Ex­plor­ing the Class­room of the Fu­ture - To­day

Why It’s Time to Make the Class­room an Im­mer­sive Ex­pe­ri­ence

NOVO - - NEWS - By Stephanie Greenall

When you’re a kid, the very thought of spend­ing an­other day star­ing at an out-of-date stained text­book is mind-numb­ing. Your only es­cape from long, te­dious lec­tures is by pass­ing notes to your equally bored class­mates. It was when a TV rolled into the class­room, or we were able to spend 15 min­utes avoid­ing dysen­tery on the Ore­gon Trail — a beloved prob­lem-solv­ing video game — that we were ex­cited about the day’s lessons.

From VHS tapes of Bill Nye the Science Guy to Math Cir­cus PC games, there was some­thing spe­cial about the days our teach­ers brought a lit­tle tech to class. To­day my child­hood class­room could be con­sid­ered an­cient — or so I was re­cently told by a cou­ple of high school stu­dents. While tech­nol­ogy in class­rooms is quickly evolv­ing, the topic con­tin­ues to be a hot one. In the past in­sti­tu­tions in­tro­duced tech­nol­ogy to stu­dents that they might not have read­ily avail­able at home. My first ex­pe­ri­ences with CD-ROMS, LaserDiscs, and — painfully slow — dial-up in­ter­net was all thanks to my ele­men­tary school. We were al­ways ex­cited to check out the lat­est Magic School Bus game or see what we could dis­cover on the world wide web. But it seems like the ta­bles have turned and schools are now try­ing to catch up to their stu­dents.

Kids to­day can nav­i­gate a mo­bile phone be­fore they ut­ter their first word and gam­ing con­soles are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly preva­lent at home. Schools need to fo­cus on find­ing a way to use de­vices to stim­u­late their stu­dent’s imag­i­na­tions and get those cre­ative juices flow­ing. While smart­phones, tablets, and lap­tops are im­por­tant in­stru­ments, they can also quickly trans­form into tools of dis­trac­tion. A class­room where stu­dents are fully en­gaged with the con­tent and are free from dis­rup­tions would be the ideal en­vi­ron­ment for learn­ing. With the help of im­mer­sive tech­nolo­gies — like vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity — a class­room could cul­ti­vate the ul­ti­mate ed­u­ca­tional at­mos­phere.

In­cor­po­rat­ing vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity into les­son plans can trans­form how stu­dents un­der­stand and ab­sorb con­tent. I re­mem­ber hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time grasp­ing cer­tain the­o­ries in my chem­istry class be­cause I wasn’t able to vi­su­al­ize the con­cepts. Re­cently I stum­bled across a video of an aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) chem­istry

app that high­lighted the mol­e­cules and their bond­ing struc­tures — mind blown! The Ar­loon Chem­istry mo­bile app ($3 USD) uses printed mark­ers — vis­ual cues which trig­ger the dis­play of the vir­tual in­for­ma­tion — and gen­er­ates a model that can be ro­tated and ad­justed. For those who are vis­ual learn­ers, it’s the per­fect tool to ac­com­pany a les­son. Had this been avail­able when I was in school I wouldn’t have been cry­ing over co­va­lent bonds.

De­scribed as “the holo­gram you hold in your hand,” the Merge Cube ($14.99 USD) is an AR ap­pli­ca­tion that has be­come pop­u­lar in class­rooms. A col­lec­tion of mo­bile apps ac­com­pany the foam cube and trans­form it into dig­i­tal 3D ob­jects and scenes. From ex­plor­ing the bot­tom of the ocean to ex­am­in­ing the hu­man anatomy, there is an ar­ray of worlds that can fit in the palm of your hand. Merge has helped to make VR and AR ac­ces­si­ble to schools and teach­ers have been fill­ing up their shop­ping carts with these award-win­ning cubes. Their sim­ple de­sign and ease of use make them an en­gag­ing and ed­u­ca­tional toy. And they’re not just for kids...I keep one on my desk!

