ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • CommonSense.org – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • Pinna.fm –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!

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Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

Green Screen Magic with Do Ink

If you are not making fun green screen adventures with your students yet – what are you waiting for? Go find a green blanket, grab your iPad, download Green Screen by Do Ink and jump on this bandwagon before you miss out!

If you are not familiar with green screen effect, or chroma key effect, here is the basic idea. Chroma key is a special effect technique where multiple images are layered on top of each other. Using a chroma key filter, you can make a color range of the top image transparent so an underlying image can show through. Any color can become transparent, however, a high key green is commonly used, hence the term green screen.

Why would you do this? Well, what if you want a picture of your friend on top of the Bean in Millenium Park in Chicago? You could go to Chicago, climb on top of the Bean and try to get a picture before security arrives (I would not suggest this option). Or, the easier and more legal way, take a picture of the person on a green screen and overlay it onto a picture of the Bean using editing software. Viola! Your friend is on the Bean and no one got arrested. Yay.

Anyway, chroma key photography and video production have been taking the classroom by storm lately because of a great iPad app called Green Screen by Do Ink. It is one of the easiest tools out there for making green screen projects.

Full disclosure – I do not have an iPad that supports the Green Screen app. Yes, it is sad. I hope to remedy that soon. However, I do live vicariously through the projects of others by following Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen on Twitter. The projects students and teachers are creating are amazing!! 51K1TKetnVL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_

I also had an opportunity to play with Do Ink back in October thanks to the incredible Todd Burleson. Not only is he the type of creative librarian you wish you had as a kid, he is also the author of The Green Screen Maker Space Project Book. He was at STEMfest this year to host a green screen workshop. I was lucky enough to attend and had a chance to give Do Ink a try. It was tons of fun!

Green Screen Features

The Green Screen by Do Ink works on any Apple device that supports iOS 10 or later. You can download it from the Apple store for $2.99 a device. A steal considering all of the amazing features packed into this app.

Features — Do Ink
Screenshot from doink.com

Using this app you can combine up to three layers of images/video using the editor screen. As you can see from this screenshot, the editor is simple to use and easy to navigate. You have a preview window, a timeline and some tools to help you create your video.

As far as timelines go, this one is pretty simple to understand compared to other video editing software.

The chroma tool is where the magic happens. It allows you to select the color you want to make transparent, as in that lovely green color seen above. The app also has a Mask tool so you can draw custom transparency masks not based on color.

img_20181027_142607124.jpg
Green Screen Workshop at STEMfest with Todd.

Green Screen lets you use images and video that are already on your device or that you record live. You can even add animations you created using Do Ink’s other app, Animation and Drawing.

When you are done with your project you can save it on your device or export it to the cloud.

If you need some guidance while creating your project, visit the Do Ink Documentation Page for some in-depth information on how to use the app. Also, visit their Tips Page for some creative ideas on how to make the most of your own green screen studio.

img_20181027_141830228.jpg
Anything can be a green screen!

The best part about green screen production with Do Ink, is that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment to get started. Don’t have a green screen? Use a bed sheet or a shower curtain taped to your wall. Or, create your own mini green screen by painting the inside of a clean pizza box green. Anything can be a green screen! Add an iPad with the app and you have a green screen studio.

There are more classroom uses for this app than I can list in this post. If you want to get your creative juices flowing, then click on over to Twitter and check out what teachers are sharing with Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen. There are tons of inspiring examples of what students can do and create with this app. If you need more ideas, then head over to Amazon or your local independent bookstore and pick up Todd’s book, Green Screen Maker Space Projects.

How are you using Green Screen in your classroom? What amazing things are your students creating? Share!

 

 

Learn to Code as You Create Original Music with EarSketch

There are many different creative ways to introduce students to the joys of coding. Today we explore a web-based tool that connects coding to music production – EarSketch.

EarSketch - Compose music through programming.
EarSketch – Compose music through programming.

EarSketch was created by a team from Georga Tech and combines music composition with learning how to code in JavaScript or Python.  I did a little bit of research on this project and it looks like it has been winning the hearts of educators and awards from educational organizations for a while now. In fact, back in June, it was named one of the best websites for teaching and learning in 2018 by the American Association of School Librarians. You can read more about that on Georgia Tech’s website. Way to go EarSketch Team!

EarSketch is intended for high school students but according to the website, it works for older and younger students as well. Along with the web-based platform, there is also a curriculum that has everything you need to teach EarSketch in your computer class. For more information on their curriculum, go to the FAQs page and read more.

