Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It is time for the VR Classroom

In January 2016, Oculus will be releasing the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality device that is as impressive as the name indicates.  Recently they also released the Oculus VR by Samsung.  A $99 device that transforms your cell phone into an amazing VR headset.  There are also many other virtual reality devices heading our way.  Google has done an inexpensive Google Cardboard implementation that brings 360ยบ views to everybody for pennies.  Soon the market will be flooded with headsets, glasses and other virtual viewing devices that will shape our entertainment.

Remember however that this technology is still in its infancy.  Like the dot matrix printers of yesterday, they will soon be replaced with high definition versions with views so real you will be immersed in virtual worlds.

Now imagine this.  30 students in a classroom getting instruction about the human cell from an excellent teacher.  The teacher is explaining the cell and mentioning what activities they will be doing together in groups and as individuals.

A switch is flipped.

None of these students were in the same classroom in real life.  These 30 students are from around the world.  The teacher is one of the finest subject matter experts, and her lesson plan is flawless.  And while the teaching is happening, and the switch is flipped, something very unexpected takes place.  All of the students are suddenly immersed inside a virtual human cell.

They are in a classroom without walls and boundaries.   As the cell starts up the process of protein synthesis the teacher pauses for a moment to point out the chemicals that are about to come into contact with one another.  Suddenly all of the students get it.  They lived it.  They watched it happen in a world so engaging they can't escape its glory.

This is what I think Virtual Reality can do for education.  History class is now an everyday virtual field trip to the places and times where events happened.  The understanding of these events comes from learners of all types experiencing the content in several different ways.  Combine the virtual reality with other forms of technology and you have yourself a spicy learning sandwich.  And at a price we won't be able to refuse.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Microsoft's Continuum Might Impact Educational Technology

Every teacher knows the frustration of texting in class.  Idle tech does the devils work.  The day of the cell phone basket, the place where students put their phones before entering class, might be a thing of the past. It is possible that teachers soon will be saying "everybody, get out your cell phones, time to work!".

With the release of the Lumia 950 and 950xl, Microsoft shared with the world a new vision for being productive with your cell phone. Continuum is the system they have created to allow a Windows 10 enabled cell phone to work as a full blown PC when hooked up to a small dock. Now instead of a laptop, you carry around your cell phone, which acts just like a cell is supposed to, but also works as a desktop computer. At that moment when you need to be increasingly productive you simply plug it in to a full size monitor and instantly boost your options for getting work done.  Pair that with the cell phones ability to boost to an optional two terabytes of storage, and you can take your entire office with you everywhere you go. As technology shrinks and becomes more powerful, it doesn't seem crazy that most phones will eventually work like this. If other cell phone manufactures follow the lead, every student will be carrying around a full size computer in their pocket.  All the school will need to supply is a monitor, keyboard and mouse.


It really makes good sense for the business world, but it might also be a tremendous idea for the education space. BYOD is interesting because there has sometimes been a disconnect between the types of devices and the ability those devices to be productive using the variety of educational tools out there.  It isn't always easy to make a lesson plan for all types of devices, but it is easier to make one if the student has access to say, a full size browser window.  If cell phones move in the direction that Microsoft is looking to steer them, student owned and carried devices could become powerful tools in the classroom.  Tools that teachers could count on, utilize for real work and rely on being compatible with most lesson plans, LMS systems and productivity suites.  By allowing them to simply plug into screens and keyboards at the school, students would be tapping into the unused power of the mobile device.

While it might be a few years for an idea like this to catch on, I think it could be a great one for BYOD programs.

@principalcross
mrcross.org

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Difficult Conversations at School

Last night I had the opportunity to join Oscar Cielos Staton and Dr. Greg Goins on a conversation about difficult conversations.  It was a great opportunity to look at some of the ways in which we approach those times at school where we are faced with tough talks.  Please watch the video and support Oscar at http://www.teachcow.com.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Use Kahoot in PE Class!

Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system.   This easy to use application can be used on just about any browser enabled device.  Most of the time Kahoot is used to perform interactive quizzes in classrooms.  What you might not know is that it can be a great tool to use in gym class as well.  Here is how:

First learn how to Kahoot at http://www.kytelearning.com/courses/kahoot/.  Next it is time to organize your gym class activity.  You will need the following:

At least two devices that run Kahoot, although this activity can be expanded to as many devices as you would like.  Kahoot works with almost any device, so it could be a cell phone, laptop or tablet.

