To Augmented Reality and Beyond!

So what is it?

As A.R and V.R become closer to being globally accessible through the common market place there seems to be confusion between what A.R and V.R actually are. To make it as easy as possible to understand when we refer to either, I’m going off the following views of A.R and V.R:

Augmented Reality (A.R): is the layering of computer-generated sensory input such as audio, video, images or GPS information on the view of the real-world.

Virtual Reality (V.R): is a fully computer-simulated environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence in there in a way that allows the user to interact with it. This can be done through  video, audio, images and smells.

 

Like the Throw Back Thursday (or #TBT) of yester year A.R seems to have kick-started in 2012 and been left in 2015. There’ll always be trends in education, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you have to look at the practicality and uses of said trends. In this case, A.R has been left in the past as V.R has progressed to the mainstream, mainly due to the gaming industries current evolution, this was evident at BETT and Digifest this year.

However it seems that A.R has been massively overlooked.

There’re plenty of uses of A.R in education,  from interactive posters to induction orientations. There are a few bits of research which can relate back to the use of  A.R, here are a few links:

Collaborative A.R  , Metacognitive Learning over the real world via A.R  ,  Student knowledge and A.R , dynamic environment through A.R  & A.R supporting different learning styles

With the launch of A.R companies wanting to break into education such as Blippar, Aurasma and Layar being the main ones, it seems like A.R is being overlooked in favour of V.R.

Here at Myerscough we are currently working on a project between our education department and our e-learning department to further the influence of A.R in the college as a plausible way of getting more information without overloading and creating a more dynamic environment. We’re doing this through a “My Out The Box” incentive which combines the posters and A.R to create information rich posters, which can be scanned by students and staff to get multimedia information. We’re using the Blippar app to help nail the A.R side of the poster. We’ve chosen Blippar as the app due to the educational account  that they offer. After having a look over the different apps available Blippar was found to have more interactions, which could hold more information and there was the ability to add varied media such as video, websites, photobooths etc. This and the ease of use made Blippar the clear winner. So far we only have a few posters out but we are looking forward to fully rolling out this project.

We’re looking forward to using Augmented Reality to go beyond…!

 

 

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Plickers vs Kahoot

These are both widely used within the College, as they’re both great assessment quiz tools, but as with every bit of TEL and educational technology there are the right times and places to implement tech.

So to use, or not to use: that is the question….

Kahoot and Plickers are both great in their own way for many different reasons. In this we’re going to sum up key strengths and ways to use them based on what we’ve learned here.

Kahoot:

  • Great for preliminary starter quizzes in class sessions.
  • Creates an engaging atmosphere through competition, either by the students being in competition wit each other or themselves (there is now a ghost mode which allows for personal best times)
  • Great for BYOD schemes or if there is a bank of tablet devices or laptops for the calss which they can use.
  • Gives statistics on the answers at the end of the session, which can also be accessed at a later date.

 

Plickers:

  • On the flip side of Kahoot being great for preliminary quizzes, Plickers is great for an end of session assessment review. As it is a student response system students can change their answers, this allows for a true reflection of what they know rather than simply answering as fast as possible.
  • Tutor can see who answered which question, as well as giving statistics for each question, this allows
  • Keeps students engaged as they have to think about which way the shapes to answer the questions are poised.
  • Doesn’t need every student to have a device, just the tutor.
  • Though this may seem like an odd thing to say, as it is not as flashy as Kahoot in it’s appearance, Plickers can be seen as more academic and appropriate for F.E and H.E learners due to cultural expectations.
  • Gives statistics on the answers at the end of the session, which can also be accessed at a later date.

 

Overall start a lesson with Kahoot and end it with Plickers. Always keep in mind when it would be appropriate, don’t overuse these apps as they can lead to disengaged students, the same with any overuse of a teaching delivery method can. Think about when you need the formative assessment of student knowledge. For example, using Plickers at the end of a module to give a true indication of which topics need revision for exams or using Kahoot to make a topic, which can be seen as quite dry, a bit livelier and more engaging.

Vary which apps you use and keep an eye out for new ones, after all there’s always plenty more technology out there to enhance learning!

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Our VLE Journey

Quick Aside, before we get started:

A quick summed up glossary.

VLE = Virtual Learning Environment: an online College specific location where tutors can put multimedia resources for their students to access.

LMS = Learning Management System: similar to a VLE but with more tracking statistics and analytics available for learners.

ATP = Advanced Teaching Practitioner: a member of the Myerscough teaching team who acts as a digital, teaching and learning champion for an academic area.

So the story so far…..

Basically we’re changing our VLE, it’s been a tough decision but after liaising with tutors and working as VLE admins behind the scenes we’ve realised that our VLE is dying a slow death and can no longer keep up with the evolving needs of our staff and students.

Can you not just fix it…?

Well we’re in a bit of a bind. We currently have a bespoke VLE created by one of our developers, who had put over a few years worth of work into it. However he has now left the college and we can’t find anyone to replace him, most VLEs need a developer working behind the scenes to help them run smoothly and efficiently.

So we’re between a rock and a hard place, we’re minus a programmer so the bespoke system, created from a Moodle base, has no more progression within it and we’re too far away from the original Moodle to simply transfer back. So we have the only option of getting a completely new VLE or LMS which has updates, backups and support.

But which one?

Our first step was to have a look around and talk to other colleges on what they used. One of them came out as the most widely used: Moodle.

Moodle is the system to use! We hear everyone cry…..well we’ve had a look at the latest one (in this point of time it’s Moodle 2.9.3) and we’re not so sure.

It’s a fantastic system, don’t get us wrong. It’s brilliant in initial cost (it’s free to get), great for potential Moodle Moocs, used across many colleges so has an amazing community behind it with a lot of innovative and enthusiastic people pushing it forward, every so many months there’s updates (though this can be a massive disruption for the VLE users, depending on how it’s implemented) and it’s familiar for most staff and students (whether it was used previously in high schools, other educational establishments or simply by staff from previous places of work).

But here’s the clincher….to implement it smoothly and effectively you need a web developer/programmer, someone to constantly work the back end of the VLE.

So we’re back to square one.

If we even took out the developer issue, say we got help from another college; which a few have kindly offered, Moodle just lacks a certain sort of…….appeal?

It’s hard to explain but like we stated before it’s familiar, like many VLEs it’s made too easy to fall into old habits and make it into an online repository, rather than an online learning hub and it’s not exactly the forefront of LMS and VLE software any more. The issue for us is that we’ve had a bespoke system, evolved from Moodle, for so long, that Moodle seems like a step back rather than forward. In a time where technology is taking leaps and bounds to evolve, shouldn’t our virtual learning platform?

Also, on a more cynical note, other VLEs and LMS options usually cost, so Moodle usually always wins from that aspect.

So what happens if you take the cost of out the equation…..?

After extensive research and having previous experience of multiple VLEs and LMS systems, plus what tutors and students want from online learning, there were a few choices which stood out.

Blackboard – Again this unfortunately, though an operational and useful VLE system, didn’t fit with the college. It’s been implemented before here but was changed after a year or so’s implementation. Even the new updated version just didn’t seem to suit our needs.

WebCT  – is a tool that facilitates the creation of sophisticated World Wide Web-based educational environments. It can be used to create entire on-line courses, or to simply publish materials that supplement existing courses. To be used it needs a developer or team of developers, so that’s off the cards.

Sacchi – Though a brilliant system and used by a few universities and colleges around the UK, the issue with it again is that it needs a team of developers, graphics designers and more behind it to run it effectively. In fact those universities and colleges that do currently use it have teams upon teams of developers behind it.

Canvas – a great system used by a few universities and colleges across the world, so has a large and innovative community behind it, updates which don’t disrupt everything every 3 weeks and the best bit…..it doesn’t need the college to hire developers, as the price paid for the system includes a large team of these.

So for our purposes Canvas is the way forward. However when you put the cost back into it, as this is the real world, Canvas costs a lot of £££ compared to Moodle which is free. You have to start fully comparing the two to see if you’re getting your monies worth, compared to what we already have and what we wanted from the system.

Bloom (current VLE) vs Canvas vs Moodle 2.9.3

COLOUR KEY:

Green = has that feature

Yellow = doesn’t have that feature

Blue = Need a developer to implement/progress and maintain that feature

LMS vs VLE

After comparing all the systems on paper, Canvas LMS came out on top. It has all the features we wanted and needed, that’d been asked for previously and pretty much ticked every box.

Next step towards a solution…..

We wanted to see demos of the VLEs in action, the only true way to see a VLE is to see a demo or have a go yourself.