It has been years since I have done any real coding, I’ve never programmed in Python, and I was never one who could compose music. The site said “no experience necessary.” So, I thought, why not give this a try and see what I can do. I started with the Hour of Code Module and jumped right in.

Making MusicEarSketch

The interface looks a little intimidating when you first open it up. However, if you start with the Hour of Code module, there are instructions on the right-hand side of the screen that walk you through everything you need to know step by step. The instructions were easy to follow and in no time, I was shaking off my rusty coding knowledge and making music. Once you go through the first tutorial, the layout of the interface begins to make a lot more sense. It is actually fairly easy to navigate.

In the first tutorial, starts you off with sample code that you edit. Which is super helpful. For me, it is much easier to look at the exisiting code and walk through what it does instead of trying to code from scratch. In this first tutorial, I learned how to change the parameters of my functions and how to add music clips. I also learned how to create my own custom beats using variables. Even though it looks complicated, it was really simple once you knew what you were looking at.

The interface screen makes a lot of sense. The top center shows you your timeline and different tracks. You can see how your clips work together based on the parameters you set in your code. On the bottom, you see the code. On the left-hand side of the screen, you have all your libraries. Here you can find music clips, scripts, functions, and more. I also like how it uses the right language for both music composition and for coding.

By the end of the Hour of Code module, I had and nice little program and composed my first Grammy-winning hit. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that good but it was a song and I was impressed with myself.

In the Classroom

EarSkecth is a powerful tool for your classroom. It is true STEAM – the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. I can see how this site will engage both your students who want to learn how to code and those who just want to make music. I think of students like my daughter who is a musician majoring in computer science. In high school, she was always looking for that one great tool to help her learn to code. I think this one would have caught her attention and helped her build both her coding skills and her composition skills. In fact, I’m sending her this link so she can play around with it on her holiday break.

I can see where this site would be great for the computer science class but also for a media class or technology class. It is also a great addition to your makerspace.

Don’t be intimidated by music composition or coding. Click over to EarSketch and start learning both today. Go ahead, make little music.

 

Book Creator for Google Chrome

Book CreatorBook Creator has been around for a very long time. I almost didn’t write about it because for many teachers it is not new. However, it is one of those tools you need to rediscover now and then.

Overview

With Book Creator, you can create interactive books using your iPad or your Chrome device. For this post, we’ll look mainly at the Chrome version.

Get started with the app for free but, like most ed tech tools, the free version is limited. With the free version, you get one library where you can create 40 books. Not a bad way to get started but if you are using it with your students, you will run out of space quickly. There are different pricing levels starting at $60 per year and going up from there. The right choice for you depends on how many books you expect to create each year. Learn more about the pricing packages on their website.

The Chrome apps works in your browser. (Note, this is a Chrome app so it will not work in any of your other browsers.) As a teacher, you can sign in using your Google or Office credentials or your email. Students can also use their Google or Office email or have them sign in via QR code.

Key Features

If you are new to Book Creator or have not used this tool in a while, here are some of the key features that make this great epublishing tool for you and your students.

  • Shared Libraries – As you build your library, you can invite others to share the space, read your books and create books with you. You can also join other’s libraries. With one of the upgraded paid accounts, you can also add a co-teacher.
  • Integrate Media – One of the best things about ebooks is that they are not just text and images. Book Creator lets you seamlessly add multimedia such as video and web links, Google maps, and audio. According to the Book Creator blog, the tool now even allows you to embed Adobe Spark videos and web pages. For me, this is exciting news. I am a huge Adobe Spark fan. Read my pasts post about Spark Post and Video. Combining these two tools means you and your students can create some beautiful books.
  • Read ebooks – The viewing tools are amazing. Flip through the pages in full-screen mode. Read it on your own or have the Read to Me feature read the book to you. Great feature for your newer readers.
  • Share and Publish – The ebooks you and your students create can be downloaded and shared or published online and made available through bookcreator.com.
ebook
A layout view of my book.
  • Teacher Resources – There is a great set of resources available to help you get started. The Teacher Resource page has tips, tricks, and classroom ideas. Because this tool has been around for so long, there is a robust set of resources and support out there to help you make the most of this tool. Also, follow their blog and social media for more fun ideas.

