360 cameras and VR in the classroom: 2 interviews
After seeing a tweet that Anthony Johnson posted of a picture showing how he and his students were beginning to implement use of a 360 camera in their classes, I had to reach out for an interview with the North Carolina Southwest Regional Teacher of the Year (good luck at the state level, Anthony!).
Anthony teaches Science and Social Studies in a 1:1 iPad school and although he’s only had his 360 camera a few months, already has some big plans to impact teaching and learning.
In Science class, he plans to record lessons and experiments and has already created created 360 channel on youtube so students can have immersive virtual experiences to re-live the experiments (or, in the case of students who missed the experiments the first time, providing them access to the learning through virtual, asynchronous attendance).
One of the ideas he shared that got me really excited was VR movies from field trips. I think there’s huge potential here to utilize VR in order to increase access and equity when it comes to field trips, especially college visits. But Anthony is brain storming on a whole other level. “I’m thinking about iBook Author plug-ins to create VR content and then publish on iTunes.” There was a noticeable enthusiasm uptick in his voice as he continued, “I could see having set of 4 cameras in the classroom that students can check out in order to create their own VR content for iBooks.”
The idea of nudging students from consumer state to interacting with tech as producers is gaining in popularity not because it’s a fad but because it’s the right thing to do. While this notion isn’t unique to Anthony, I really felt him pushing the needle with a concrete sense of how to take words to action in the VR space.
He also has a lot of optimism for where it goes from here. While a lot of tech tools experience waning popularity as the Wow! factor wears off, Anthony isn’t concerned about that with Virtual Reality. “I’m thinking beyond Google Cardboard..I’m really looking at [the future of VR] as experiences that students can have access to and that the technology is going to get even better than it is now. So I don’t really even see the excitement wearing off anytime soon. I don’t see it going away.”
One thing that was apparent with Anthony was that he is able to authentically connect with students who share in this passion because he is a real gamer himself. I asked him what Playstation VR game he suggests for teachers who are looking to check out a game to get their feet wet. “VR Worlds. I highly recommend it. Me being a science teacher, it’s great! I can drop a kid in the ocean and they can explore a coral reef or have a shark encounter. Kids love it!”
Another educator who was kind enough to share his thoughts with me is Ben Wilkoff. I’m a huge fanboy of Ben and highly recommend you check out anything he creates (highly recommend this video talk he made to push our thinking on “1:1” as well as his blog, Learning is Change.)
Although Ben has only had his camera for a few months, he is already doing some cool stuff in the sandbox. Like Anthony, he likes the idea of capturing instruction in 360. “I’m a huge fan of capturing classroom practice and using it to reflect,” he told me. “360 allows me to watch the same lesson multiple times and go back and pay attention to different moves.”
He is also interested in ways in which we may create fully immersive experiences in places we can’t easily access. He loves Google Expeditions and looks forward to users “being able to create our own content so we can put in our own information and questions, and call attention to specific elements within a photosphere.”
Like Anthony, Ben believes we are only just now getting started. “There are so many places to go and we are so early in the process…I’m keen to create experiences and see where it takes us as we allow the physical and virtual worlds to interact with one another.” One example of where this goes in the nearer term is that right now we are accustomed to hyperlinking a word in a document. Ben sees us all getting familiar with extending that concept to hyperlinking an object in an image.
What it comes down to: How do you use it to reflect and how do you use it to create experiences that were not previously possible? -Ben Wilkoff
I also asked Ben about the staying power of VR/AR tech once the novelty wears off and I loved where his thinking is: “Our brain loves novelty so things that are no longer novel aren’t going to excite us in the same way. People get excited about these technologies as consumptive devices and where it goes is us utilizing them to create. For VR to have a larger impact, more people need to create and not simply consume.”
Ben sees a democratization of the tech that can make it more accessible to the masses as a production tool. “If we are doing it right, it is going to get us closer to empathy than we have been previously”
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