Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Simple Review Of AR Expeditions from Google

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to work with the Google AR Expeditions program and it was simply awesome.

What Are The AR Expedtions?

At this point, many teachers are familiar with Google's VR Expeditions.  AR expeditions use a similar platform to bring AR experiences to the kids.  Using latest generation phones equipped with special cameras, kids can be led on an augmented reality journey into studying any number of the curated topics that Google provides.
*Not my classroom*

How Does AR Compare To VR When To Comes To Educational Expeditions? 

In many ways I think that I prefer the AR experience in a class setting.  VR can occasionally elicit some nausea from a few kids and there was none of that using their new platform.  While I felt generally more at ease about the kids' safety while not using a phone strapped to their faces, I do admit to feeling more anxious that they were going to harm the expensive smart phones while extended out on selfie sticks and walking around.  My hope is that Google will continue providing both for a more well-rounded experience.

What To Expect During The Pioneer AR Expeditions Program?

I work in the Portland, Oregon Metro area and was pleasantly surprised when I heard that Google was doing the pioneer program in our area.  It was relatively easy to get them to come out as soon as I could commit to pushing at least 350 kids through the experience in order to fill up the day with their associate.  The program required a scheduler from our building who was willing to setup rooms and work out a master list of teachers and times.  After that work was done, one more person was required to work as a second set of hands in one of 2 rooms alongside the regular classroom teachers.  It is notable that the Pioneer program does require classroom teachers to head up the lesson with minimal support in the way of teaching from the one Google Associate that came for the day.  In our experience, one person could easily fill both these rolls of scheduler and point of contact to help on the day of the activity.

What Did The Kids Think About The Experience?

As is usually the case with VR/AR technologies in the classroom, there was absolutely no nagging kids in terms of engagement.  All day long we heard the customary ooohhhhs and aaaahhhhhs of kids experiencing their content in a way that was new and exciting.  I can't wait to see this technology make it out of beta and see what the next generation of phones are capable of doing.

Interested In Checking Out The Pioneer Program?

Friday, October 13, 2017

CoSpaces Keeps Getting Better

Anyone that knows me has probably heard me ramble about CoSpaces before.  I've been on the bandwagon ever since I found out about it and it continues to astound me with it's brilliant simplicity.

What makes CoSpaces so beautiful for education?

Now that we are several years into the hype of virtual reality, it is a great time to reflect a little bit on how it works and how it doesn't for education.  CoSpaces takes VR, and what has sometimes been a bit of a gimmick, into the realm of authentic educational experiences.  Think of it as a type of PowerPoint for VR that is accessible to kids and adults of all ages.  Absolutely anyone can create compelling VR environments in minutes and hours without any prior design experience.

How does CoSpaces continue to outdo themselves?

In the last year, CoSpaces has added a ton of features to make it easier and more capable in the classroom.  Not to mention the whole CoSpaces Edu platform, here is a list of some of the things that make it even more awesomer.  (in no particular order)

  • New user interface and design controls
  • Better Chrome OS filesystem integration
  • Ability to import animated gifs, and more recently .STL files
  • Script and Block Coding
  • 360 photo integration

Even though there are a few other companies doing similar things in the way of VR content creation, CoSpaces continues to hit the nail right on the head with their educational platform and approach to getting kids excited about using VR for any content area.

Check out this demo I did to orient people about my library makerspace.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

CoSpaces and Google Street View: Taking it to the next level.

CoSpaces is like the Educational VR gift that keeps on giving.  I have to give them some mad props for rolling out regular new features and then keeping those features free of charge.  In addition to tweaking some of their construction tools and allowing custom start points using the new camera tool, CoSpaces has recently added the ability to use a 360 photo as the environment.  I finally got around to playing with this new feature and it truly does open up a whole new world of possible uses in simple user-created VR scenes.  Here are the steps that I took to get going with 360 photos in CoSpaces.

Either take your own or download a 360 photo from the Internet.  

For those unfamiliar, Google Street View is an amazing website/app for accessing an insane amount of free content by way of 360 photography.

I used the iStreetView website to find my Google Street View photo.

After I had located a photo that I wanted to use in the classroom, I used the StreetView Download app to actually download the photo out of StreetView.  Here is a link to the Windows version and Mac.

Once you have the 360 photo, it really is child's play. has put out a nice little tutorial on how to get the file into your environment.  It doesn't really mention filetypes in the video but I simply used the wide format .jpg that downloaded from the app.

Examples and ideas for the classroom.

Can you imagine being able to show your students a place around the world, have them explore and learn about the space in the classroom, and then finally showcase their learning in a dynamic and engaging way?  Forget PowerPoints or boring slideshows, have the kids do some writing within CoSpaces.  I can envision structuring elementary school age children by providing the 360 photo for them while older kids could research out and find their own compelling 360 photo to match what they are learning.

Have ideas or are you already using CoSpaces 360 photos?  Comment or share what you're doing!

This quick little example took me about 5 minutes to complete following the steps outlined above: (obviously cooler when viewed in VR)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Edorble Virtual Worlds and Some Thoughts on Distance Learning.

Edorble, a relatively new startup that seeks to "make online learning personal, playful, and painless," has recently begun working on integrating virtual reality into their already compelling educational platform.  After trying it out a bit, I can definitely start to see a vision of the future where Edorble and similar apps play an important role in distance learning.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than half of public high schools had students that were enrolled in distance education.  That number is almost 5 years old at this point and has almost certainly increased.  As students and parents flock towards online and virtual learning experiences, it is important to find ways that can integrate some of the most valuable components to education that can easily become lost in a non-traditional setting.  Enter Edorble.  With Edorble, students around the world can meet in a private and common virtual space that allows for interaction, collaboration, and even direct instruction from a teacher to a group of learners.

When viewing new technologies from the lens of a teacher, one universal litmus test starts to form that is a clear guage of its future success in the educational setting: how can this new tool enhance my ability to deliver content and teach concepts to my students?  In fact, on occasions when I work with techno-resistant teachers, these are some of the questions I find answering the most.  What value does that add to my instruction?  What's the point?  How is that better than what I already am doing?  Edorble's virtual learning spaces clearly illustrate the value that can be added to online learning.  Whereas before, students in an online class might never interact or do so asynchronously through forum discussion, they can now do so in real-time.  Edorble's proximity chat allows you to hear anyone who begins speaking in your immediate vicinity, just like would occur in real life.  Their simple tools allow teachers and students to converse but also access the Internet on giant screens within the world.

I was introduced to virtual worlds for the first time back in 2008 when I started working on my graduate degree online.  At the time, online degrees were fairly new and many educators were experimenting with lots of different things that would make a meaningful substitution for the traditional classroom experience.  Things like discussion forums, online collaboritive tools, skype, and even conference calls started to define ways that an online class could approximate the same level of instruction and communication that existed in a traditional setting. In my experience, virtual worlds were the only thing that even came close. Add VR into the mix along with apps like Edorble that are making it super easy for teachers to connect up with their students, and it is a definite recipe for success.  I envision a not too distant future where students and teachers around the world are no longer tied to the physical boundaries of where they live.

It is definitely worth checking out the Edorble website to find more ideas about how it works and to download their free software.