Its been a very busy and rewarding week facillitating the augmented reality seminar. Its funny, I wasn’t entirely sure why I placed augmented reality at the top of my list when we were asked to pick a topic. I knew a bit about it, but was by no means an expert. I liked the fact that it was still emerging, and because of this, people are still figuring out how to put it to good use (although I guess that can be said for the majority of our options). It feels as though there is still a lot of room to grow, and there are new uses to be discovered and refined. Its neat to be able to check the google news section each couple of days, and see new and innovative stories pop up about people who are paving the way for augmented realitys gradual introduction into our everyday lives. I like all that. But it wasn’t until today that I realized the real reason that this technology is so appealing to me: In the best cases, it encourages you to leave your desk and interact with the world in a new way.
When we used augmented reality apps in seminar we were tethered to our computers due to the geographical distance between our members. We made things work through the google + community, and were able to demonstrate what augmented reality apps are capable of. I don’t think we were able to fully demonstrate the wonder of experiencing the world around you, and unlocking content in real time, as if you were unlocking special features in a videogame, and that is what I am most excited about as this technology continues to evolve.
When I was a kid, the big concern was how many hours you spent in front of the tv. Now it is how many hours you spend in front of a screen. While I can understand the concern, I think the big difference between “tv time” and “screen time” is the passive nature of the former and the (potentialy) active nature of the latter. As screen time becomes more prevalent in our lives, we need to be encouraging those technologies that allow us to treat screen times as a tool that requires our active participation, and I think this is one of augmented realitys biggest strengths.
For me, augmented reality adds another dimension to the world. It is a new form of tagging, invisible as a radio wave until we tune into it. It has made me rethink how I experience the world in my day to day life, and reflect on how I can incorporate this tool into my classroom.
What follows is a semi coherent set of paragraphs concerning Roger Vernon’s Collaborate Seminar on 3D printing.
One of the most interesting things I took away from Roger’s talk was the separation between the process of designing a 3D object, and the printing of the object itself. It seems like there is so much emphasis on the object that is created, but the process of creating that object is often more important as a learning opportunity. Working on my rudimentary birthday cake model was quite the endeavour, and I felt quite proud of it once I finished it, but I don’t think I would need it printed off in real life to feel as though that work was complete. The process of dragging and stretching those cylinders was enough for me. I can see how printing off a model may be important in order to test it out in the real world and note any modifications that need to be made, but often I’m wondering if it is worth the cost of the materials.
I had always envisioned the turning point in 3D printing’s adoption occurring when a significant portion of people have these printers in their households. After Roger’s talk, it appears that this may not be necessary. Being able to access a printer at the library, Staples, or Kinkos would certainly be enough for me, and I’m sure for many others. At this point I can’t see myself using a 3D printer that often, but I’m willing to admit that this may change as the speed and cost of them improve. With access to free design software, and services to print out our creations popping up everywhere, this technology is more readily available than I initially guessed.
I am hopeful that more programs like Roger’s will be appearing in our schools. It seems like a logical extension of wood shop and metal work, and seems like a good way to expand the scope of those courses. I wonder if in the future all three of these courses may be merged under the banner of “design” with 3D printing giving students a greater amount of freedom in how they design and work with physical materials.
As I start to look into emerging tech and plan for my seminar, I find myself wondering what the timeline of adoption will look like for these new innovations. When will augmented reality move from the realm of the early adopters to an every-day tool? When will 3-D printers move from universities and tech start-ups, to the homes of the working class? Is this already happening? It feels like it is, but I’m not sure if I feel that way because this course (and the OLTD program) is making me that much more aware of the developments in the world of cutting edge technology.
I find myself wondering which of these technologies will be around 5 years from now, and which will morph into a version that better suits the public need. As these innovations become more common-place, what will replace them as the new cutting edge idea/program/interface? Things move so fast these days, It feels like an impossible task to keep track of everything that is making waves in the tech industry. From my own research for my seminar, I have found it interesting that an idea such as the QR scanner, which took off fairly recently, is already being replaced by the likes of image recognition software in our smartphones. What will the next step be? Is there an end point in all this, or will we keep refining these tools?
I like Avi’s method of applying a filter to these innovations, and developing a way to sift through all the information to take away only those things that will be meaningful to our own personal practice and philosophy of teaching. More than ever we are having to become curators of our own professional development, and having a strong idea of what works for us as individuals is paramount if we are able separate that which is useful from the surrounding noise. It is exciting to think that we have more options than ever to realize our own individual teaching philosophies.
I must confess that I get a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I get a writing prompt like this, because my limited time as a teacher does not leave me with a lot of material to draw from. Add to that the fact that my 2.5 years of teaching thus far has been of the itinerant “substitute” variety, and I find myself really scratching my head when trying to come up with a satisfying response. Having said that, there are a number of schools that I am becoming a regular at these days, and I have opportunity to watch the development of one teacher’s use of Google apps in his classroom. While I was not directly involved, this is the closest I have come, and so will be commenting on what I saw in his classroom, and some of his reflections on his experiences.
The teacher I am writing about had a grade 5 class, and was a pretty computer savy person. I subbed for him quite a bit, and we would often chat about some of the projects that he was undertaking in his classroom. Something that he really wanted to try with his students was to find a way to allow his students to access their digital work from home. his initial idea was to set up dropbox accounts for each his students, who would then upload their word documents etc. as they worked on them. He had been using dropbox successfully for some time, and he had me set up an account to check it out. While it worked well for both of us, there was some concern that the interface and general “usability” of dropbox may not be the best fit for all of his students. This first experiment was abandoned, and he went on to idea #2: Gmail accounts.
Because of the whole patriot act server issue, the idea was to set up student gmail accounts using account names and passwords that students had (hopefully) already memorized for local access in the school computer labs. The idea was that students could email attachments of work to themselves to work at home, as well as adding a social component in the form of email. I think he actually tried this method for a few weeks with his students, and while working better than dropbox, still left something to be desired… Luckily he was one transition away from the program he was looking for: Google apps.
Students were already familiar with the Google layout at this point, so the transition to Google apps was not hard to make. The benefits of google apps (or drive) are pretty self evident to this cohort at this point. Before this program I never used Google drive, now I can’t imagine my life without it. Students now had the opportunity to access their documents at home or at school, collaborate with each other on documents, and share work with their teacher in real time. The teacher had everything set up so that he could track what students were working on and when, and could write comments and feedback on student’s work as they were composing it. This was a big hit for everyone in the classroom. I was able to sit in on a couple of classes once all the bugs were worked out, and it was great to see students working with this technology, and being somewhat fluent in how they navigated Google’s many apps.
It was important for me to see the different versions that were attempted before hitting on a successful fit for this teacher and his class. We have so many options when it comes to potential tech in our classrooms, and I think it is important as Avi has said, to have some sort of filter in place before one dives in. This teacher had a goal in mind, and eventually got there after some trial and error.
I believe that this teacher has been setting up accounts for the other grade 5 class, but have not heard how successfully that has gone. For this sort of initiative to succeed, you need to have someone who believes in the tech, and will be a strong advocate for it in the classroom. I’m not sure if the second grade 5 classroom had a teacher who was as passionate about this initiative, so I’m curious to see how it all played out in this second classroom. I would imagine that student success and engagement with this tech would go a long way to changing that teacher’s mind, and I think the success of any one initiative is to be seen in student’s reactions to it.