Exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality in Learning


Virtual reality, like rock n’ roll, is not something that can be described well. It must be experienced in order to be fully appreciated and understood.

Interestingly, it has been catching on among educators.

Since 2013, Emory Craig, Director of eLearning at the College of New Rochelle, and Maya Georgieva, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Digital Bodies, have been presenting workshops on the topic. They’re working with developers, researchers and educators who are embracing the immersive learning technology, which seems to be on the cusp of widespread use...as well as being on the receiving end of a lot of hype.

Around the time Craig and Georgieva began exploring this emergent medium, the arrival of Google Glass seemed to have ushered in greater popularity. Georgieva was one of the educators to experiment with Google Glass. People suddenly had a wearable ideal of what could be tapped to create an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). The much-heralded yet now all-but-defunct product left its mark, as several key technological developments have sprung up to satisfy a new market.

One key development also came from the Internet giant: Google Cardboard. An accessible solution that was ‘easy to get into the hands of educators,’ Georgieva noted, it has helped to generate interest in the use of VR in the learning environment. With only a smartphone app and the inexpensive piece of cardboard, students can be transported to other worlds...




continue reading... "Outside the Boundaries: Exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality in Learning" by Kristi DePaul


Animating Hair Is a Lesson in STEAM

logo

I am a proponent of the concept of teaching in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) framework that goes across disciplines. I have seen many attempts to use science and math in teaching art - some successful, some not.

A new project that does this in an engaging way is a collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy that is sponsored by Disney. Called "Pixar in a Box," it gives a look behind-the-scenes at how artists at Pixar need to use STEM to make art.

To make balls bounce, leaves in trees move in the wind, fireworks explode or realistic rippling water takes more than drawing skills. It requires computer skills and considerations of math, science such as physics and digital humanities.



In this learning series of videos on simulations, the Pixar artists use hair as an example of an animation problem that needed to be solved. Using examples from their films, such as the character Merida in Brave with her bouncy and curly hair, you learn how millions of hairs can be simulated if you think of them as being a huge system of springs.

As the lessons progress, you can learn about animation roles and will discover what a technical director does in the animation process.

The lessons are appropriate for grades 5 and up - though I can see many adults and younger kids interested in animation from a technical or artistic side enjoying the free series.


Trying to Keep the Web Out of K-12 Classrooms

aolTen years ago, I wrote a post here about how K-12 school districts were being quite protective about content that comes into their classroom via the Web. They have good reasons to be more protective and wary - laws and parents, for example - than higher education. Looking at my older posts here is a kind of educational time travel.

In 2006, I was observing from my university position a lot of filtering of content in the K-12 world. I was thinking back to when I had taught in a NJ school district in the 1990s and was also acting as a computer coordinator.

It seems strange that it was only on October 24, 1995 that the FNC unanimously passed a resolution defining the term Internet. Back then, we were already swapping stories at conferences about the things kids were doing on our school computers and wondering how we would "filter" out the bad stuff.

There were a few radicals who thought we shouldn't filter out anything, but the majority used a library comparison. The librarian is a professional who decides what books get into the school; we will have to be the professionals who decide what online content gets into the school.

In 2006, there were schools blocking Google Earth. Why? Because it had a "chat" feature in it and schools blocked all chat. They were blocking AOL Messenger early on and MySpace and social networking sites. They were blocking this Serendipity35 blog. Not that they had anything against me -they were blocking all blogs.

Most of this was done at a server level with blocking software. In the 90's my school had filters in place and we were constantly uncovering hundreds of flaws. The common examples were instances like filtering "breast" so kids didn't see  nude pictures, but also blocking sites that could be used for research on cancer. The filtering net was very wide.

The only discussion in the schools about the complexities of using the Internet in classrooms was going on in meetings and faculty rooms by adults and not in the classrooms with students. It's the bad side of in loco parentis as we also "protected" teachers from being better users of technology and perhaps even better-informed educators.

With technology, sometimes schools are trying to control something they don't really understand. 

The term "Web 2.0" isn't heard much any more. It referred to the web that was becoming rich in interactivity, a read/write web, social networking, collaboration and community building.

That change became a big wave and has not gone away. And schools, particularly in the K-12 sector, still are having issues with it as a part of education. Have students use those computers in their pockets in class, or collect them and hide them during class. If schools do not help students explore new tools, students will explore on their own and schools are less relevant to their lives and the larger world.

My time traveling in this topic from within this blog turned up old headlines like "MySpace.com is facing a new threat on Capitol Hill" and "Kids outsmart Web filters." Given another decade, perhaps I will write about how odd it seemed that in 2016 we would still stop students from using smartphones in class.


200 Learning Tools

toolboxJane Hart created the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) in 2000. In 2007, she compiled her first Top 100 Tools for Learning list. This year the list is at an exhaustive and exhausting 200 tools. She takes votes from learning professionals worldwide (Jane is in the UK.) 

Jane was surprised that Twitter dropped from #1. As someone who bought Twitter stock at a low point in the hopes of selling it when it was higher after being purchased, I am not surprised. 

I like that Jane has also broken down the big list to subsets of tools for Personal and Professional LearningWorkplace Learning and Education

Even if you are a big user of online tools for learning, there are probably some new tools on the 2016 list or her "Movers and Shakers" list that you have never even heard mentioned.

The top vote getters should be familiar to all educators and I would expect that at least a few of these tools are in any teachers' toolbox by now. Jane has more information on each tool on her site.

