What the coming educational VR revolution teaches us about the tech’s future

[It seems like I’m on a VR/AR roll. In this TechCrunch article, Peter Sena outlines a variety of ways that VR is already changing the K-20 landscape. He highlights tools like zSpace and Engage. In previous articles I’ve shared my first-hand impressions of zSpace. I agree with what Peter Sena has described. It really does engage students and allows new opportunities for learners to investigate situations like frog dissections or machine manipulations that would have been dangerous or cost-prohibitive in the past. I’m especially interested to find schools who have looked at Engage. I want learners to be creative producers, not creative consumers.]

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0



Imagine the following scenario: A fifth-grade science class has just begun and the teacher makes a surprise announcement — today the students will be dissecting a frog.

I’m sure you remember dissecting a frog as a kid — the sour-pickle odor of formaldehyde, the sharp scalpels slicing into rubbery skin. You don’t have to be an animal rights activist to grimace a bit thinking about it.

But here comes the paradox. In this scenario, like-minded fifth-graders who are queasy about cutting open animals are excited to participate in this dissection. Indeed, no animal was harmed when the specimens were collected. What’s more, the teacher promises the students that they won’t have to clean up a messy station afterward.

How? Thanks to the paradigm-shifting creations of zSpace, an educational VR/AR company, students can harmlessly dissect an animal on an interactive screen known as the zSpace 200. Students wear a special pair of glasses equipped with sensors and use a stylus that allows them to engage with a virtual image that can be turned or even disassembled.

By importing VR/AR into the classroom, one minute students can explore the anatomy and organs of an animal without harming it, and the very next build and test circuits or set up experiments that test Newton’s laws.

For young students who have been inundated by tech in almost every other domain of their lives, this form of learning comes naturally.

“Kids say, ‘Well of course it should be like this.’ They believe they should be able to reach into a screen, grab something, pull it out, and interact with it,” said Dave Chavez, chief technology officer of zSpace.

While VR is often discussed as a gaming technology, the gaming applications of VR are simply the first wave in a sequence that will profoundly shape the way we experience content over the next five years. Educational startups have been working on VR material for classrooms ranging from kindergarten through medical school. Current estimates project that the global edtech market will reach $252 billion by 2020; VR will capture a big chunk of this pie.

Read more…

Dissecting Eyeballs and T-Rex’s: Virtual Reality in the Classroom

[The Montour School District, just outside the city of Pittsburgh, has taken the lead in integrating Virtual and Augmented Reality into their curriculum. I joined a team two years that wrote a grant to fund the zSpace Virtual Reality Lab that helped to put the school district on the VR/AR map. In this Edsurge article Justin Aglio, the Director of Innovation, outlines how the district is using the emerging technologies to create more active classrooms.]

By Justin Aglio Sep 8, 2016

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

In the fall of 2015, the Montour School District opened its doors to a new Virtual Immersion Lab. At first, students did not know what to expect (nor the teachers). However, on his first day using the lab, a physics student engage with virtual reality and expressed, “This is like hands-on learning, without wanting to let go.”

It was clear the risk was worth the reward.

Though new virtual reality and augmented tools come out and hit markets seemingly every month (like Pokemon GO—you knew I was going to bring it up somewhere), the educational value of VR and AR may still be unknown to many educators. However, there is no slowing down for new development of VR and AR technologies. And at Montour, there’s no slowing down, either.

Here’s a peek inside how we’re bringing AR and VR to our students—and how you can, too.

Inside the Virtual Immersion Lab and Montour’s Plans

The Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour is powered by the virtual reality edtech tool zSpace, which creates a 3D learning experience for kids. Through zSpace, students are able to dissect an eye-ball, T-Rex, 1968 Dodge Challenger, or almost anything they want—virtually. Students are also using the virtual reality tool for electrical engineering, physics, biomedical engineering, and mold clay models.

Read more…

Can Virtual Reality Replace the Cadaver Lab?

[Virtual Reality is taking hold thanks to new tools like zSpace. It’s not only higher education, the focus for this Center for Digital Education article. The Montour Area High School has created a virtual reality lab using zSpace opening up new opportunities for students without health hazards or costly expenses for materials.]

Colleges are starting to use virtual reality platforms to augment or replace cadaver labs, saving universities hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Medical students at a growing number of colleges are using virtual reality platforms to augment or replace cadaver labs, providing students with more opportunities to practice skills while saving universities hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to a survey by the American Association of Anatomists, the nation’s 150 medical schools average about 149 hours of training in first-year gross anatomy, about two-thirds of which is spent with cadaver dissection.
“Cadavers provide a realistic experience for students, but they cause concerns with biohazards, availability, and expense,” said Daniel Buchbinder, professor and chief of the division of maxillofacial surgery in the department of otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York.
In response, some medical schools are beginning to leverage virtual reality platforms, which professors say can also provide very realistic experiences without the costs or other downsides of using real cadavers.
Robert Hasel, associate dean of Simulation, Immersion and Digital Learning at the Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU), a private medical school located in Pomona, Calif., has been a proponent of virtual reality for medical training for many years.
“I’ve long been on a mission to make learning as exciting as playing video games, and I’ve been working toward that for years,” said Hasel. “But the technology that was needed to pull this all together has really just fully emerged in the last couple of years.”
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