Empower Your Students

Book Creator is an easy to use tool to get your students writing and creating media. There are so many ways to use Book Creator in the classroom. From students publishing their own stories to creating visual lab reports, to making multimedia class anthologies. The list goes on and on. If you are new to Book Creator, create a free account and get started. If you haven’t used Book Creator in a while, rediscover it and explore what you and your students can create.

 

HoloGLOBE: A World of Data in the Palm of Your Hand

I’ve already written about the MERGE Cube but we have only touched on the different MERGE Cube apps you can use in the classroom. If real-time data visualization is your thing then you need to get HoloGLOBE by Institute for Earth Observations at Palmyra Cove.

Data in Your HandScreenshot_20181114-055240

Using the MERGE Cube, HoloGLOBE uses satellite imagery to create a beautiful 3D image of the Earth.  Viewers can then add overlays of near-real-time data from NASA and NOAA.

There is a lot of data packed into this handheld version of our big blue marble. Using the in-app controls, you and your students can view current weather conditions and clouds, land and sea temperatures, wildfires, drought conditions, snow and ice coverage, and real-time earthquakes. It is amazing to see the data mapped across the surface of the earth.

In the satellite view, you can track satellites and see the relationship between the position of the sun and the seasons. There are also some videos embedded in the app that display on the virtual Earth. Learn about tracking the big three hurricanes from the 2017 season.

Different data views from HoloGLOBE.
Different data views from HoloGLOBE.

HoloGLOBE is intended to be a tool for exploring the Earths systems through satellite data and helping students learn how to make observations from data. According to the Palmyra Cove website, there are some expansions under development that will allow students and citizen scientists to share their observations and interpretations.

The Details

HoloGLOBE is free and available for both Andriod and iOS platforms. You can use it without the MERGE Cube but there is something cool about holding the Earth in your hands. You can also pair this with a VR/AR headset, such as the MERGE Goggles, for a stereoscopic view. The app is recommended for grades 5 – 12.

In the Classroom

There are many different ways to use this in the classroom. In addition to having students explore the data available, you could have them connect their observations to current articles, news headlines, or research reports to see if the data supports the claims made in the texts. Or, they could start with the texts and make predictions about what they will see when they look at the data. For example, have them research current earthquake reports or wildfire reports. Based on their research, what would they expect the data to look like? Then have them explore the data visualizations to see if their predictions were accurate. Spend some time reflecting on what they read versus what they saw. For me, I was surprised to see the number of earthquakes mapped across the globe.

For some virtual collaboration, why not have classrooms in different parts of the world, discuss their local data. The students could share photographs of their environment compared to screenshots of their HoloGLOBE data and discuss how they are experiencing the conditions found in the data.

There are a lot of great classroom applications for this app. Whether you are integrating it into a classroom lesson or just using it to give your students a different view of global data, HoloGLOBE is a beautiful application that will help you and your students appreciate this amazing planet.

 

Create 3D Scans on your Phone with Qlone

Qlone is an app that allows you to create 3D scans of real objects with your phone or mobile device. Once you’ve scanned an object you can modify your 3D model using in-app tools and then save or export it to other applications. It is fast and simple to use. Check out their overview video to help you get started.

 

Pros and Cons

I was excited to find this app and get started making some 3D scans. Overall it is a cool tool. However, like everything in life, there are pros and there are cons.

Pros

In-app editing tools
In-app editing tools. Yes, Poor Rainbow Dash did not scan well.
  • Free app for iOS and Android.
  • Scanning mat is free and you can print it in various sizes to accommodate your items.
  • Scanning dome guides you through a complete scan. Thanks to the dome, you know that you have scanned every inch of your item.
  • In-app editing tools allow you to modify and refine your 3D model.
  • Save and edit your model in your phone.
  • Models can be exported as multiple file formats including OBJ, STL, PLY, and X3D.
  • Models can be shared or used in other applications.

Cons

Export your models.
Export your models.
  • On older tech, the scans are a little rough. See poor Rainbow Dash above and my pointy-headed penguin.
  • It takes a little bit of practice to calibrate and use the scanning dome. Again, my difficulty could have something to do with the age of my tech. However, once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy.
  • In-app credit is required to export certain file formats. Exports can cost between $.99 and $9.99, according to the Google Play Store. This isn’t a huge con. An app has to have a sustainable business model so you can’t fault them for charging for some features. There is a lot of value in the free features so paying to export some file formats is not a bad thing.