So we arranged a visit to another college (#myeteamontour) to see Moodle, taking with us an Advanced Teaching Practitioner (ATP) for a tutor’s perspective, and had a brilliant demo of how they successfully implemented it. There was some fantastic practices going on with using online facilities, marking systems etc. Again they had a developer behind the scenes working on it all, which was for us, the only downfall. A lot of the parts we loved about Moodle, he had personally designed. The ATP had positive feedback but seemed worried that it could seem overly complicated and that it seemed to be taking a step back from everything that had been accomplished on our custom made VLE.

We then had a demo from Canvas. We again included ATPs, but also included heads of academic areas and some senior management in the demo so that they could get a handle on the LMS. The feedback from the tutors was overwhelmingly positive and included phrases such as ‘this is how a VLE should be’…‘has everything we want and wanted from Bloom (our current VLE)’ and ‘grading online will be so much easier’ From this we realised something we hadn’t counted on, analytics and feedback options are important to teachers more so now then ever. The future of e-learning is now moving away from the VLE and towards the LMS, to be inclusive of collaboration which can be monitored and analysed easily while presenting students with a more interactive online environment.

For us an LMS like Canvas is the solution…

Is Canvas the destination?

For us as a college, yes.

We’re hoping for Canvas and have put forward that proposal, though you never know how these things go! After talking with other colleges who have implemented it, or are currently in the process of implementing it, one thing is clear, after all the calculations for cost in hiring a team of developers, time spent, how the system works, updates and tutor and student feedback, Canvas came out top over all other systems previously used.

We’ve still got a way to go but we’re definitely on the right track……

 

 

A few useful links:

Links to Top 10 things LMS buyers need to know:

http://www.upsidelearning.com/blog/index.php/2015/03/24/top-6-things-lms-buyers-need-to-know/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=ultwitter

 

An interesting discussion from 2009 about ‘The VLE is dead’ definitely worth a watch:

http://elearningstuff.net/2009/09/09/the-vle-is-dead-the-movie/

 

VLE or LMS: Taxonomy for Online Learning Environments:

http://www.academia.edu/3246397/VLE_or_LMS_Taxonomy_for_Online_Learning_Environments

 

iPads as Visualisers?

There are many different ways in which iPads can be utilised in blended learning/flipped classrooms or simply as part of a tutor toolkit. Though, as any iPad wielding user will know, the general use depends on the app. You can use it as a presentation tool as the tutor, with and without student devices, or use it as a teaching tool and let the students run with their own devices.

For the purposes of this post we’re interested in only one thing………iPads as visualisers.

The main use of iPads as visualisers has not been looked into as much as we’d have liked, there aren’t that many examples out there or methods of ‘how to’ ( we can’t recall a blog, research paper or other resource specifically going over visualisation in depth)

So here’s two original ways we’ve theoretically, and practically, implemented the use of the iPad based around the idea of visualisation:

 

1. Overhead Projector/ Visualiser

As a reboot of the old fashioned, overhead projectors of yester year – anyone else remember acetate paper, brightly coloured markers and the awkward 5 minute set up where the teacher dances back and forth to get the projector in the right place on the screen? ( No, just us?) Well the reboot is a bit more advanced than that. You just need an iPad and an Apple TV.

What you need:

iPad or iPhone, BoardCam App (or simply the inbuilt camera app),  Apple TV and Screen/projector.

Method:

Mirroring the iPad to the Apple TV you can show whatever you want on a larger screen.

For example:

Here in Motorsport having an engine model in the classroom, they can use the iPad to view specific parts of the engine that the tutor is educating students about, without having to crowd around. Using the BoardCam app means that live annotation can also occur in real time, to allow for more information to be presented.  Visualisation tools have previously been used for enlarging smaller, intricate parts of machinery and taking photos only. Whereas with the versatility and portability of the iPad, it can be used as a visualiser for larger, intricate objects, such as an engine, and then used straight away as a presentation or quiz tech tool.

General examples:

View smaller/intricate objects

Mathematical formulaic working out

Practical demonstrations in real time

Review physical work of students to encourage peer-to-peer review

 

2. Live Streaming

iPads can be used as temporary CCTV footage to record a room, observation or live stream events . A simple idea, yet effective, without the high costs associated with setting up actual CCTV footage.

What you need:

2x iPads, Periscope app and account, Apple TV and large screen (though depending on the use may not need an Apple TV or large screen)

Method:

Use the Periscope app to connect the 2 iPads via a private broadcast. One app in the room you wish to record, and the other kept with the tutor. You can then have a look at the live streaming whenever you need to,

For example:

Animal Studies use this method to show students what true animal behaviour is like without the interference of humans in educational sessions. They use the iPad to go onto Periscope and connect to the Apple TV, showcasing the live feed while being able to switch back to tasks and presentations making it an easy, multiuse tool. The app also allows for the live stream to be kept as a recording, so can be used as a reference resource later on or to be put on the college VLE/LMS for online learners.

 

General examples:

Useful to use as live streaming on a budget.

Useful to stream live events that are taking place around the world, think educational talks/distance learning.

 

 

 

TEL Assessment and Integration

So we wanted to start the New Year getting back to the basics of Technology Enhanced Learning (it’ll be referred to as TEL from now on), deepening our current knowledge of educational technology research and how to integrate it successfully (just be warned this is probably a long post!)

Technology is always evolving. A general example of this evolution is the Virtual Reality Oculus Rift technology which will be available commercially this year but was still science fiction a few years ago, the same goes for touchable holograms though still a few years off, it’s a lot closer than futuristic sci-fi films would have you believe. With this continuing evolution through discoveries and creations of new technology, and it’s cultural implications, it’s always best to keep in mind the research behind why we use technology? What research supports it? and how to integrate it effectively in education? Find out more about the different types of technology integration.

So why use it?

Apart from the fact it’s now a standard part of the educational assessment process, whether that’s classroom observations, peer to peer review or Ofsted, TEL makes education innovative, engaging and provides another base tool to enhance learning.

Realistically there has been a wealth of evidence to support the use of technology in education since the early 90s (seriously, there’s a lot of research out there based from late 1980’s onwards about technology, even from using a blackboard to a interactive whiteboard, and it’s possible impact on learning). The most recent one which comes to mind is about Pragmatics and Cognition which summarised to the conclusion technology, when based on cognition, is effective to enhance learning. On the whole there are Pros and Cons, but the Pros outweigh the Cons.

pros and cons TEL implementation


Continue reading “TEL Assessment and Integration”

Using Thinglink to improve virtual learning

Fed up of just having a list of static word links to pdfs? Uninspired by the wall of text that greets you when you’ve uploaded your last session?thinglinkforteachers

Thinglink could be the answer to your problems. It is a multi-platform interactive image creator that can really bring a VLE  or web page to life.

It is used in the media and in marketing but it is in education where it is making the biggest mark and on first impressions it could be just what you need to provide a window of learning that your student can step into and experience – without sending them away from your module page to do it.

You can embed a Youtube video, a sound file, a google map, annotate a picture or diagram with words and pictures – basically you can put your whole class or session’s learning resources into one picture that sums up the topic.

Let your learner see what you’re thinking (or thing linking) by bringing the power of the internet to your page with rich media tags.

It’s free to use too, although there is a paid for option with more functions, and with a bit of creativity and the use of free photoediting websites like picmonkey.com you can make some inspiring stuff.

So far, in just a few months, we’ve used it here at Myerscough to welcome students to  the college and to their courses with an interactive map of the campus and short videos from heads of area.

(Unfortunately, unlike your VLE, the free version of word press won’t allow me to embed the rich media content image – so click on the picture below to view on thinglink instead!)

We’ve used it with the floristry department to enhance online video content and demonstrations (again click on the picture to view on thinglink)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve even used it to liven up the course structure and deadline dates given to students


So far so good….

A couple more online tutors came to our training session on it last week and are now keen to develop its use on their own courses in the New Year.

Anyone interested in using it, or who want to see more examples of what it can be used for, just get in touch with Adrian Capstick or Laura Power. We will be holding more one-to-one sessions on it in 2016 for anyone interested in giving it a go.

There is also an online gallery on Thinglink that shows what other people have used the website and the free app for in the past and who have chosen to share their creations for other people to use and / or remix.

Get yourself logged in and see what you can create! www.thinglink.com

Apple TV not just a Fad

There seems to be some confusion as to Apple TVs; what these mysterious devices are and why should educators use them? After having a look into them for F.E and H.E educators it became apparent they are actually quite versatile pieces of tech.

So first things first, what is an Apple TV?

According to Wikipedia ‘’(it)…is a digital media player and a microconsole developed and sold by Apple Inc. It is a small network appliance and entertainment device that can receive digital data from a number of sources and stream it to a capable TV for playing on the TV screen. Apple TV is an HDMI-compliant source device’’ or as I like to call it, a little black box. From this little black box you can mirror your iPad to the Apple TV, to show what’s on your iPad on a larger board/projector or screen. I’m not going into a full flung ‘how to set up an Apple TV ’ scenario as this isn’t about that, it’s about how to use it in education.  However if you’re curious about set up and the technical ‘how to’ Here’s a quick guide.