In ad­di­tion to AR ap­pli­ca­tions, there are a va­ri­ety of vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) ex­pe­ri­ences that can en­hance the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Vir­tual re­al­ity field trips have be­come a pop­u­lar way to in­tro­duce the medium into class­rooms. Trans­port­ing stu­dents to places that they might not have the chance to visit, or are just down­right im­pos­si­ble! Dis­cover the Great Wall of China or ex­plore the in­side of a blood ves­sel, there are no lim­its when it comes to VR. With im­mer­sive ad­ven­tures, there are many ways that they can be in­cor­po­rated and ex­e­cuted in a class­room en­vi­ron­ment. From a cou­ple of Google card­boards to a com­plete VR/AR sys­tem, there is an op­tion for ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion. For groups or full class field trips, there is the Google Ex­pe­di­tions Kit. This sys­tem al­lows the teacher to act as the guide and lead a group of stu­dents — called ex­plor­ers — on a vir­tual trip. Here the ex­plor­ers can visit mu­se­ums, the ocean, and even outer space. The col­lec­tion of VR panora­mas fea­ture an­no­tated de­tails, points of in­ter­est, and ques­tions that will help drive a class dis­cus­sion. The kit comes with a teacher de­vice (a tablet to con­trol screens), vir­tual re­al­ity view­ers, router, charg­ing sta­tion, and a 360-de­gree cam­era (start­ing at $3280.99 US for a kit of 10). While Google Ex­pe­di­tions is a great tool for vir­tual field trips, the sys­tem still re­lies on head­sets that re­quire mo­bile de­vices — which can be prone to over­heat­ing. If the de­vices get too hot, they can shut down and in­ter­rupt the stu­dent’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you are wor­ried about over­heat­ing there is an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem that doesn’t re­quire smart­phones to op­er­ate. Specif­i­cally de­vel­oped for the class­room, ClassVR fea­tures stand­alone head­sets where over­heat­ing mo­biles are no longer a prob­lem. This VR and AR plat­form is sim­i­lar to the Google Ex­pe­di­tions Kit and pro­vides stu­dents with con­trolled ex­pe­ri­ences. In ad­di­tion to the hard­ware to run the sys­tem, ClassVR pro­vides ed­u­ca­tors with les­son plans and the abil­ity to align con­tent with their cur­ricu­lum.

Whether it’s an in­te­grated sys­tem or a cou­ple of head mounted dis­plays, pro­vid­ing these ac­tiv­i­ties al­lows stu­dents to deepen their un­der­stand­ing. While some schools are test­ing the waters when it comes to VR and AR, many are still yet to be con­vinced. Re­searchers from the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land con­ducted an in-depth anal­y­sis that re­viewed whether peo­ple learn bet­ter through im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ments — like vir­tual re­al­ity — or if tra­di­tional medi­ums like desk­top com­put­ers and tablets of­fered a bet­ter set­ting. Their re­sults sug­gested that im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ments of­fered im­proved out­comes in ed­u­ca­tion through higher re­ten­tion rates. Many of the study’s par­tic­i­pants noted that the pres­ence they felt while us­ing VR helped to im­prove their fo­cus. Hope­fully,

in­sti­tu­tions will take note of these re­sults and the re­sults of sim­i­lar stud­ies and help drive the adop­tion of these tech­nolo­gies for ed­u­ca­tion.

While promis­ing study re­sults and the thought of a cap­ti­vated class is easy to get ex­cited about, in­tro­duc­ing a new medium to stu­dents has to be done care­fully. It is es­sen­tial when im­ple­ment­ing a new sys­tem that you are not in­cor­po­rat­ing ‘tech­nol­ogy for tech­nol­ogy’s sake.’ De­cid­ing how vir­tual or aug­mented re­al­ity will sup­ple­ment lessons and en­hance the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is es­sen­tial. If we can pro­vide chil­dren with a deeper un­der­stand­ing of con­cepts and a higher re­ten­tion rate, im­mer­sive medi­ums should be in­cluded in the cur­ricu­lum, but we also need to en­sure there is qual­ity con­tent that will pro­duce these de­sired re­sults.

The class­rooms of the fu­ture will in­clude VR and AR, but to­day we rely on the ad­vo­cates for the tech­nol­ogy and their abil­ity to in­tro­duce it to in­ter­ested in­sti­tu­tions. All we can ask for right now is the will­ing­ness from these in­sti­tu­tions to play and par­tic­i­pate with this tech­nol­ogy and hope it be­comes a stan­dard tool in the class­rooms of to­mor­row.

The Merge Cube is a “holo­graphic cube” that can be trans­formed into 3D ob­jects and scenes.

This is what the ac­tual Merge Cube looks like.

The Ar­loon Chem­istry app uses aug­mented re­al­ity to teach stu­dents the ba­sics of chem­istry.

The Google Ex­pe­di­tions Kit al­lows stu­dents to visit lo­ca­tions around the world, in im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences, from the com­fort of the class­room.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.