Here are the Top 20:

1 - YouTube

2 - Google Search

3 - Twitter

4 - PowerPoint

5 - Google Docs/Drive

6 - Facebook

7 - Skype

8 - LinkedIn

9 - WordPress

10 - Dropbox

11 - Wikipedia

12 - Yammer

13 - WhatsApp

14 - Prezi

15 - Kahoot

16 - Word

17 - Evernote

18 - Slideshare

19 - OneNote

20 - Slack



Full list of 200 at http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/


Is Your Professor Using An Open Textbook This Semester? (Probably Not)

free the book

I am a user and advocate of free and openly licensed educational resources (OER), and open textbooks seems to me to be one of the lowest-hanging fruits on that OER tree.

I believe the use of OER materials in general has increased slightly the past few years, but the use of open textbooks has not increased. In fact, according to a large-scale survey recently released, only 6.6 percent of faculty members are "very aware" of them. That is not a good thing.

Back in 2010, I worked with the community college oerconsortium.org and the broader collegeopentextbooks.org 

and gave many presentations on using open textbooks. 

There are some colleges that have made a campus effort to encourage open textbook use, but they are in the minority.  

Can you still require a textbook of your students. Yes. Maybe.

A recent survey report, "Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16," shows a mixed picture for OER and some "serious disconnects."

One of those was that 87% of professors who had recently chosen books or other materials for a coursone said the cost to the students had been important or very important to them, but only 5% percent of those had assigned a free or openly licensed textbook. 

So why didn't they opt for open textbooks? Their perceived barriers include that there were not enough resources for their subject and that it was "too hard to find what I need" (no comprehensive catalog of resources).

I heard those when I did presentations. But there are plenty of sites that catalog books. 

Looking at the textbook listings at collegeopentextbooks.org, I did a search for and found two very common gen ed course textbooks for statistics and economics

algebra coverI was working at a community college when I first started working with open textbooks. Those schools are a great place for low-cost texts, especially because students are often taking courses below college level and need basic texts. Of course, students often enter 4-year colleges and also need to work on more basic math skills in order to do college-level math. Math is possibly the best subject for open textbooks because those books have a longer shelf life. Calculus does not change dramatically year to year. 

Let's take a look at a great example of an open textbook on Intermediate Algebra. Now in its third edition, it is one of four open textbooks that are core teaching resources at Scottsdale Community College. Along with Basic Arithmetic, Introductory Algebra and College Algebra, it has been used by thousands of students, saving their students upwards of $150,000 per semester.

This could be used in an algebra course or as a remedial reference for students in higher level courses. Of course, this is not only something that college professors should be examining. Teachers in high schools can also make good use of many of these textbooks with their students.

This particular group of books are the result of the SCC Math faculty making a collective decision to adopt OER and the books were developed and are maintained at virtually no cost by those faculty members. They have been enhanced by a suite of ancillary materials that include online help sessions, quizzes, and instructor's guides. 

Intermediate Algebra consists of 12 lessons with a MiniLesson (topic coverage via video examples and You Try problems for students), Practice Problems, and an end-of-lesson Assessment.

Want to check it out or use it?  You can view/download the textbook as a PDF and access all four books at sccmath.wordpress.com.

Basic Arithmetic (MAT082) – Workbook Edition 2

Introductory Algebra (MAT090, 091, 092) – Workbook Edition 4

Intermediate Algebra (MAT120, 121, 122) – Workbook Edition 4

College Algebra (MAT150, MAT151) – Workbook Edition 1


Feedback on Student Writing and Using Mimesis to Teach Plagiarism

thumbs upInstructors, especially those who do not teach writing as a subject, often struggle when it comes to making suggestions to students about what they need to do to improve their writing. I saw a survey done by Turnitin.com of 2400 students in bachelor or graduate programs that asked what types of feedback they felt were most effective and what types of feedback they received most regularly.

The results can either be seen as encouraging or inconclusive. All types of feedback were seen by over half of the students as being either very or extremely effective. Even the lowest response, for general praise or encouragement, got a 56% positive response. 

The responses to the types of feedback were more interesting. 68% said that they received general comments regularly while only 36% said they received examples regularly. Suggestions for improvement, the type of feedback rated most effective by students, was only seen regularly by 58% of students.

It is also interesting that across every category students rated feedback as being more effective than educators rated it. That lack of belief in feedback is certainly connected to the students in the majority saying that they didn’t regularly receive any feedback at all.

So the concern here for teachers is not as much what type of feedback they give, but whether they are giving enough feedback.

During the years that I directed a writing program, it was made clear to me that, just like teachers in all the lower grades, professors dreaded having to decide and deal with writing that you believe it is plagiarized. Of course, that is why Turnitin.com has become a successful company.They suggested in a blog post a very unusual approach to teaching about plagiarism. Have students copy. Intentionally. 

copying the masters

Mimesis refers to the ability to copy. Mimicry is the practice of imitating. We often encourage students to mimic as a way of learning. We discourage students from copying. We should make the distinction clear to students.

I spent a few years on an academic integrity committee at a university. One of the most sensitive issues that came up in those meetings was about the perceived cultural differences when it came to imitating or copying by students. 

The university has large numbers of international students, most in STEM fields, and many of them have their greatest academic difficulties with academic writing. The Turnitin.com post says that "To many educators, there’s a belief that students in eastern countries learn through rote memorization and copying while those in western countries focus more or original work and creative thought. Though the stereotype is obviously not the complete truth, there are cultural differences between educational approaches in countries with an eastern cultural background and those with a western approach."

They point to research by Anita Lundberg who teaches for Australia's James Cook University at a satellite school in Singapore. Lundberg, a cultural anthropologist studying ethnography, the study of customs and cultures, says that the biggest lesson learned is that copying and imitation is a key part of the learning experience in all cultures and in nearly all areas. Mimesis can be found in all fields including writing and art, where great masters often start mimicking the works of those who came before.

With writing, it is a good idea to give students model papers for the students to work from and even mimic. Separate mimesis from plagiarism. Teach referencing and citation skills.