Classroom Ideas

For me, the pros outweigh the cons, especially when you start thinking about all the ways you can use it in the classroom.

  • Creating 3D Models – Get students thinking in 3D virtual space. They can practice scanning and modifying their models.
  • Explainer Video – Create a 3D scan and export as an mp4. Use a video editing tool to add voice-over or to edit it into other footage.
  • Online Art Gallery – Have students scan their 3D IRL artwork. Save the file as a GIF and create a web page that includes their art GIF and an artist statement.
  • Upload to other applications – Create 3D models that can be used in other AR apps such as MERGE Cube Object Viewer.
  • Prototyping – Build object prototypes out of clay or other materials. Then scan it and export the model for 3D printing.

This is a short list. I’m sure there are lots of different ways you could use a 3D scanning tool in your classroom.

Read this article about middle school class that partnered with a local museum to create a virtual exhibit using Qlone and MERGE Cube tools.

Have you used Qlone in your classroom? What have your students done with their scans?

CoSpaces Edu: Virtual Reality Builder

I want to build amazing worlds. I’m a little intimidated by virtual world builders and 3D modeling tools. Fortunately for me, and other aspiring world builders, there are new tools out there that are easy to use and can help us create our spaces. CoSpaces Edu is one of those tools.

CoSpaces Edu Overview

I want to start this post by saying that this tool is amazing. There are so many features that I cannot cover all of them. I’m going to try and provide a basic overview that answers the question – What the heck is CoSpaces Edu? Hopefully, that sparks your interest and you can take it from there. There is just so much to cover on this application. I spent about an hour playing around so I know I did not uncover everything it can do. I also only explored the free version, not the pro version. My overview will be limited but hopefully helpful.

What the Heck is CoSpaces Edu?CoSpaces EDU

CoSpaces Edu is a virtual reality world builder for the classroom. According to their website, CoSpaces Edu is a place where teachers and students can create virtual reality experiences and animate them using code. To learn more, read through their brochure.

CoSpaces is browser based but you can also download an app for your mobile device so you can view your creations.

To give it a try, set up a free basic account. This account will allow you to create two virtual spaces. If you want to create more spaces and unlock a whole host of advanced features, upgrade to the Pro plan. The Pro plan starts at $3.50 per seat with a minimum of 30 seats. If I were teaching on a regular basis, I would consider this. It seems like a reasonable price for all of the features you unlock. There is even a new MERGE Cube Pro add-on coming soon. Read more about this add-on over on the CoSpaces blog. That could be the tipping point for me. Learn about the pricing plans on the Plans page.

Key Features

CoSpaces is a pretty powerful, yet easy to use VR creation tool. As I said earlier, there are too many features to list in this one blog post, so I’ll list some of my favorites. Tutorial Welcome

  • Support and tutorials – Getting started with creating VR experiences can be intimidating. When you first sign-in to CoSpaces, you are launched into a great tutorial. I walked through it in about 10 minutes and was ready to make my first space. The Welcome space takes you step-by-step through creating your own space and working in a 3D environment. Don’t skip this. It is very helpful.
  • Easy to use Toolbox – I created my first space in a matter of minutes. I set the environment. Then added a bunny and made the bunny eat. I needed a tree so I added it and changed the scale. I then added a flying butterfly and a pink backpack. Because, well, why not. The drag and drop interface made it easy to add. The grid and 3D guides also make it easy to get your assets right where you need them.
CoSpace Bunny
The toolbox as I created my first bunny.
  • Class Management – CoSpaces is made for educators. From your dashboard, you set up classes and manage assignments. Students join your class using a join code. I really like that CoSpaces is COPA and FERPA certified. Good to know.
  • Resources and Support – If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a stickler for high-quality resources and support. For me, a tech tool is not useful if it does not include good support resources. CoSpaces passes the HoPinkTech support test. There are some great onboarding resources including a handbook and tutorials. There is a nice bank of lesson plans for STEM/Coding, Social Science, ELA, and Arts and Media. Not a huge list but some great ideas to get you started. They also have some IRL goodies for your classroom such as posters and student certificates. On the support side, there is a Tech Check to make sure you are using the right tech, FAQs, a list of teacher Ambassadors, and a user forum that looks pretty active.
  • Gallery – All registered users have access to the Gallery. Here you can browse through VR spaces created by other users. It is cool to see what folks have created. A good place to get some inspiration.

