Virtual Reality for Learning

​Virtual reality is just awesome! I remember how thrilled I was on the Disney World ride that took me through the bloodstream. I can only imagine how exciting it will be to experience travelling through an actual blood vessel.
 
The Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition article on Virtual Reality, gives “computer generated environments that simulate the physical presence of people and/or objects and realistic sensory experiences” two to three years to be mainstream in schools. This certainly seems realistic considering Google has produced a $20 virtual reality viewer that operates simply by attaching to a smart phone, and when viewed with the free application Google Expeditions users can visit hundreds of destinations including some underwater.  There are many other educational apps freely available although most are developed solely for Apple devices. Best Buy puts together Google Expeditions Kits for 30 students for the rather exorbitant bundle price of $9,999.
Michael Bodekaer’s Ted Talk on October 2015 “This virtual lab will revolutionize science class” argues for the effectiveness of combining virtual reality simulations with hands on training and offers evidence that when a science teacher uses this method they are twice as effective. Bodekaer and his colleagues formed the company Labster for developed developing fully interactive advanced lab simulations that combine gamification elements such as an immersive 3D universe, storytelling and a scoring system. They have developed two dozen labs on different subjects in the fields of biology, chemistry, and medicine which you must contact the company for pricing. You can sign up for a rather good safety lab simulation that is free.
 
There are flight simulators and sailing simulators (Sail Simulator 5), you can experience the Apollo 11 mission, or make a virtual expedition into a cell (MoleculE VR), learn a language (House of Languages) or paint in a new dimension (Tilt Brush). The most effective use in the science classroom is for carrying out activities that might require very expensive equipment like a spectrophotometer for analyzing water samples, or an activity that would take to long for a school laboratory session like mouse breeding experiments, or activities that require the use of dangerous materials or equipment. Learners can also visit ecosystems, solar systems, and undersea worlds they may never get a chance to experience in real life. Students and educators can even build their own virtual reality simulations with Roundme and CoSpaces.
 
My retired teacher friend fears that virtual reality, particularly with the creation of haptic technology (i.e., wearable, kinesthetic communication), will make us even more the isolated, couch potatoes that will be our evolutionary demise. We won’t need to go out of our homes to experience anything and we will be able to have all our relationships with created characters. For sure there will be individuals who will be consumed by the technology, just like the ones who are addicted to video games now, but I think of people who, because of physical or economic barriers, will never be able to try surfing or scuba diving yet here is a technology that will let them enjoy the experience. Think of all the greenhouse gas emissions that will be reduced because people won’t have to fly around the world looking for new experiences in exotic places.
 
When I think about my philosophy of education that begins with a desire to inspire others to want to know more, I think virtual reality will be a valuable addition to my teacher's toolbox. My Google Cardboard device will arrive in the mail this week and it will be the subject of a future blog. 

Edtech you can trust

​As something of a scientist I’ve become accustomed to getting information from peer reviewed journal when I want to have confidence in the quality of the studies that generate the results, so I was keen to read an article that would reveal reliable educational technology product evaluation resources. In her article for Edutopia, “What Edtech can you trust?”, Julia Willis recommends three groups for their evaluation of educational technology products which she says incorporate medical model guidelines for evaluating the research claims about consistency, claim control and expertise: Edutopia from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Graphite  from Common Sense Education, and Consumer Reports.
 
Common Sense Education has pages of “Reviews & Ratings” where hundreds of products are sorted by platforms, subjects, grades, prices, skills and purpose. Each product is given two ratings; one following Common Sense criteria and another by teachers. Links to the products are provided as is whether the product is free or requires payment. The rubric for the review methodology for generating the rating is also provided. This is an excellent resource for teachers, parents, and learners looking for digital learning tools. I’m not sure what Graphite has to do with Common Sense Education because when I followed the link I just got the Common Sense Education main webpage.
 
I searched Consumer Reports for ZOOM, Blackboard, Weebly, Camtasia, Aurasma, and got nothing. I don’t know if Julia Willis was simply commended their manner of evaluating products or if she found educational technology product reviews but I didn’t find anything useful here.
 
Edutopia is the venue for reporting evaluations of educational research studies and research into the effective educational tools and practices conducted by the George Lucas Education Foundation. Edutopia has reported on a large and diverse collection of educational tools and practices but the site is not as user friendly as the Common Sense Education site: however the searchable database is excellent. While Edutopia may carry out extensive research on educational products many of the product review come up as blogs from mostly teachers, and while teachers may be very good judges of what tools work in their classrooms and can give you some ideas on how to effectively use a tool, their blogs are simply opinion pieces.
 
