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vr (5)

0:21 Intro Emily
1:08 An Overview of Squirrels Tools.
4:00 ClassHub
9:40 Reflector
12:06 Examples of uses with VR in the classroom

Squirrels programs don't have a VR focus but they are powerful tools to aid in collaboration and presentation of student VR work in the classroom. Since I often use Reflector in my classroom to aid collaboration and participation in VR I reached out to the Squirrels team to get an insider's look into what they offer. Two of the tools that are particularly well suited for this work are ClassHub and Reflector. Each have different strengths which we discuss a bit more in depth in our interview, but I gave some short summaries below to help. 

ClassHub has the ability to share the screen of a Chromebook, computer, etc. to a teacher's computer. This allows the teacher to share work from students who are working on a VR project in a program like CoSpaces with the rest of the class without sharing a link. The teacher controls when and how long the students screen is shared with the rest of the class. It is a quick way to do this wirelessly throughout the lesson. 

Reflector is a tool that can allow iOS and Android devices to airplay or cast their screen to a computer. This has allowed me to reflect my iPhone screen to my computer which I can project for the rest of the class to see. I will use this tool when one of my students is using our class VR headset to experience a 3-D world or educational YouTube video. Since many of us don't have the resources to purchase devices for the entire classroom, Reflector allows for the rest of the class to still participate when a VR headset is being used. 

Have you had any experience using ClassHub or Reflector to share VR content in your classroom? Share your experience in the discussion below!

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Last month Facebook announced a Beta release of "Spaces" for the Oculus Rift. Spaces is Facebook's Virtual Reality extension to its social network. It allows users to meet together in fully-immersive virtual environments to share and interact with one another. When Mark Zuckerberg first previewed Spaces to the public last year I knew that it was going to revolutionize the way we think about collaboration and more importantly, education. 

I understand that at this time the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are fairly expensive investments with limited educationally focused applications. Even Facebook Spaces isn't built specifically for teaching in VR. The cost and tools within these platforms will become more user-friendly as time goes on. When smartphones first came to market they were perceived as being expensive and unnecessary. Why get a smartphone when I can play Snake on my Nokia 3310 and not pay for data? There is always an adoption phase with any new technology and we are just about to sign the papers to adopt VR into our lives. 

About five years ago I had the opportunity to help pilot a videoconferencing distance learning program at a local university in my area. I taught a lesson on the California Mission System and dressed up as the Franciscan Priest "Father Junipero Serra" who founded many of the missions along the coast. Role playing the part of this figure from history, I took students from all over the world on 1-hour Virtual Field Trips to learn about California's history. Using a Tricaster and green screen I was able to interact with these classrooms and answer questions in a real-time video conference throughout the lesson. The green screen background made it possible to insert backgrounds of relevant missions and other locations the early settlers encountered. Here is a video clip montage from my videoconferencing lesson:

Piloting that videoconferencing lesson was a blast. At the time I remember thinking how great it was that students were able to see such powerful visuals and interact with an expert on the topic as they learned. As I moved on from this experience and ultimately began my current role as a classroom teacher I kept coming back to the idea of teaching virtually to students from all over the world. I thought about doing something like this with virtual reality but the technology simply wasn't at a point to support it. 

Enter Facebook Spaces. Over the past few years we have seen interactive tools like Google Expeditions, Edorble, and Engage that provide a taste of the immersive educational experience VR can be. But until now there hasn't been a platform that provides virtual reality collaboration with sufficient features and reliable tools to support this type of collaboration. I believe Facebook Spaces is the first Virtual Reality platform to meet these demands and does so within the largest social network in the world. 

I do want to be clear about one thing though. As great as virtual education is, I think it has a long way to go before it transitions from an enrichment tool to a full-time classroom replacement. In all honesty, I have hard time visualizing a time when the physical classroom interaction is replaced completely by virtual connections. So, as virtual reality is still in it's infancy, I believe VR lessons will be used primarily as a supplemental option to enrich what students are already learning in class. Perhaps one-hour topic focused lesson connections. In Higher-Ed I can see this transition to more full-time VR instruction happen more quickly, but K-12 students will surely take much longer, if ever. 

In order for completely immersive educational experiences to be successful in Virtual Reality I believe the following criteria must be met:

1. The platform used must be reliable. Bugs or dropped connections can ruin the immersive experience of VR collaboration. 

2. Clear objectives must be identified for the lesson. Having clear goals for what will be taught is critical to any lesson or task. 