Bottom Line

As I stated earlier, there is too much to this tool to fit into a short blog post. I’ve only scratched the surface. The bottom line is that CoSpaces Edu is a great way to get started in VR creation. The free basic account gives you enough features to explore so you can decide if you want to start using it in your class. It makes VR creation accessible and not so scary. Believe me, VR creation is scary for me. I am excited about the new integration with MERGE Cube. That is a feature to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what teachers and students create.

I’ll close with a short virtual tour of my Bunny Tree space. Let the little butterfly and sweet bunny take you to a relaxing space while you wonder what’s in the backpack and why it was left under the tree. Enjoy!

Travel the World with Google VR Tour Creator

Virtual field trips are my new obsession. I love them. They curb my wanderlust just a little. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at creating my own but my lack of a 360 camera makes it difficult. And, no matter how much I beg, no one will buy me one. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Here is what you need to know about 360 cameras.) I should have known that Google would have a tool to help me solve my lack of 360 camera dilemma and fill my need for creating VR tours.

Google VR Tour Creator

Google VR Tour Creator is an easy to use tool for creating VR tours using either the 360 views from Google Street View or your own 360 images.

Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.
Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.

Google VR Tour Creator has everything you would expect from a Google tool. Easy log-in with your Google account, intuitive interface, and easy to use features. In a matter of minutes, you can create interactive 360 tours of anywhere Google street view has been or, if you have your own 360 footage, you can upload your own images.

Key Features

There are so many cool features of this tool. I’m shocked that I have not played with it earlier. Here are just a few.

Search Google Maps for street views.
Search Google Maps for street views.
  • It’s free.
  • Use Google Street View to find 360 images for your tour. You can easily search Google maps and move your little street view person around to find the perfect shot.
  • Add interactive features to your tour. Using the development screen you can…
    • add a scene description,
    • ambient music,
    • scene narration,
    • identify points of interest,
    • add image overlays (you can only add images, no video or 3D models),
    • and points of interest narration.
  • If you are not sure how to get started, you can choose from the wide variety of templates to help you. Each template is a sample virtual tour with editable elements.
  • Once complete, your tour is published to Poly. You can choose the visibility level. List it publicly or leave it unlisted.
  • Device agnostic. You can view your tour on the computer or use VR apps.
  • Easy to use. My little sample tour below took less than 20 minutes to create.

In the Classroom

Google VR Tour Creator is a great way to get your students started in creating VR experiences. Imagine, instead of reading a report on a location, you can view a 360 tour that includes music, narrative, informative pop-ups, and photos. Not only are your students researching and writing about a place they are also building important media skills. The best part is that there is no special equipment is needed, just a computer and a Google log-in. Even your youngest students should be able to navigate through this application and create their own virtual tour. If you have a 360 camera, they can even take their own footage and incorporate it into their creation.

If you are like me and you do not have the joy of a 360 camera in your life, never fear. Google once again has your back. Download the free Google Cardboard Camera app. I have not yet tried it but, I will give it a shot this weekend. It might be a no-cost alternative to a 360 camera.

There are so many ways you can use VR Tour creator in your classroom. I’m excited to start creating my own virtual tours and playing around with all it can do. What are you creating with VR Tool Creator? Have your students used it? Share your ideas!

Get Your Lists Together with Microsoft Planner

I’m part of a great team. Our team has a lot of projects. We are enthusiastic, full of energy, ideas, and different working styles. We work together to develop content, plan events, deliver workshops, build partnerships, inspire learners and do our best not to be overwhelmed by task lists and deadlines and still like each other at the end of the day. Not an easy task – but we do it pretty well. I’ve been looking for a tool to help keep us organized and is SUPER easy to use.

My current task management experimental tool is Microsoft Planner. So far, not bad. We are midway through one major project and I have to say it has helped keep us on track.

Planner Overview

Microsoft Planner is available as part of the Office 365 suite. It is one of those undiscovered apps hidden in the Explore All App section of your dashboard. Basically, Planner is a task list tool. You can create task lists by project, assign tasks to team members, track team communication, and manage deadlines. It is easy to use and easy to see if your project is on track or way behind schedule.

Check out this overview video from Microsoft to learn more.

Pros and Cons

What I like about this tool…

  • Integrates easily with all my Microsoft applications.
  • Easy to set up a new project and new tasks can be added at any time.
  • Assign tasks to one or more team members.
  • Attach related documents to tasks and add comments to tasks. Ideas and conversations do not get lost in email!! Yay!
  • View tasks by due date. There are three ways to view your task lists: in buckets, by progress, and on the calendar. Makes it easy to see project progress.
  • Pushes communication through email. You do not have to open the app to see the current discussion around tasks.
  • Create and manage multiple projects.

Things I’m not crazy about…

  • You cannot add team members who are not part of your organization. At least I have not figured out how to add them yet.
  • No Gantt chart.  I love me a good Gantt chart. For me, it is the easiest way to view a project. There are some nice charting tools in Planner. You can see an overall view of tasks, coded by progress color. You can also view task progress organized by buckets and by team members. This is helpful. The calendar view is also neat and kind of Gantt chart-like – but, it is not a Ganntt chart.
  • The tool is only as good as your team is at using it. Don’t expect miracles here. This tool will not magically keep your team on task and just because you have a planning tool, does not mean that they will use a planning tool. The trick is to find a tool that is not just one more thing to do but instead is actually helpful. Out of all the digital tricks I have tried, Microsoft Planner has been the most successful. I’m hoping that the more we use it, the better we will be at using it.

If you manage projects and are looking for an easy to use tool to keep your team organized, give Microsoft Planner a try. It might just be exactly what your team needs to take them from merely functioning to super-awesome productive!

 

Inspiring Stories: Breaking Boundaries in Science from Filament Games

Inspiring kids to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a large part of what I do on a daily basis. Now, thanks to Filament Games, we have a beautiful new VR experience to add to our toolbox – Breaking Boundaries in Science.

The Experience

Filament Games is known for their high quality, fun, educational games. Breaking Boundaries in Science is no exception. Created for Samsung VR and Oculus Go, Breaking Boundaries lets you or your students explore the working spaces of three groundbreaking female scientists: Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, and Marie Curie. When you first enter the experience, you are standing in a great hall in front of portraits of the great women. Selecting a portrait sends you to a beautifully detailed virtual recreation of their workspaces. Once you are in these spaces, you can move through and explore these amazing spaces. In the space, you can select items and hear, in the scientist’s voice, a bit about their own story as it related to the item. Cool fun fact – Jane Goodall herself voiced her vignette. It is incredible to hear about her work from her.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN SCIENCE
A Screenshot of the scientists from the Breaking Boundaries website.

The gameplay experience is open exploration. The developers at Filament call it a form of non-linear storytelling, told through objects that held personal meaning to the scientists. It is almost like an unstructured Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Using this strategy, Breaking Boundaries tells a multi-faceted story about the scientific breakthroughs that made these women pioneers in their field and, more importantly, an intimate portrait of who these women were as people.

My Experience

My colleague and I had the opportunity to play Breaking Boundaries back in late August at the Filament Games offices. The experience was impressive. I had to sit while my colleague played first. I sat with anticipation while she oohed and aahed over what she saw in-world.  I was a bit impatient for her to finish so I could have my turn. If you are using it with your students, be prepared for a few impatient cries of “Is it my turn yet?”

When I (finally) got to play, I could see what she was oohing and aahing about. The detail in-world was gorgeous. From the stars in the sky and bugs on the ground in Jane Goodall’s camp to the sparking equipment and dusty chalkboards of Grace Hopper’s office. Marie Curie’s lab ceiling even leaked when it rained. It was inspiring to hear their stories in their own voices. (The voice actors for Hopper and Curie were spot on.)

I didn’t get to experience it, but my colleague selected the right things to get Marie Curie herself to appear! I wanted to keep trying but, we couldn’t stay there forever.

Classroom Uses

If you have a Samsung VR or Oculus Go, I highly recommend this VR experience. It is a free download. There are lots of ways you can use this in the classroom. Full disclosure – my office at NIU worked with Filament to write the accompanying activity guide. So – check it out for ideas on using this in the classroom. You can access the resources here.  It was a lot of fun to think about all the ways to use this with students.

Extras

While we were at Filament, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Norton, the Cheif Creative Officer of Filament and Ethan Cayko, the producer of Breaking Boundaries. We picked their brain about all kinds of things. Everything from designing educational video games, career paths in the gaming industry, and their own paths to get them to where they are today. It was a fascinating interview with two fascinating people.

STEM Read Podcast!
STEM Read Podcast!

You can listen to our interview with them and author Jennifer L. Holm on Episode 12: Games, Goldfish, and Greatness.

I hope you and your students enjoy Breaking Boundaries in Science as much as I did!