

  • Create a VR scene to a poetry reading
  • Create a scene in history or from a story
  • Take 360 photos in students’ favorite spaces on field trips. Kids can bring them back and curate a virtual fieldtrip
  • Find pictures of rooms in museums around the world and students can create their own virtual field trip.

Lead Discussions with Your Students

Discussion questions that can be adapted for all ages:

  • What is cool about VR?
  • How did it feel to be in another person’s shoes? How did it change your perception of that person or place?
  • If you could immerse yourself in another environment which would you choose? Where would you go? What environment would you not choose?
  • How could we use VR to help people?
  • How could we use VR to scare people?
  • Think about the creators of the VR environments. Do you think there is potential for bias? How could this become a problem?How could we solve that problem?
  • What rules should be in place to protect people?
  • Is it actually a benefit to empathize with people we disagree with? How so?
  • What about VR games? How cool would Minecraft be as VR!? How would it change the way you play the game? Is it possible to make a VR game too realistic? How could a violent video game like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty be too realistic in VR. If so, how can we protect people?

I encourage all of you to follow @gregkuloweic and @arvrinedu to stay up on this technology and how it is impacting education.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series: Wearable Technology Taps into our Emotions

How Will You ‘Make’ This Year?

We are ready to start our second year with our amazing D-Lab! Many of us already have ideas about how to integrate making, creating and design-thinking into their curriculum this year. Just in case you need some inspiration, here is a collection of of some cool ideas I found on Pinterest and other sites. If any of these piques your interest let me know and I will get you more information and start planning with you. Many of these projects can be altered to fit any curriculum!

 

 

 

 

 

Faculty Highlight: Singing with Jaime

We all say things and do things with our students that we might never do in front of a group of adults. For instance, yesterday, I had a spontaneous dance party with the kids because they needed a brain break. Let’s just say there was a lot of ‘shootin’ the moon’. It’s the only dance move I have down.

Jaime, our amazing first grade teacher, wanted to bring one of her passions, singing, into her classroom. So, she decided to turn every lesson possible into memory songs. From classroom management and organization, to grammar and math skills,  Jaime and her kids sing  what they are learning all day long. Here is an exclusive interview with Jaime about how she comes up with her silly songs. She also shared some videos of these songs in action!  #getyourcuteon

Why do you sing with your students?

” I love singing and it makes things easier to remember. I really want to get things stuck in their heads.”

How do you use the songs you teach?

“I start each year in song with classroom rules, and then I use them throughout the year for grammar rules and things that are important to remember about reading. Memorizing might not be as meaningful without a tune!

While they are working, I might sing the song about the rule they are practicing and then they sing along with me. This reminds them of the rule as they work through the activity. I even use songs for classroom rules to remind them about things like putting your name and date on the page.”

How do you come up with your songs?

“I use tunes that I already know and enjoy and then I steal them and change the words. Sometimes, the class comes up with tunes together. First, we decide if the song would work and then I come up with the words for the tune. Giving kids a chance to pick the song means more buy in from the beginning. For instance, the kids really wanted to make up a song to the tune of Star Wars, which worked perfectly with the rule for adjectives. ”

Adjectives: (Star Wars Theme)
An adjective 
is a describing word
is a describing word
is a describing word
for a noun
Two Vowels Together (Happy Birthday Song)
“When two vowels are together
you will only hear the first one
the first vowel will be long
and the second one will be silent
Make It Plural: (One of Jaime’s favorite country songs)
“Make it plural
add an S
sometimes add an es
everybody knows 
an S makes more than one of those”
 If you want to sing with your students, talk to Jaime! She has a ton of strategies. My favorite part is you can really turn any song with a clear melody and chorus into a memory song. If you feel like jammin’ to tunes from the 80’s with your kids, go for it!

 

Lunchtime Chats: An MJS Pilot

Cult of Pedagogy, an education blog written by experienced middle school English teacher Jennifer Gonzalez, should be followed by every educator. Her content is very concrete and can be easily adapted in all K-12 classrooms. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest or just follow her blog and get emails when new articles are posted. Recently, she posted a very interesting article about Piloting. This is the new wave in PD. It is a teacher-led, grassroots approach to solving a problem or fulfilling a need in our classrooms and school.  Click here to read the article! 

So, when Lisa approached me about an important need she found: that teachers have little time to really discuss curriculum across a grade level, at least in middle school, I thought maybe Piloting could work. This is where the ‘Lunch time Chat’ idea was born.  Our first Lunch Time Chat will be focused on 6th grade. Lisa will be meeting any 6th grade teacher who would like to participate in P-3 to problem solve how 6th grade can become more cohesive in what we teach. We will open this up to different grade levels next month.

If you see a problem or need you would like to solve, see me and I would be happy to schedule a Keep Calm time for interested people to come together!

#teachingisbetterwithfriends #keepcalmandlearnsomethingnew #mjspilot

 

 

The Case for Doodling In the Classroom

Have you ever been teaching something you find very important and you look down at one of your students and they are deep into a very detailed doodle? You think to yourself: “How could this student not be paying attention? How rude of them!” But, did you know that there is probably a higher chance that the doodlers in your class are actually retaining more information than the student who is obediently staring at you as you speak? Yep, that’s right. As much as we might hate to admit it, doodling can and should be allowed in our classrooms. I fought it for a long time, but I am a fervent believer in doodling today.

According to many studies, doodling effectively aids in executive functioning and multi-tasking. One study concluded that people doodling during a lecture could recall 29% of the the information given while the non-doodlers averaged 5.8%. In fact, they attribute this retention to the fact that doodling does not allow the brain to day dream, which takes a lot of the brain’s energy away from the task at hand. Doodling requires way less energy and keeps the brain focused on the speaker.

So, what if we started class one day by saying, “Students, I am going to share this information. I want you to listen and engage in class discussions at times. But, while you are listening, I encourage you to doodle.” We know that every student will be so excited for this. And, all of us with those fancy white board tables will rejoice at the fact that doodling is actually aiding in their learning!

Now, what if we then said, “Students, not only are you allowed to doodle, today I am going to teach you strategies for how to improve your doodles. Maybe you can even draw what you hear or see in the text.”   Taking notes with doodling even has a name: sketchnoting! It is the new spatial note-taking device that is hitting the education world by storm.

In fact, here is a sketchnote sharing different ways you can use doodling in your classroom!

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-10-34-32-am

Source for this picture

EdWeek: The Power of Visual Note-taking

If sketchnoting interests you, I encourage you to do a simple search for it on Google and you will be so surprised at how much is out there!  Give students who learn spatially a chance to learn their way. Outlining is not for everybody!

Tips for beginners and doodling and the link to my cover picture

 

Google Hack: Use Docs to Design Templates for Individualized Assignments

Did you know that you can type a document on Google Drive and save it in template mode? Students can then use it as a worksheet, only modifying their individual assignment. This is a great strategy for small groups to collaborate on ideas and organize research, or simply work independently on an assignment. Students love this because they can type their work and edit it later. Teachers love it because they can access their work at any point to make sure they are on task and creating beautiful work.  Students also rarely loose their work this way! 

Templates allows for easy differentiation or individualized instruction, as you can share different documents with different students. You can write personal notes, give hints, create scaffolds based on the needs of each student.

Here is a video for how to do this:

To learn more cool Google hacks, come to the Google Help workshop with Larry and Travis at lunch on Tuesday January 17th from 12:15-12:55 in my room.  

Sign up here for this workshop or any other for January

Some more cool links to Google hacks:

22 Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Google Drive

A couple hacks from Teacher Priorities: