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!

Add Some 3D to Your Coloring with QuiverVision

As I write this, the entire midwest is hunkering down for our first big blizzard of the season. While the winds blow outside, I’ve decided that it is the perfect time to pour myself a glass of wine…er… I mean a cup of hot chocolate and do some coloring. Not just any coloring mind you, some augmented reality coloring with QuiverVision.

Coloring only BetterColoring my Quiver Coloring sheets.

QuiverVision is an app that brings your coloring pages to life. The app is free to download on iTunes, Google Play, and Kindle. The app works with special coloring pages that you can download from the QuiverVision Coloring Packs website.

There are several color pages available on the website. Some are simply coloring pages while others have interactive content and quizzes. Find one you like and simply print, then color, and then let the app do the magic. There is a mix of free and paid content. For the paid content, you are able to print off any of the pages but you cannot access the augmented content unless you make an in-app purchase. One of the packs I tried to use was only 99 cents to unlock.

At first, I was not too impressed with the educational content of the pages. I think I was just using the wrong pages. I tried a few others and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the interactivity of the different pages. The cell coloring sheet gave you information on each part of the cell. It also included a quiz. I’d be interested to see what the paid content is like.

Watch the video to see some of the interactive features in action. With this coloring page, you create your own flag. While using the app, I can change the wind speed and watch my flag wave. The video was captured in the app. I turned off my sound but you can also capture audio. Could be an interesting way to have students give an oral report on their flag. Have them talk about what the colors and symbols mean. (However, before they create their flag, have them watch this video with Roman Mars from 99% Invisible on why city flags are great examples of bad design. Don’t let them fall prey to bad design choices.)

Companion Apps

There are three other apps from QuiverVision: Quiver Education, Quiver Fashion, and Quiver Masks.

Quiver Education seems similar to QuiverVision but with more educational content. Quiver Education costs $5.99 so I am assuming you do not need to pay for the additional educational content.

Quiver Fashion is perfect for your budding fashion designer. With Quiver Fashion, you can print out the coloring pages, design your own clothing, create collections, and have virtual fashion shows.

Quiver Masks is my favorite. Masks uses facial tracking to overlay your custom mask onto your own face. There are 19 coloring pages to choose from. Some are hats while others are full face masks. You can use the app without the coloring pages by using the preloaded masks. However, it is more fun to color your own mask. Check out my cool cat hat. That should keep me warm during the blizzard, right?

In addition to putting cute masks on your face, you can record video with your mask on. This could be a fun way to add some interest to your students next speach. Have them do it wearing a virtual hat or mask.

You can even do a face swap with the Masks app. Don’t try this with your own face. It’s just creepy.

If you want to get started with augmented reality but you are not sure where to start, give the apps from QuiverVision a try.

Now, where is my wine? I’m going to color while I watch the snow fall.

 

3D Design with Morphi

I will admit that I am not a designer and have very little experience creating 3D Designs. I tinker but that is about it. There are a lot of 3D design tools out there with tinkerers like me in mind. They are easy-ish to use yet powerful enough to create some amazing things. Morphi is one of those tools.

Morphi Overview

Morphi is a multiplatform application for creating 3 D designs. It is available for Windows, Mac, and iPad.  The tool is relatively easy to use and has some interesting features. The app costs $9.99 per device for up to 20 devices. Over 20 and the cost goes down to $4.99. I played around with the windows version using the 15-day free trial.

Features

I spent about an hour checking out the tool. I did not watch any tutorials, I just jumped right in. The controls are fairly intuitive. Here are some of the features I liked.

  • You have the ability to create shapes, text or free draw. I really like the free draw because you can turn on symmetry points and create some fun designs. Morphi4
  • Convert your 2D drawings into 3D designs in the click of a button. The image to the right is a 3D version of a scribble I created using a 5 mirror symmetry setting. I first drew the image and then converted it to 3D. Now I have the ability to change the height and size and combine it with other elements.
  • Create, group and combine shapes. In the image below, I was able to combine some simple shapes into a little house. No, it is not a complicated one but I also only spent a couple minutes moving my shapes and getting them to align. There are some useful align tools to help you get the shapes into the right place in 3D space. Not as easy as it looksMorphi
  • Your creation can be exported as an STL so it can be 3D printed. I did not try this but it seems straightforward.

There are some other features mentioned on the website that I did not get a chance to try out such as texturing tools and augmented reality editing. I hope to play with those more through the course of my 15-day trial.

In the Classroom

If you are using 3D modeling in your classroom, Morphi might be a tool to consider. It is a great way to get all your students thinking in 3-dimensional space. The drag and drop features and easy to use controls make creating fairly simple. Not really simple because creating in 3D is not super easy. It can actually be really hard. The Morphi interface makes it easy to navigate in 3D space and create shapes. I also really like the 2D to 3D features. That is a great way to get your students started. Morhpi has more information about classroom uses on their educator page. There are also some great ideas for what to have your students create and some tutorials videos to help you get started.

I am looking forward to spending some more time in this app during my 15-day trial. For $9.99 a device, it seems like a pretty powerful tool to get you creating 3D masterpieces.

Are you or your students using Morphi? Share some of your designs? I’ll leave with one more of my amazing creations. Don’t judge – I only played with it for an hour. I think it is beautiful!  Enjoy!

Morphi2

 

 

360 Images Made Easy with Google Cardboard Camera

I have lamented before about how I do not have a 360o camera. In fact, I complained about it extensively in my Google VR Tour Creator post. It makes it difficult to hop on the 360o image bandwagon and create VR experiences. However, I did find that the Google Cardboard Camera app that helps to satisfy my 360o cravings.

App Overview

The Google Cardboard Camera is a very simple app that allows you to create 360o images with or without sound. These images are saved to your device, or in Google Photos so you can use them in other applications such as Google VR Tour Creator. This app is available for both Android and Apple products.

For a free app using your phone’s camera and not a real 360o camera, these are not bad. When you take a picture, a center line guides you as you rotate to capture your surroundings. If you go too fast, the app will tell you too slow down. When complete, you have a super panoramic image.

Using my phone’s camera, the center of the image looks pretty good, not a lot of distortion or vertical banding. However, it doesn’t capture a really wide angle top to bottom. So, it is not true 360o, more like 270o. You can see my full image below.

360 view of Chicago on Columbus
360 view of Chicago on Columbus

When viewed through a Google Cardboard or other VR viewer, it looks pretty cool.

My VR View
My VR View

In the Classroom

Your students will really enjoy this app. It is a great tool for them to get started with creating their own virtual field trips. Using their devices they can quickly and easily take pictures and then use them in other applications.

If you are looking for a high quality 360o camera alternative, this is obviously not it. If you are looking for a free tool to get you started in creating 360o images and VR, then this is most certainly something to try.

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?

Create Interactive AR Story and Game Experiences with Metaverse Studio

If you are a fan of augmented reality games and stories but never thought you would be able to create one of your very own, then you will enjoy Metaverse Studio.

Metaverse Overview

Metaverse Studio is a free online development tool for creating interactive mobile experiences. You can create interactive stories, games, scavenger hunts and more. The premise seems complicated but, thanks to an intuitive storyboard and an amazing library of tutorials, creating a customized experience is easier than you think.

What is an Experience?

Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences
Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences

Before you start creating your own experiences it might be useful to download the mobile app and play some of the experiences created by others. An experience can be an interactive VR tour, where 360 images are combined with user response screens to create an interactive VR field trip. Or, an experience could be an augmented reality quiz, digital breakout, or interactive story. Each experience is a mini mobile game created by members of the community.

There are a bunch of experiences in the library. It reminds me of all of the other user created libraries out there like Kahoot!, Quizizz, etc. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are ridiculous. All are interesting was to use VR/AR/MR technology.

What excites me about this tool is the possibilities of what you and your students can create using the storyboard.

Metaverse Storyboard

The Metaverse storyboard is where all the creative magic happens. The storyboard is a web-based tool for creating experiences. When you peek behind the curtain of a Metaverse experience, it looks like a concept map or a flow chart. Look at the image below. It might help.

Metaverse Storyboard
The storyboard of my first experience. Buttons connect to different the scenes that make up my experience.

The storyboard is where you lay out the framework of your experience, format your scenes, add media and interactive features. My first experience, which you can gaze on above, was a simple choose your own adventure story where you help the unicorn find their cat. You can see the first scene where the unicorn asks for your help. Choose the “No.” button and the game ends with a picture of a sad cat. Say “Yes.” and your spirit panda helps its new unicorn friend find his cat in a strange Back to the Future 360 world. The experience ends with a happy cat. Each of the scenes with gray backgrounds are actually augmented reality scenes.

Key Features

My simple little experience is nothing compared to the sophisticated experiences you can create with Metaverse. In addition to standard scenes, you can add interactive modules and input blocks. It is fairly easy to go from simple two scene experiences to AR scavenger hunts. I’m going to be honest, I need a lot more training on the more complicated blocks and modules before I can use them effectively. Luckily, there is a comprehensive tutorial channel on YouTube. You can watch videos on how to add polls, selfie features, and use some of the code blocks to add inventory management, probability events, leaderboards, and more.  As I said, for a tool that looks simple on the surface, you can create some complicated experiences.

What I like most about this tool is that you can get started right away and create simple experiences, however, you will not outgrow this tool quickly. There are lots of things you can do as your skill increases. As the website says – you can create amazing things! Go give it a try!

 

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!

Interactive Lessons with Nearpod

I create a lot of presentations and facilitate a lot of learning sessions. I’m always looking for new ways to spice up my sessions and engage my students. Nearpod is a web application that might be the answer to my engagement challenge.

Nearpod Overview

I’ve been hearing about Nearpod for quite some time now but have not had an opportunity to explore it. I feel like a am a little late to the Nearpod party. Better late than never, right?

Nearpod is basically a library of interactive presentations that you can use with students. You, the teacher, can launch a presentation and present as usual. Your students can join your presentation on their device by using your presentation join code. Once they join, they can follow along on their device. As you advance, their version advances too.

In addition to the regular slides, you can include interactive slides for your students. This includes open-ended questions, quizzes, slide they can draw on, interactive simulations, VR tours, and more. As you move through your slides, your students can respond to questions so you can do an on the fly check for understanding. This is what excites me about Nearpod. Below you see an example of one of the interactive slide. I’ve added the Draw It feature so my learners can respond to my question by adding hand-drawn notes.

A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.
A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.

Features

Nearpod has many great features.

Lesson Library
Lesson Library
  • Content Library – You do not have to create all of your content from scratch. There is an extensive library of content. You can explore the bank of free and for purchase lessons, preview content, and save the ones you want to your personal library. Lessons have been created by Nearpod partners such as PhET and iCivics as well as Nearpod educators.
  • Customize and Create – You can customize lessons from the library or create your own. I uploaded one of my presentations and it was super easy to add interactive slides.
  • VR Integration – You can add VR field trips right into your presentation. Students can explore 360 images and then respond to questions.
  • Student Reports – As your students interact with your content, all their responses are displayed on your dashboard. You can view reports to see how your students are understanding the content.
  • PD and Support –  For me, one of the most important features is available support for teachers. Nearpod does not disappoint. There is a great, self-paced tutorial. I walked through it and found it easy to follow and clear. In addition, on their resource page, you can join live webinars, watch on-demand webinars or watch one of the many video tutorials. I love that the videos tutorials are only 60 seconds. You can also join the Nearpod community on Facebook or get tons of ideas on the Nearpod blog.
  • Sign-up – You can use your existing credentials from Google or MS O365 to create an account. Or you can sign-up with your email.
  • Pricing – Nearpod has several tiers of pricing.  You can find them outlined on their pricing page. It is free to sign-up and get started. There are also several free lessons you can use, with many more that you can purchase. Lessons seem to run from $2.99 and up. With a free account, you can create your own lessons and add some of the interactive features. Others, such as the Draw It tool, are only available with a paid account. However, you can sign up for a free trial to give it a test run.
  • Notes – It looks like there is a new feature that allows your students to take notes on their own device as you give your presentation.

As you can see there are many great features to Nearpod. I know that I have missed many.

I’m excited to give it a try as part of my professional development workshops and with the students we work with. Are you using Nearpod? How do your students like?