Of the two other resources recommended for employing stringent analysis of educational technology product claims, the British Education Index has been bought by EBSCO Information Services. The “Databases for Schools” pages contain a large collection of literary sources but no education technology products.
 
The last resource is the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) of the U.S. Department of Education. It includes reviews and results from high-quality research on different educational products in order to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions about which tools to choose. Pages on the site are divided into 12 topics including literacy, early childhood, mathematics, science, dropout prevention and others. Each product is described and categorized by outcomes domain, grades examined, the number of studies conducted that meet the WWC standards and the number of students involved in the studies, and each is assigned an effectiveness rating and an improvement index. This is a very impressive collection of studies into the effectiveness of education tools as well as programs, practices and policies.
 
I found only three of the five resources presented in the article by Julia Willis to be useful but they are tremendously so. I recommend Common Sense Education, Edutopia, and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) to anyone who wants reliable information on effective educational technology tools.

Identity Crisis

According to the BCTF document Roles and Responsibilities of Teachers and Teacher Assistants/ Education Assistants the role of the teacher includes designing an instructional program, developing IEPs, planning learning activities, determining appropriate modifications and adaptations in line with IEP goals, identifying the appropriate instructional learning resources, and advocating for the appropriate instructional learning resources when required.  While this document is specific to students with special needs, I argue that it applies for all learners.

As an educator I frequently suffer from identity crisis.  So many roles, often overlapping.  One moment I am a surrogate mother wiping away tears, next I am a nurse applying a band-aid, later I am a referee resolving a dispute or enforcing rules.  Too often I feel like an elastic stretched way too far.  When all goes well I get to be a motivator or muse and that is why I do it.

According to the NMC Horizon Report the role of the teacher is changing to one of curating and
facilitating learning experiences and encouraging student exploration to discover passions.  This is a significant shift from the sage on the stage.  As Lamier points out, students aren't consumers of facts. They are active creators of knowledge.  This is but one of many contributing factors to the changing role of educators.

 
Along with traditional roles teachers are expected to incorporate technology into one's pedagogical strategies to meet the needs of 21st century learners.  The NMC Horizon Report (2016)  also states that one in three educators surveys feels their schools do not provide adequate support to help them integrate technology n the classroom.  School District #68 has offered some opportunities for educators to develop proficiency with technology such as offering teachers some basic training with Google and Chromebooks with the expectation that they share their expertise.  It is a start but only that.  It represents only a few small steps in a long journey.  For the most part teachers are left to seek professional development opportunities on their own.  Compare this to Australia where Queensland’s Department of Education and Training will sponsor “Developing Our Teachers,” an opportunity for educators to increase their digital competencies and discover best practices for teaching STEM subjects. (NMC Horizon Report, 2016) 

Incorporating technology into one's instructional design is not the only way that the role of the teacher has changed in recent years.  Harrison and Killion (2017) cite ten roles adopted by present day educators.  Among these are resource provider, instructional specialist, curriculum specialist, classroom supporter, mentor, school leader, learning facilitator, data coach, catalyst for change, and learner.  I assume at least 7 of these roles on a daily basis.  My tendency to go to bed early is beginning to make sense.  Who wouldn't be exhausted trying to be all those things?

The changing role may require educators and administrators to rethink how education is delivered in their school or classroom in order to make the changing role of the teacher more manageable.  The alternative may be premature teacher burnout.

References

 (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2016 k-12 Edition. . Retrieved 5 February 2017, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6btfF7n9V

(2017). Bctf.ca. Retrieved 5 February 2017, from http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/I

Harrison, Cindy  and Joellen Killion. Teachers as Leaders:Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders . Educational Leadership. (2017). September 2007, Volume 65,  Number 1.  Retrieved 5 February 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept07/vol65/num01/Ten-Roles-for-Teacher-Leaders.aspx

Lanier, J. (1997). Redefining the Role of the Teacher: It's a Multifaceted ProfessionEdutopia. Retrieved 5 February 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/redefining-role-teacher

Image source: http://www.ctetadda.com/2016/10/role-of-teacher-in-classroom-instruction.html




Teaching Complex Thinking and Heuristic Learning


I had just begun a quest on "teaching complex thinking" by reading an article in the NMC Horizon Report-2015 K-12 Edition when I had to stop and pull out the dictionary, not literally, to find the meaning of heuristic. According to the online English Oxford Living Dictionaries,
 
“Heuristic means enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves”.
 