3. Pre, Present, and Post materials/resources should be provided to the student. Students need some context before entering into a virtual space. Pre-materials provide students with the background knowledge needed to fully engage in the lesson. Present materials are given within the lesson itself. Post resources are provided as opportunities to continue learning on the subject provided. This means that VR lessons probably will need to be given in tandem with some type of other communication medium to provide these additional resources (ex. Email, Direct Messages, Forum, etc.).

4. Interaction with the instructor and opportunities for peer collaboration are required. The thing that separates a social Virtual Reality experience from watching an informative YouTube video is the collaboration between participants. Just like in a physical classroom, students need to have the opportunity to verbalize what they are learning with others to help them process through and better retain the information. 

5. Participants, Teacher and Students must have a way to find and connect with one another. When I was teaching via video conferencing we used www.CILC.org to find and schedule connections between schools and content providers. I can see a similar model working with VR Platforms today. The finding and scheduling of programs could be integrated within the VR platform itself or it could be housed at another site. This is was a need that I originally wanted to meet when I started www.TeachInVR.com. I wanted to provide a place for teachers to connect with students and schedule lessons. (Let me know if this is something you're interested in by clicking here and we'll talk about next steps) Here's a screenshot of one of the programs listed on on CILC as an example:

6. Students need to have the opportunity to give honest feedback and rating about the Teacher/Lesson that is visible to other students interested in participating in that lesson. This is a valuable feature that promotes high quality teaching and lessons while providing students with the confidence that they need to know they will have a positive experience and not waste their time. 

7. Teachers need a way to easily monetize the service they provide. Unless teachers get compensated for their hard work the lessons will be low quality and not sustainable. The investment by teachers to create quality content and make it sustainable requires some type of payment system. 

Here is why I believe Facebook Spaces has the ability to change the way we teach and learn in fully-immersive environments, and here are some reasons why:

1. Photo / Video 360 Environments - Studies at Stanford show that people who use Virtual Reality have greater empathy for their environment than those who watched a video about the same place. This is why I believe VR is going to be such a powerful teaching tool. Students can truly experience and immerse themselves into what they are learning about. Some great examples of these experiences can be found in the New York Times VR App. (Take a look at The Displaced and The Fight for Falluja)

2. It is Remote - Spaces breaks down the barriers of distance between teachers, students, and locations. A teacher from England, along with students from New York, Japan, and Egypt can meet together on the San Andreas Fault in California to talk about Earthquakes while each person is actually sitting in their living room. This tool provides a new level of connection and collaboration between cultures and locations.

2. Draw - Using whiteboards in a classroom is a great way to check for understanding in the classroom. But in Spaces these whiteboards become three dimensional. Similar to the Tilt Brush for the HTC Vive participants in Facebook Spaces can create three dimensional drawings. This tool provides students and teachers with a great resource for creating within the virtual space during a real-time connection. 

3. Hand / Facial Gestures. Depending on the research you site, Non-Verbal Communication makes up roughly 70% of our total communication. Spaces requires Oculus Touch Controllers which can sense where your fingers are. Allowing you to point, wave, or make a fist with your virtual hands. Spaces also makes inferences based on your voice that move your avatar's mouth as you speak. Finally, if you look in the direction of one of your friends, your avatar will make eye contact with what person, giving a more personal feel to your communication. All of these non-verbal connections between your physical and virtual self brings a new level of immersion and connection between participants. 

4.Facebook Messenger Video. Adding another dimension to a Spaces connection is the ability to add others to the experience through Facebook Messenger Video calls. Unfortunately at this time only the person who makes the call can see the caller and others in the virtual space cannot. I would expect some expansion on this feature in the future. But this does provide some creative options for enhancing virtual meetings. 

5. Stereoscopic Sound. The way sound is presented to us is something we we may not think of as being very important. Within a VR environment it can be the difference between an ok experience and a truly immersive one. When the person on your right talks and you hear them more clearly through your right headphone vs. your left, interaction becomes very comfortable and natural. 

6. Integration with Facebook's Social Network. One of the special features of Facebook Spaces is it's deep integration with Facebook. With over a billion people on Facebook, the infrastructure needed to connect people together is already in place. Ideally, Facebook will see the value in fully immersive educational connections and add more tools to invest in this area.

Personally, I would love to Teach and Learn in VR. How about you? Is this something you think will catch on? Let me know in the comments below. 

