VR in the Classroom

FCIT boasts 12 and soon to be 16 Lenovo Daydream VR headsets. I have used them in my teaching to make a learning come more alive. I’m thrilled to report that other teachers have joined me.

Cristina Pérez recently brought her class to the tech suites for two days of Virtual Reality. It took some time to prepare. She spent the equivalent of two full blocks meeting with Dan and me to prepare for the lesson. Cristina also took home a VR headset to prepare her lesson. She will be the first to admit that it took a good amount of work. But Cristina was so excited by the results that she plans to bring her students back in a month to “tour” Machu Picchu.

I asked her about her thoughts on the experience. She shares her reflections below:

The VR component of my “Reconquista” curriculum was the highlight of the unit.  My students had been studying (in very broad strokes) the history of the Iberian Peninsula from the collapse of the Roman Empire (~400CE) to the defeat of the Moors in Granada in 1492.  In the south of Spain, in particular, the complicated history involving Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Christians can be seen, concretely, in much of the architecture.  The Cathedral / Mosque of Córdoba is perhaps the most dramatic example.  By taking a VR tour of the complex, the kids were able to see how incredible the space is, and how the history of all the people who worshipped there over the centuries is reflected in the architecture and in the materials from which it was built.  The oldest part of the mosque was constructed in the 8th century using columns that the Moors “recycled / reused” from the Roman temples and amphitheaters that had been there earlier.  As the Córdoba Caliphate grew in population and importance, the mosque was expanded three times and became one of the most important and largest mosques in the world.  But in 1236, the Christians recaptured Córdoba and consecrated the mosque so that it could function as a Catholic cathedral.  Not long after, they decided to tear down the middle of the mosque in order to build a gothic cathedral right in the middle of the floor plan.  What the kids were able to explore in the VR tour is a remarkable combination of these architectural styles and materials.

I created a map for them of the interior, and assigned them, in pairs, to “find” five different items in the complex.
On the first of two days in the tech suite, speaking only in Spanish, the students had to take turns wearing the VR headset and navigate the space in order to find the items.
On the second day, I had the pairs return to two places: the Mihrab and the high altar.  Then they had to write a paragraph in Spanish comparing and contrasting colors, the materials, the important features of those spaces.
Here’s what one student had to say about the experience en Español.
Among other things,  Julian says, ..”it allowed me to look at the architecture of the cathedral and it was very interesting. I really liked the art.”
Here’s what he saw. (Except in VR it is 100 times better.)

 

Highlighting New Projects feature on Google Earth and Step to Step Tutorial Makers

Ever want to make a step by step “how to” tutorial for a tech tool? I make videos and write posts such as these to show others how to use tech tools.

I recently came across Iorad.com, a step by step instruction guide for anything you want to show others how to do online. It couldn’t be easier, you simply record yourself doing whatever it is you wish to show others how to do. Then Iorad breaks the process up into its component parts and let’s the viewer toggle through the steps. For all of you who have an online textbook, this would be a really useful tool to show kids steps they need to take to access material early in the year. Or if you are having kids use a program they’ve not used before, make an iorad. This is very meta, but here’s an iorad on how to get and use iorad.  

If you can think of ways you might use iorad, leave a comment.

I really want to again highlight a terrific new feature in Google Earth. I first mentioned them in this post from December, I really like the tourbuilder feature in “Projects” Here’s Iorad in action showing how to use it.

11 STEPS


1

The first step is to open Google Earth and click three bars in top left of screen

Step 1 image


2

Click Projects

Step 2 image


3

Click New Project

Step 3 image


4

Name the project

Step 4 image


5

Add description if you’d like and then add your first feature. 

Step 5 image


6

Click New Feature

Step 6 image


7

In search bar, type in first place on the tour. 

Step 7 image


8

One can drop a pin or picture and also add a description of the place.  

Step 8 image


9

Save Slide to the project to add the slide. Click Edit Place to add more text or images to this “slide”.

Step 9 image


10

You can see on this view that the next step would be to add new feature. You can click the person icon to add a collaborator. 

Step 10 image


11

That’s it. Ideas for classroom use: researching locations of scientific discoveries, creating a tour of a country, place, or region. Other topics could include: animal habitats, geography, weather & climate, indigenous people and foreign language.

Step 11 image

Here’s an interactive tutorial for the visual learners

https://www.iorad.com/player/1629634/Earth-Google—How-to-Make-a-Tour-in-Google-Earth

11 STEPS


1

The first step is to open Google Earth and click three bars in top left of screen

Step 1 image


2

Click Projects

Step 2 image


3

Click New Project

Step 3 image


4

Name the project

Step 4 image


5

Add description if you’d like and then add your first feature. 

Step 5 image


6

Click New Feature

Step 6 image


7

In search bar, type in first place on the tour. 

Step 7 image


8

One can drop a pin or picture and also add a description of the place.  

Step 8 image


9

Save Slide to the project to add the slide. Click Edit Place to add more text or images to this “slide”.

Step 9 image


10

You can see on this view that the next step would be to add new feature. You can click the person icon to add a collaborator. 

Step 10 image


11

That’s it. Ideas for classroom use: researching locations of scientific discoveries, creating a tour of a country, place, or region. Other topics could include: animal habitats, geography, weather & climate, indigenous people and foreign language.