Projector, or TV hooked up to the host computer (You could probably just use a laptop if you are creative).  This will display the questions that the teams will be seeing before they race to answer the questions. 

Set up the projector at one end of the gym where both teams can read the questions on the floor.  Divide your students into two or more relay teams.  Place the answering devices at the other end of the gym, or at the end of an obstacle course. 




Your Kahoot questions will be displayed on the screen.  When the first student in the relay knows the answer they can take off running.  They will race to the other device that will allow them to answer the question. 

Now, Kahoot keeps score.  The score is based on getting the answer correct and how quickly the responses are entered.  The next relay member will start as soon as the teacher is ready.  This allows the teacher to keep a great pace to the lesson, check for knowledge of content, while also grading physical performance of the teams.  You won’t be able to win if you get the questions wrong, and you have a better chance of winning if you are able to race to the answering device as quick as possible.  It is the perfect balance of mind and body. 

Enjoy this awesome Kahoot activity after completing your Kyte Learning Course!


-Jason Cross-
@principalcross

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The League of Legends World Championships Start Today

Watch live video from Riot Games on www.twitch.tv
Video games continue to grow into something beyond a simple game.  They have reached sport status and this week the League of Legends World Championships begin in France.  League of Legends is the most popular video game in the world with 67 million players.  It is a popular game because of it's  five player match ups that allow for both strategy and skill.  

The World Championship is comprised of 16 teams that had to qualify from events in many different countries.  These teams are from the US, Europe, Korea, China and Twain.  Just like with most sports, it takes a bit of knowledge to make the connection as to what is happening.  When you make the connection however, it is just as exciting as any current sport offering.  If you have never seen an eSport live, this is a good opportunity to check it out!

The video above is a live stream.  When the event is live you will be able to watch video, but when the event is over you will no longer see any video.  

@principalcross 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

9 REASONS WHY E-SPORTS CAN HELP FIX DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP IN SCHOOLS

9 REASONS WHY E-SPORTS CAN HELP FIX DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP IN SCHOOLS

E-Sports is on the rise, and schools all over the country are beginning to adopt this new cultural establishment into their future plans.  Games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm are drawing huge crowds but they all suffer from the same problem.  Online harassment. 

These games are competitive, and combined with the perceived anonymity of the web, you have a recipe for poor behavior.  Game companies like Blizzard and Riot are working hard to ban violators who are repeatedly reported for vulgarity and harassment.  While those involved in E-Sports directly are doing their part to bring sportsmanship into the 21st century, schools will soon also have a role to play. 

Schools, please embrace E-Sports.

As these E-Sports are brought into schools, there is a really valuable opportunity to teach digital citizenship to students in a meaningful way.  The perception of digital citizenship has always been tied to students harassing people over twitter.  It is so much more than this.  Through a successful E-Sports program in your school, you can bring sportsmanship to the forefront of your school culture.  You can engage in conversations with students about the complexities of living in a digital age, while learning from what is happening in the sport.  And finally you can teach them to make wise decisions with their money, time and energy. 

Here are some potential opportunities to utilize E-Sports in your classroom to help bring along the discussion of digital citizenship using the Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a guide:

1.         Digital Access  - Teachers can utilize the discussion of E-Sports to talk about what it means to participate in an electronic world.  The discussion can be opened up about what access to digital materials really means to our society and why it is important that all people have equal access to information.  Without access, E-Sports don’t happen.   

2.         Digital Commerce – Many video games these days are Free to Play.  This means that you can download the video game and play for free.  Just because they are Free to Play doesn’t mean they don’t cost money however. There are lots of great items for purchase and we need to be responsible in those decisions.  It is an opportunity to talk about the business of gaming and why game companies have adopted the Free to Play model.  You can talk about economies of scale and what it means financially to the end user.  