What a perfect word! It surprises me that I haven’t come across the term more often in this era of inquiry learning since it seem to represent the pedagogy we are striving to bring to our learning environments. It is suggested that young people need to learn how to apply heuristic reasoning to complex problems in their networked world.  Complex thinking is defined as a skill that is needed to understand how systems work in order to solve problems.
 
Teaching coding in schools is said to help students to become more complex thinkers. When I was at university in 1985 I decided I needed to learn how to use a computer so I took a university computer course. What a mistake! Not really, but it sure wasn’t the path to learning how to use a computer I was looking for, but was instead a course on writing computer programming code. I don’t know that it made me a complex thinker but I did learn was how to think like a computer and that has had a profound effect on how I see the world and how I deal with computers.
 
So I wasn’t surprised when I read that Edutopia says coding has a profound impact on complex thinking and is tied to improved problem-solving and analytical reasoning skills. The learning process helps students to “construct, hypothesize, explore, experiment, evaluate, and draw conclusions.” England has recognized the importance of computer science in the lives of its students by making it a foundation discipline along with math and reading. This seem very proactive if, as Code.org projects, there will be 400,000 computer science students to fill 1.4 million computing jobs by the year 2020.
 
In her article on “There's a Better Way to Teach Critical Thinking: 9 Rules of Thumb” Saga Briggs does not mention coding as a path to critical thinking but does argue that critical thinking should not be described simply by listing terms of higher order learning domains.  She doesn’t propose a definition for it either but suggest that it includes questioning other thinking, embracing other thinking, emulating other thinking, willingness to be wrong, questionings one’s own thinking, putting logic before bias, and recognising contradictions. The practical ways she proposes for improving critical thinking skills relate to essay writing but two of them I would like to try in class, 1) Have students write their own test questions, and 2) Hold oral exams so that the verbal communicators get an even chance to represent their learning.
 
I was drawn to this quest on critical thinking because of the frustration I feel when I try to encourage students to use higher order thinking skills when they’re interpreting experimental lab results. I see coding as breaking down an operation into its fundamental parts so that it can be recreated and manipulate digitally, and this is how my students need to look at their results in the experiment and the bigger picture. I don’t think there is any room in their current program for exercises in coding so maybe I’ll suggest they play around with some of the many entertaining and educational coding activities on Code.org just for fun. Who knows what advances in complex thinking I might start to see in their lab discussions.

Photo credit: My screenshot of Disney's Moana coding program where I had my first adventures in coding. Available  at Code.org.

References
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report-K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Who is watching you?

After watching the videos presented in this OLTD 509 Emerging Challenges Quest, I'm left with a feeling of paranoia! While we all know that there are rules and regulations regarding what we can and cannot do on the web, sometimes we overlook just how little control we have over our online activities. The short videos showcasing Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussing privacy, the creepy line of privacy, and internet privacy definitely do nothing to ease anyone's concerns relating to the privacy they might think they enjoy online. 

Schmidt reveals that Google retains your information such as google searches for an 18 month period. They are now able to determine where you are, what you like to do, and a whole host of other things in order to target advertising and essentially make your life easier. While these are all pretty amazing features to have when using technology such as your smartphone, when you really think about it this is VERY creepy! The 18 month period in which they retain your search information is said to be related to our law enforcement and government's ability to access and track activities that might be illegal. Because of this fact, many might believe they have nothing to worry about since they aren't engaging in illegal or risky activities online. Our information is out there though whether we believe it is something worth investigating or not. This should be cause for concern or at the very least it should awaken you to the fact that you need to be very diligent with your online activities and the information you are allowing to be set free online. 

As educators, we need to be aware of the risks we take when we engage in online activities with our students. We know this and most take the precautions they deem necessary to protect their students as well as themselves. Our government and districts require that we follow the rules and regulations set forth in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), but after viewing the TED Talks video by Glenn Greenwald, Why Privacy Matters I'm not so sure it really even matters! 