Step 11 image

Here’s an interactive tutorial for the visual learners

https://www.iorad.com/player/1629634/Earth-Google—How-to-Make-a-Tour-in-Google-Earth

Here is a an example of a tour followed by additional tutorials on how to use this new projects feature. I’ve already used it in history class for kids to make tours of Antietam and Gettysburg. I’ve had students in IR class use it as part of their final project.

It’s still a new tool. It works best on Chromebooks. This will not work on an iPad and I’ve seen it work for most (but not all) of my students who have MacOS- Brizhay made this one on her Mac using the Chrome Browser. It does not work on Safari. There are also sharing features that are really cool. One can co-create a tour with another; it’s fully collaborative. But here too, this feature isn’t available to those using a Mac. and I can’t say I am sure why.

I wholeheartedly recommend this tool. Reach out if you want to help in learning how to use Iorad our GoogleEarth Projects feature or to talk about ways to use these tools or any other tech integrations for the classroom.

Getting to Know Daydream VR Headsets

VR allows for an experience of immersive environments similar to or completely different from the real world. FCIT boasts a cart that provides 12 Lenovo Daydream VR headsets. Take you class to the cart or the cart to your class! Each headset has a different number from A-1 to A-12. Each pairs with a unique control pad. It’s easy to get your hands on these VR headset. 

 

  • Each headset is paired with a control pad, so pick up a headset and find the control pad with the same number. 
  • Push the POWER button on the side of the headset for a few seconds until the light starts flashing, and then put on the headset.  
  • If you want to change your position, face the direction you want and press the circle button for a few seconds. Then the direction will be reset. 

Still wondering what to do? Here are 3 recommendations:

Expeditions Expeditions provide many VR videos in different categories. It is a good app to experience, learn things and relax.  This video gives a good tutorial on how to use guided tours in Expeditions. 
YouTube VR Use your cursor to click the YouTube VR icon. Browse the 360 column or search what you want to watch and enjoy!
Google Arts and Culture  You can appreciate famous art pieces and learn the history behind them the app, Arts and Culture. Browse the collections and click on the painting that you want to view, and listen to the introduction of the art piece. If you forget how to use the cursor to explore, just look down at your cursor, and you can see all the instructions. 

 

 

Two Storytelling Tools

There’s something about a well-done multi-media presentation that is greater than the sum of its parts.

This amazing map of the floods of 2019 along the Mississippi is a terrific example. I make no claim to produce anything so amazing, but one of my favorite digital tools- a real go-to tool for me- is Adobe Spark Page. I made sparkpage embedded below for my history students. It originally was just a google doc. But in about 40 minutes I was able to make this. To me, it is more engaging than a Google doc and I expect it is for students also.  War of 1812

Powtoon is another terrific tool. That’s why I am so happy to highlight an example from Sonia Chin and Holly McCloskey who used ed-tech tools to have students demonstrate mastery outside of the traditional test format. They asked students to produce videos as part of their Bio II Adv. Final. Sonia and Holly purposefully wanted students to use a storytelling medium to share out and reflect upon what they learned. 

These new, easy to use storytelling tools allow us to assign creative projects equal to any test’s demands for knowing at any level of Bloom’s taxonomy of while also promoting communication, collaboration and creativity. 

I’d be happy to come to any class and share these tools and others. Book me with a help ticket.

After break, I will highlight Synth (my students’ have a pending assignment with it), a free podcasting tool specializing in 256 second long podcasts. Click here for a sneak preview/ explanation.

New Google Earth Features

Google Earth has long been a terrific tool for exploring and viewing our planet. Until this past month, it has not been a creation tool. But it is now! Take a look here at all of Google Earth’s features for education here.

New tools in Google Earth allow teachers and students to create and share narratives. Even cooler, these tools  allow for collaboration. Projects can have multiple contributors. To top it off, photos and videos can be added to make tours even more engaging. I have a student who is doing a project right now for which this tool will be just perfect. I’ll share with you the finished product when she is done.

 

Visual Story Telling

I am increasingly intrigued by how I can use tech tools to enhance storytelling and narrative, expository and descriptive prose.

Digital technologies have expanded the way my students communicate their knowledge and present findings.  I find these tools encourage students to consider questions of visual presentation and the user experience. Below, you will find resources that you can use to support teaching and learning.

I like embedding tech into assignments to get students to think about ways they can share their understanding in creative ways. Embedded below is an example from my World History Course last year that I wrote about in my personal blog.

Teaching with StoryMap

Last year I blogged about Knightlab’s impressive storytelling tools. Several of these tools are used by commercial media outlets, but I was excited by their potential use in the classroom. I recently gave an assignment about the Silk Road to my 9th grade world history students to tie our study of Ancient China and Ancient India together.


Here are some of my “go-to” tools. (Note: the icons embedded in the slidedeck are clickable.)

The YouTube playlist below hosts tutorials on how to use the aforementioned tools.  As always, you can email me at amcdonnell@friendscentral.org  or put in a help ticket if you want to talk about ways to use these tools in your teaching. I have used all of the tools mentioned above in my teaching except for Toontastic. Some are real favorites. AdobeSpark is terrific. My students often use it. WeVideo is a go to tool for me when I want to flip my teaching.*  Final note, I also highly recommend Piktochart. I’ll be using it shortly to have students create visual “essays”.

 

*I screencast with Zoom, edit in WeVideo, upload the video to YouTube and embed questions on the video with EdPuzzle. The whole process takes no longer than 15 minutes to make a quality 5 minute video with questions embedded.  Padraig Barry does this even more often than I do.