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.

Friday, January 13, 2017 just got even cooler, coding!

I've been a pretty big fan of ever since I found it back in September this year.  It fills a hole in the market for educational VR in K-12.  You can read a few of my initial thoughts on their app in this earlier blog post.  Now that I've had even more time to play with it and see kids using it in the classroom, I can continue to reiterate that I think Cospaces, a small company based out of Germany, is really onto something.

One thing that I've noticed in the increasingly fast-paced field of educational technology is that the need to innovate and push new things often times overlooks the educational value being offered by the tools.  This mentality is in direct opposition to what most teachers value in their craft and it can be easy to be caught up in all the flash without finding the substance.

What is Cospaces answer to this quandary?  Coding.  

A little while back their website quietly added the ability to code in javascript and more recently, they have introduced blockly programming!  I have to say that I'm amazed at how well they are rounding out their experience for a huge variety of learners.  At this point, the simple VR creation process can be experienced all the way from Kindergarten up through High School.  Actually, one of my own children just completed a project for her 1st grade class and used Cospaces to spice it up.

So why is blockly so cool?  

For a few years now, blockly has been a standard for teaching children the concepts of computer science.  One of the first and best examples I can think of that has really unlocked the potential of block coding and its role in teaching kids is Scratch.  CoSpaces choice to add blockly puts them well on their way to bringing the same open-ended constructivist approach to learning coding into the new medium of VR.  This is exciting stuff.  Watch a quick demo by CoSpaces of a few of the possibilities opened with coding for simple VR experiences.

Ok, enough of my ramblings, you really need to try this out.  Or better yet, have your students try this out.  No need to twist their arms, simply introduce them to the website, tell them what you want them to accomplish, and be amazed as they start to figure it out.  I've been playing around with the block programming for a few days now and it is extremely compelling.  I'm especially intrigued in how kids can use it to tell stories and even add game elements to their presentations.  Here's a little proof of concept I've been working with in order to familiarize myself a little bit.

While there isn't yet a huge variety of blocks to play with, you can definitely get started and writing your own variables allows you to branch out even more.  Blockly in is awesome and I look forward to seeing all the features that get added down the road.  Keep up the good work guys.