Educators that are aware of the rules and regulations, as well as the privacy risks online will likely already be taking extra measures to ensure the safety of their students' privacy. They might not mind a bit of extra paper work, collecting extra consents and creating even more passwords if it means they will be making the activities safer for students. Those who are not so in the loop, might see this as a huge time waster. For many people, if something does not pose an immediate threat or if it isn't advertised regularly it is almost as though it's not happening. For these types of people, the extra paperwork, consents and passwords are not worth their time. 

Overall I think there is a message in this for everyone, whether you are an educator or not. We need to become more informed. We need to ensure that the decisions we make online are done with the knowledge of risks that accompany each activity. This simply rings more true for educators working online with students. These students need to be made aware of the privacy issues and the risks that go along with them. I feel that it would be most beneficial to also help inform the parents, so that they are able to help their children stay safe online and retain a certain level of privacy. Technology will continue to evolve, so it’s best to take as many precautions as necessary now as we don’t know what will come in the future. 

Transforming learning through technological innovations

We are experiencing a time of unbelievable growth in terms of technology and education. There are countless innovations that educators are drawn to for various reasons. Educators are attempting to navigate the new technological innovations and trying to determine what should be implemented into their classrooms and schools and how these innovations should be used. The problem is that little has been done to help determine what truly is a valuable and worthy innovation to embrace and what should be passed over. The document Alive in the Swamp created by Michael Fullan and Katelyn Donnelly has provided an in depth and comprehensive tool for educators to use that evaluates the effectiveness of any innovation in the swamp based on 3 main categories; Pedagogy, System Change and Technology. This document if utilized correctly, can potentially minimize the time spent testing out innovations and increase the likelihood of adopted innovations to create systemic change in our schools. 

Fullan and Donnelly have created this tool in the form of an index that allows educators to critically assess digital innovations to determine their possible transformative qualities. Their index is based on 3 main components, each with 3 of their own subcomponents. These components are rated as green(good), amber green(mixed), amber red(problematic), and red(off track). Each of the subcomponents allow for deep critical analysis of the tool. The categories and subcategories are as follows:
PEDAGOGY
Clarity and quality of intended outcome 
Quality of pedagogy and relationship between teacher and learner 

Quality of assessment platform and functioning 


SYSTEM CHANGE
Implementation support

Value for money
Whole system change potential
 

TECHNOLOGY 

Quality of user experience/model design 
Ease of adaptation
Comprehensiveness and integration 
What I Like About This Index
This index is extremely valuable and something that I think all administrators should have knowledge of. Any educator who considers implementing technology in some form into their practice should be aware of this document. If all innovations were critiqued using this index, there would be far less failure with regards to using technologies in our schools. The money and time saved by thoroughly assessing the correct measures will be incredibly useful. Not to mention the time and energy that will be saved by choosing the most effective tools versus undergoing trials of each. 

I love that this index has allowed me to really come to understand more fully the purpose of technology in education. With the rise of games, the internet and instant gratification, it seems that sometimes we are just trying to use technology to keep up, gain some interest from our students or because tools exist in our school that we're expected to make use of. By just simply studying this index, I've come to realize the importance of pedagogy and technology complimenting one another. If the technology doesn't compliment the pedagogy and vice versa, it is unlikely to be effective. The subcomponents of this index are very thorough and really push the user to evaluate the tools deeply. While reading Alive in the Swamp, I began to critically assess what I'm doing in the classroom and what I've done in the past.  I wish that I had read this a lot sooner as it would have saved a lot of time and given more purpose to my work. 

What I Don't Like About This Index
While reading through Fullan and Donnelly's piece, I found myself feeling a bit defeated. This is not because I think poorly upon their presentation, but because I feel that many schools are so far from achieving or adopting this sort of simple index as a whole. Perhaps I'm speaking only from my own experience, but in my current situation I find the likelihood that many would look at this index in depth to be slim. In a large school with many different teaching styles, a high staff turnover rate as well as frequent admin changes we have had little progress with school based transformations or initiatives being adopted and successful. It is very typical to have multiple innovations presented and excitement among staff grow at the prospect of each. In reality, only a few teachers will embrace each one and typically their own interest wanes and by the next pro-d or staff meeting they have moved on the to the next interesting innovation. This is something that Fullan and Donnelly referred to as the 'disease of initiativitis,' which alludes to the multitude of innovations that come and go as a result of so many options. Having the knowledge now of what should be included in a quality innovation, it should really come as no surprise that so many innovations have failed. What a waste of time! So really, it isn't so much anything about the index that I dislike. Rather it is the way it made me feel as I read through it!