-Corey Engstrom

Teach in VR Community Manager

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Some highlights from our connection: 

Introduction to Monica: 0:11

Immersive Storytelling with VR: 1:25

Creating vs. Consumption: 5:32

Creating your own 360 Video: 6:59

360 Video Creation Tips: 11:17

Always come back to the "Why" when using Tech: 14:50

Monica Burns began her EdTech career as a 5th grade teacher in New York City. Since then she has transitioned to become an influential blogger, speaker, author, and EdTech coach. Monica has a talent for sharing technology applications in the classroom and providing a solid framework for their implementation. One of the reasons I have enjoyed following Monica's work so much is because of her attention to purpose. She understands that classroom tech is a tool that should should be applied appropriately to enhance lessons not distract from the content.

Monica just launched 360 Video Thursdays where she shares out some unique ways to use 360 images and video in the classroom. Her growing passion for 360 video and virtual reality in education has been growing this year as she has seen some real positive applications. During our connection we talked about an affordable add-on camera that she has been using to take 360 videos with her iPhone. She uses these 360's to create immersive video for her blog and trainings. Coupling these 360 videos with NearPod has allowed her to pace presentations and share these experiences with students and teachers. Here's a short video she took while she was in New York: 

It was great talking with Monica about how she creates 360 video and how VR can be a powerful tool to help students learn. She has some great resources on her site www.classtechtips.com so make sure you take a look. One of my favorite posts I'd highly recommend checking out is "Why I'm Excited About 360 Video in Education". Monica has some really useful tips, lessons, and downloadable content on her site that is worth taking a look at. If you have any questions for Monica her Twitter handle is @ClassTechTips

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Maria Galanis and Andrea Trudeau are friends who have worked together for a long while. Maria started out as a tech coordinator and eventually moved her way up to being an instructional coach. Andrea worked for many years as a teacher in different subjects, then returned to school to become a librarian.

 

“We started our journey last spring, and it was kind of by accident.” Andrea said, explaining how she and Maria got started with VR. The journey began with some foreign language teachers wanting to incorporate some technology into their teaching. As it turned out, Andrea discovered an app that they shared with another teacher who in turn began using it in his classroom. Time continued on, and the use of VR in the school continued evolving.

 

As the teachers in their school became more and more familiar and comfortable with using VR, students began having the opportunity to even start digging into features that even allowed them to do coding. Maria felt this was particularly exciting.

 

“I love how they could just customize and personalize whatever they want to do with their learning.”

 

Their school had the exciting opportunity to get HTC VIVE. Both Andrea and Maria absolutely love using the technology. Andrea explained, “You can interact with it in a way that’s so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It is amazing. We were very fortunate to get to sets in our school.”

 

However, as much as the ladies love the technology, they feel as though it’s not necessary or even wise to get it when a school has a set budget for technology in their classrooms.

 

Maria said, “In my opinion, I feel you can get a lot out of the Google Cardboard technology...If I had to choose, I’d go with the goggles and devices because there’s a lot of learning levels you can do with that.”

 

Andrea feels the same way, “I agree with Maria, I think you’re going to reach more children that way. If you have just a set chunk of change you’re going to get more kids, because HTC VIVE is one kid at a time. You might have some kids collaborating, but you’re going to have more bang for your buck because you’re going to have more kids involved.”

 

What the ladies are most focused on is how they can help students empathize with the world around them. Many kids can’t travel to see the world, but we can bring the world to them through VR.

 

If you’re new to VR, Maria suggests, “If you’re curious about it, start small! Don’t think it’s a bigger thing than it is. It’s all doable, just try it out.” Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know, start with what you do know and go from there.

 

As Andrea said, “Don’t be scared to just get in and do it.”

 

Connect with Andrea and Maria on Twitter: @andrea_trudeau and @mariagalanis 

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Connection with CoSpaces!

I had a great opportunity to connect with Thomas and Manuela from CoSpaces and learn about some of their most recent additions to the program. The feature that I was most excited about was the ability to import your own 360 photos into CoSpaces and augment them using pre-made and created content. This opens up some really interesting possibilities for educational use. I had a few photos from a recent ski trip I took with my Ricoh Theta S and had a great time testing out this new feature with some of the pictures I had taken. I was able to add penguins in the snow and a CoSpaces manekin on the chair lift next to me. Fun stuff! I'm looking forward to augmenting some custom 360's with my 5th graders.

I listed some of the questions we cover in our connection below:

Tell us a little bit about who you are and your role with Delightex?
Why was CoSpaces created? Was it intended exclusively for educational use?
Can you give a simple overview of some of the key features of CoSpaces?
I have had great experience with CoSpaces in my classroom. Are there any other applications/resources Delightex has created?
Can you share any upcoming developments for CoSpaces?
How do you think VR is going to change the educational landscape in the coming years?
Would you be willing to share any resources (documents, websites, images, etc.) that might help other teachers create something like this in their classrooms?

Enjoy the interview! 

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