3.        Digital Communication – E-Sports is doing a great job of bringing people together, online and off.  There are lots of great communication tools out there, but many students to not realize that they are engaged in communication when they are playing these games.  They have a responsibility to handle those communications in an appropriate manor.  It is essential that students are taught about how to communicate effectively, (even network) while in game.  It should be taught that games are not a place for harassment, but opportunity.  

4.         Digital Literacy – While playing a game might not seem like it is teaching digital literacy, it really is.  E-Sport games are increasingly complex.  Gamers need to know about frame rates, bandwidth and latency.  They have to understand the relationship of how games are processed through CPU and GPU processors for maximum performance.  As a teacher you can speak to dozens of IT related topics like storage capacity, server locations and even the process by which gamers login to games.  The key is to be adaptable, and in my opinion, gamers are very adaptable to new technologies.  

5.         Digital Etiquette – Since digital communication is a part of E-Sports, Digital Etiquette one of the more difficult issues to address in gaming today.  This is the part of the game that most gaming companies are battling constantly in order to keep gamers from being inappropriate and ruining others fun.  In school this used to be called Sportsmanship, but in the digital age it has been clumped in with Digital Citizenship.  But really the same rules that apply to sports could also be applied to Digital Etiquette.  Teachers we could teach the following sportsmanship guidelines in relation to the games they play. (These rules are from the article Be a Good Sport, a Guide to Sportsmanship.)

  • Being a team player, and getting the whole team involved.  Gamers sometimes exclude others, and it is important to teach how to be inclusive.  
  • Staying positive when things don’t go your way. When a member of your team is not performing very well, making them feel bad about it isn’t the answer.  Use that opportunity to help lift them up and help that player perform better the next time they compete. 
  • Trash talking is not as acceptable as people think, and it can go too far quickly.  Pop culture has glorified trash talk as a part of sports culture, but the facts are that this type of behavior usually escalates quickly into harassment. Combine trash talking with the perceived anonymity of electronic communication and you sometimes get very harassing behavior.     
  • Lose with grace.  Teach students how to lose.  Teach them that losing is acceptable and part of life. We have moments where we just don’t win.  And we have to learn to lose with grace and style.
  • Win with class.  Winning is easy, and being classy about it should also not be difficult.  Demonstrating to students the proper way to win should be an important part of your E-Sports program, as well as something that will be easy for your students to replicate if they are victorious.  They just need to see what it looks like.
6.         Digital Law – E-Sports are a great way to present digital law to your students.  By simply showing them the agreement that they all agree to before they create an account with a game, you will introduce your students dozens of valuable topics and potential lessons about digital rights and contracts.  It is also important to talk with all of your students about digital theft.  Much like Digital Etiquette, the anonymity of the computer sometimes can be a perceived safe area to make poor choices.  But it really isn’t.  This is also a great place to jump into business topics and discuss why digital laws are important to business. 

7.         Digital Rights and Responsibilities – Various games provide the users with various rights.  And those rights sometimes don’t always line up with what gamers believe that their rights are.  For instance, playing many games in a way that they were not intended to be played can be a violation of the agreement made between the gamer and the game company.   Just because the game has a glitch doesn’t give a person a free pass to exploit it.  I believe that this rule could also be very valuable when communicating with students about life.  Just because you can, doesn’t always mean that you should.

8.         Digital Health and Wellness – Games are fun.  And sometimes games can be addictive.  It is important for all participants of games to look at their health and wellness and find balance with their lives.  This can be a difficult subject to teach, but something that is a real opportunity for educators to help students learn responsibility and build confidence in how they manage their own lives.



9.         Digital Security – Sometimes bad people do bad things on the internet.  Games are a huge business and this has attracted a wide variety of illegal activity that can impact lives in and out of game.  This is a springboard for educators to talk about protecting their valuables with passwords, keeping information private and making good smart decisions with in-game and out of game money.    And for those of you who are wondering about that last statement, yes, there are people that want to steal your in-game money as badly as your out of game real world money.  



I am confident that E-Sports are going to be a large part of the public and private school education.  I suspect that they will become one of the few co-ed opportunities that will compete with some of the large sports for participation and acceptance in the future.  E-Sports represent one of the best opportunities for educators to teach students about how to become good digital citizens.  By embracing E-Sports in your school, you are actually providing an opportunity to many students to participate in a learning opportunity that will carry with them for years to come.