Final Reflections
While I do feel somewhat defeated when reading Alive in the Swamp, I at the same time feel like I've turned a corner and will be making far more informed decisions when it comes to the programs and tools that I use and recommend in my classroom and school. I truly hope that others are able to view this document prior to undertaking large scale technological initiatives in their schools. I would recommend a review of this piece to any educator aiming to include technology in their practice. The key for me is to ensure that the technology fits with the pedagogy. 

Freedom of information – A debate

Privacy and safety are concerns in schools whether you are talking about privacy and safety within the physical space or privacy and safety online. The latter is one that has become increasingly concerning as we dive into the online world and expose our students to all that is offered to them as 21st century learners. In British Columbia, we are required by law to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) or the Protection of Information and Privacy Act (PIPA) depending on whether you are in a public or private institution. These sometimes little known laws have sparked some debate as to whether they are relevant or even appropriate given the rapid evolvement of the online and tech worlds. 

On the positive side of this debate, the fact that we have these laws set in place demonstrates a valiant effort on the part of the government to keep our children safe online. They are aware of the risks that students take when involved in the online world and acknowledge the need to educate our students on these risks. Parents would appreciate knowing that teachers are taking every effort to ensure their children are being protected as best they can in a world where parents often have limited control. Not only does it ensure that students are being protected (as far as FIPPA and PIPA are concerned), the laws also ensure that parents are made aware when their children's identifiable information might possibly become vulnerable. A teacher that is following the rules and regulations set forth by FIPPA or PIPA will likely be engaging their students in conversations about web safety and privacy so to ensure the greatest start to and awareness of their digital footprints. 

On the other side of this debate, there is much to say. While I appreciate the effort to keep student's information private, I've found the laws to be quite limiting. Ever since having completed OLTD 506 taught by Julia Hengstler, I have come to realize how few teachers are fully aware of the laws and regulations that we are to be following. I consider myself fairly well informed now and approaching the right side of Hengstler's Compliance Continuum, but I know many teachers are still stuck towards the left side of this continuum due to lack of information and education on the laws and regulations. I feel our districts need to provide clearer information to staff regarding the expectations when working online with students.  

I have come across a number of web programs that I would like to use with my students, but because their servers are housed outside of Canada I am required to obtain informed consent from my students' parents. This is problematic for me as it might by for other teachers. I teach in a community with a very high ESL population and a parent community that is not overly engaged. I would need to have this document translated a number of times in order to accommodate all of the languages the families speak and then hope they are returned. The likelihood of this occurring is slim. To give some perspective on this, we are using FreshGrade as our sole means of reporting this year. I only just yesterday (Jan 24), received the final parent's email address to be entered into the system. I would be almost guaranteed to have to create an alternative assignment to anything I choose online, simply due to lack of consent. This is a lot of work!! 
I think it is fantastic that we have regulations and standards in place here in British Columbia to protect our students. On the other hand I think that we need to be sure that we continue to push for laws that are relevant to our times and continue to change and evolve as the technology does. It would be such a shame to have so many amazing programs and tools online only to be limited due to stringent laws that limit their use in our schools. 

The importance of social and emotional learning in our schools

A term that seems to be making it's presence more known in our system these days is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). A few years ago, I likely wouldn't have given a great deal of thought to the subject, but it has now become a significant focus in our education system. While I think that I along with many others have made this a focus that was embedded in our practice for ages, it has now become more clear that there are a variety of different areas that need to be addressed, modelled and practiced in the classroom with great intention consistently in order for students to benefit and grow. 

According to Edutopia's 5 Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning and Vega's Social and Emotional Learning Review, there are 5 key competencies that need to be met in order for one to be equipped with the skills to manage relationships and deal with the challenges presented in life. 

1. Self-Awareness: Learning the different thoughts and feelings, what causes them and how to express them respectfully

2. Self-Management: Understanding the differing response one can have to any given event and learning how to manage their own responses. 

3. Social-Awareness: Understanding others thoughts and feelings why they feel that way. 

4. Relationship Skills: Positively interacting with others and the ability to manage and express one's  feelings and actions when interacting with others. 