Got it, so how do I use it in education…?

The most common two questions we get asked at e-learning, when introducing something new, is ‘How am I supposed to use this?’  and ‘well this (insert name of technology from about 5+ years ago) does that, why should we replace it?’ naturally demoing Apple TV was no exception. In this case it was SMART Boards, White Boards, Projectors and iBoards. Ok, ok I know some of these are more recent than 5+ years ago but I’m making a point and, realistically, they are basically the same thing. It’s a projector/large screen attached to a computer……

So as I was saying…… ‘they’re just a replacement for SMART Boards/iBoards I hear you say?’ Well yes and no. You can use it to present information in the same manner and it is a lot cheaper than a SMART Board (great for those thinking about pinching the pennies) but it also does a lot more than that. The next question of ‘How am I supposed to use that?’ was solved with a lot of research and a bit of creative thinking on our part. The e-learning team (that’s us!) gave demos on how to implement Apple TVs specifically for the different Academic Areas at the college. Here are a few examples discussed from around our institution:

  • Presentation tool: One of the first training sessions on Apple TV we did as the e-team was with General Education. They brought up some great points about wanting to present information while still maintaining ease of workflow for students, no redirection to YouTube and then coming back to students 5 minutes later to find they’d gone off task watching cat videos. We found that with the use of Apple TV and a dedicated tutor iPad (even if it was only for that session) meant as a tutor you can present information while still being able to move around the class. It makes for an ease of workflow between presentation and activity (not a clunky stop/start motion that most tutors may be currently working with) while allowing the tutor to integrate themselves into the classroom, allowing for effective classroom management. This is done using presentation apps mirrored to the Apple TV which would allow for activities to be fed into them, such as Nearpod. A brilliant tool for both GCSE, F.E and H.E sessions.
  • Visualisation: After the initial catastrophe of setting up the Apple TV for our second session (we’d gone in blind and didn’t bring the right cable, so setting up was as close to a Benny Hill sketch as I’ve ever physically seen) the session got off to a flying start, with highly engaged staff and some brilliant ideas going back and forth. After running through AirPlay and different ways to use the Apple TV, it was found that Motorsports used visualisers. These had their limits due to apparatus size and object constraints (only small objects could be shown and there was limited portability)  but essentially the theory of a visualiser to have for magnifying detailed objects to a larger audience, in this case students, was ideal for their Academic Area. We as the e-team, with this information in mind, demonstrated visualisation apps on the iPad, which could mirror to the Apple TV intricate details on objects such as engines, nuts and bolts, and larger machinery, while allowing for annotation. Due to the portability and size of the iPad it means tutors are not restricted to what they can show. So an iPad can be used to focus on larger models of machinery which can then be zoomed in on, as well as smaller objects in sessions. The Apple TV allows for the iPad to mirror the visualisation app onto the larger screen so that students can see what their tutor is explaining in detail, with written real time annotation and without having to crowd around an object. Problem solved with an extra tool thrown in (real time annotation). This method of visualisation can be transferred across Academic Areas, great for practical disciplines.
  • Interactive Classroom: With most of the training sessions we did, tutors’ realised that you could create an interactive classroom with students. Flipped classrooms or reflective practitioner activities can be used via app smashing and then students can showcase their work by mirroring it to the Apple TV, done through both individual and group work. This can then lead to student lead discussions on what they’ve have done, area specific theories and small group to whole class work. All the while the tutors can be the educational guides for their students learning, maximising learning and understanding, think Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. This is great for GCSE, F.E or smaller H.E group sessions, where there’s enough time for an activity and discussion/s (say about 1 hour+).
  • Assessment: Though this is still a theoretical application, and we only briefly touched upon this in training, it would be great for individual practical based education. Using the iPad to record the information, the Apple TV can show the detailed work the student is doing without being intrusive. It also allows for staff to view what the student is doing in real time for the classroom observation, in a larger detail on screen via the Apple TV, all the while recording what is occurring as another form of evidence. It means that if it is not a formal assessment, when the student goes wrong the member of staff can show on screen where they went wrong without being obtrusive of the students work.

So overall, from what we can see here at e-learning, Apple TVs are not a fad but are in fact the next step in the evolutionary chain of technology enhanced learning. It’s a move away from the SMART Board and allows for new activities, previously unimaginable, to be used in the academic environment.