Sunday, October 23, 2016

Playstation VR: Why bring Tech into the Classroom? Ask your students!

I believe strongly in student voice in the learning process. Currently, my students are part of a large scale research project looking at the implementation of Virtual Reality in schools. The research is being funded and conducted by foundry10, an educational foundation in Seattle looking at non-traditional approaches to learning. This is our second year in the study. Last year, foundry10 provided us with an Oculus Rift and a high end computer to run it. Members of the foundry10 team came to visit and provide a demo of the HTC Vive for my students (as well as staff and administrators). They left the Vive with us for 2 weeks. To say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. My students loved it, as did everyone we pulled in to try it. This year, foundry10 provided us with an HTC Vive of our own! We raised money through donors choose for a computer to power it.

Now, we are looking to add the Sony Playstation VR to our VR collection. The Playstation VR is unique in that it might very well be the most reasonable point of entry in terms of high end VR technology as it is priced at $400 (providing you already have the PS4). For our class, having the three current forerunners, we can truly become the authority on Virtual Reality. My students are doing research, comparing the devices, creating their own content, supporting others, and ultimately helping to contribute to how VR can be best integrated in schools.

Donors Choose provides a wonderful opportunity to put your ideas out there and use community support to crowd fund projects for the classroom. To leverage student voice, they have added the option for student led projects where students share how funding the project will help them to learn and how they plan to use the purchased items. Student led projects ask students to respond to 3 questions:

  1. What is Your Project Idea? How would you use the items in your classroom?
  2. How will you be a leader in bringing this project to life? How will it help you demonstrate leadership skills?
  3. Why is this project important to you and your school community?

Our project, Virtual Reality in the Classroom: Take 2 is a student led project. The link will provide the project overview and some of the student responses. I tossed the idea out to my students to provide their response to the three questions, and I received far more student feedback then could be fit in the project writeup. So, I wanted to share the remaining student responses here so everyone can see why my students want to get the Sony Playstation VR in our classroom and how it will contribute to our learning as well as the greater research community.

Student responses:

"I believe it would be a very good idea to add VR to our classroom. First, we are researching VR to discover what it's like and what we would like added to it. Having more than one system of VR could help because experiencing different types of it will further our understanding of it. We will be able to play a bigger variety of games which would really help."

It would help our leadership skills because it would let us work in VR to discover characteristics of it ourselves and be able to show leardershib by explaining these characteristics to others. 

If the project is funded, I would like to complete some quests to do blog reviews on different VR games. Also, I would learn about VR to be able to explain it to others as well as right blog posts about VR in general so others can learn about it. Overall, adding the Playstation VR to our classroom would be really great for our class."

"I think it would bea great idea to add Playstation VR to our classroom because I think it will really help us understand how our games are supposed to make the player feel. For example, if we have created a jungle themed game, we could use VR to test out our game and see if it actually takes that player to the atmosphere we want them to be in. It would support VR research because it would get young teens to experience new things which would show a number of people supporting it ideas on improving VR and much more. 

This project will help us develop leadership skills by allowing us to virtually lead someone or something in a game, such as a pack of wolves or a tribe. Though this is just one example, there are many ways that VR will effect us in a good way. 

If this project is funded, in Game Design class, I would like to create some of my own VR games because I think it would be extremely interesting that you could create your idea. Not just on a computer screen, but for the time being your idea could be in virtual reality. Therefore, I think using VR in Game Design class as well as other classes would be an amazing experience for everyone!

"I think it will be a good idea to add the Playstation VR to our class because it gives students new and/or different experiences they might not otherwise be able to experience. It would support our research in VR because the Playstation VR gives a wide variety of different games / genres for us to experience and by adding controllers, it makes the games feel more real.

This project will help us develop leadership skills because you get to experience certain events that may happen to you in a later date. This can serve well for simulations so when you experience these events you will know what to do and how to do it. It can help us learn how to perform important tasks.

If this project is funded, I would simulate events I wouldn't be able to experience, such as old time events or science fiction."

There were many other student contributions, but this gives a good sense of the enthusiasm my students have for this opportunity to put learning in their hands with such cutting edge technology.

We would love your support if you could help out. Donations of any size will help us reach our goal.. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Minecon 2016: Can't wait for Minecon 2017 :)

Last week I attended Minecon with 12,000 of my closest friends :)  It was an amazing experience and my hat is off to the Mojang and Microsoft Teams that put the event together. It was truly a celebration of this game that everyone in attendance adores. The schedule was packed from the Opening Ceremonies, which brought ALL attendees together to kick off the event to the Closing Ceremonies, which brought us all back together to shed a tear and celebrate the shared experience.

I was excited to participate in two panels, one on eSports in Schools and the other on Resources for Education featuring a group of Minecraft Mentors. It was great to collaborate with an all star lineup on both panels. I will be posting the video recording of each panel when they become available. I only wish I was able to attend the many incredible panels through the weekend.

The exhibit floor was awesome including a variety of areas designated by minecraft themed biomes, numerous vendors, a Minecraft: Education classroom with sessions by Jim Pike (@joakleyiii), John Miller (@johnmilleredu), Shane Asselstine (@hikarikishi), and Adam Bellow (@adambellow) presenting the new partnership between Minecraft: Education Edition and BreakoutEDU (@breakoutedu). 

Without a doubt, one of the best parts of Minecon for me this year was the fact that I was able to share the experience with my daughter, Leila.

Leila and I celebrating Minecraft at Minecon!

 Leila moderated the Student Voice pane which featured some amazing kids. Generally, the kids presented with their teacher, but Braeden (@braedenart) presented with Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis), his aunt. Braeden shared his story of how Minecraft was a great unifier for him. The story starts with he and his classmates being given a rather interesting homework assignment. The assignment was to "NOT play minecraft."  REALLY??? Anyway, don't get me started on that one. Later at school there was a tech day where a number of kids were playing minecraft and started to play together. They took their interest outside of school and a number of friendships were formed.

I can't talk about Braeden without sharing an amazing Minecon moment. Braeden poured his heart into creating a puppet in the likeness of Stampy Longnose. We spent a good deal of time with Braeden and the puppet. Braeden was on a mission to give the puppet to Stampy. Well, a few hours before Braeden and his aunt had to leave to catch their plane, a meetup was arranged.

Braeden meets Stampy! Mission Accomplished!

 There is so much more to share and I will likely write a few more posts, but wanted to get something out there before I kept putting it off. You know, the plight of the blogger...