5. Responsible Decision Making: The ability to understanding the consequences of one's actions, making positive choices and displaying problem solving skills

These five points are quite comprehensive in that they address the skills needed to be a functioning member of our society. I support the integration of SEL into our curriculum as a goal and believe that our students as well as our society at large will benefit from this focus. As was mentioned in both articles and the video, when SEL is embedded into the learning things such as depression and aggression are reduced, positive behaviours increase as do academic results. Economically it is also seen as positive as there is less of a strain on funds when students enter adulthood due to lowered incidences of mental health and decreased pressures on the justice system. 

The new curriculum that has been introduced in British Columbia strongly supports Social and Emotional Learning. It goes as far as including Personal and Social Competency as one of the Core Competencies across the curriculum. This allows teachers to focus on these skills across subject areas rather than focus on it as a stand alone subject. 

There are of course some limitations as with most things that are implemented in the schools. Some might be resistant to adopting the focus on SEL, but their points are valid and might lead to improvements. Some might say that there is too much pressure on the classroom teacher to teach the skills to students with not enough support. In past, teachers have often taught stand alone units which are now proving to be less effective. Without continuity, the goals will likely not be reached as often or as easily. Teachers need more support and more education around how to effectively create a culture in their rooms that is supportive of the SEL goals and weaves it throughout the subject areas. It also needs to be something that is cohesive throughout a school, so that students recognize the language and expectations as well as feel safe anywhere in the school. Without consistency, how will this work? This would mean that other members of staff such as admin assistants, education assistants and lunch hour supervisors should also be trained in how to effectively communicate with the students so that they are not receiving mixed messages. 

I think that we are on the right path and that as we become more familiar with the new BC Curriculum, we will begin to see an improvement and consistency with regards to SEL in our schools. My school has adopted SEL as one of our school goals this year and we have had several discussion with regards to what it looks like and where we want to go with it. We've begun by agreeing to adopt the Zones of Regulation to create a common language among staff and students. We have had one inservice thus far on this program, which allowed for discussion and questioning. Over time, I hope that this becomes second nature and not something that feels like an added subject to teach everyday. 

There are so many meaningful benefits that come from SEL, that would make it really detrimental to ignore. Like was mentioned in Edutopia's video, we may very well never have any use for the algebra that we are required to learn, but in life we will always need to understand the 5 keys to social and emotional learning as functioning adults in society. 

Create Your Own Aura

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to exhibit whatever aura you wanted, especially for a job interview? That’s not the kind of aura I’m going to talk about here but having the skill to create this type of Aura would look pretty innovative on a resume. An Aura is what the augmented reality application Aurasma calls a single unit made up of a triggering image and all of the digital information like text, image, video, audio files or GPS data attached to it. Aurasma has received many positive reviews from teachers (see Common Sense Education’s review of Aurasma) as a tool that allows users to design their own augmented reality experiences, and offers a free version.
 
I’ve managed to build one Aura of my own that you can view if you have the app, by searching for either “KarinLisk” or “Toucan in Costa Rica” or #toucan-in-Costa-Rica, or hover over this photo with your smartphone. 
I’d love some feedback if you do find this Aura because I haven’t been able to view it as a visitor would since my smartphone doesn’t have a data plan.  Let me know if you hear the toucan calling.
 
This is a really cool tool and since I’m an information junkie I imagine so many uses for it but I have some concerns about its use in education, particularly with minors. One problem I see is that any viewer must download the app to a mobile device in order to view an Aura and in the process of downloading it they are asked for a credit card number. I skipped this step and it allowed me to open up anyway but I don’t know if that would be true for someone who didn’t already have an account with Aurasma Studio.

In regards to Intellectual Property Rights, this is what the website has to say:

 No transfer of ownership of any intellectual property will occur under this Agreement. Customer grants HP a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free right and license to any intellectual property that is necessary for HP and its designees to perform the ordered services (including SaaS and the Customer Content). If deliverables are created by HP specifically for Customer and identified as such in Supporting Material, HP hereby grants Customer a worldwide, non-exclusive, fully paid, royalty-free license to reproduce and use copies of the deliverables internally.”
 
I’ll have to delve deeper into Aurasma’s Terms of Use to better understand the implications for privacy before I introduce it to learning activities in my classroom or at the marine station, but I definitely want to create more Auras. Wouldn’t it be cool to hold your phone up to still images of animals in the aquaria at the marine station to bring up videos of the animals in other situations, like a crab moulting or an urchin spawning, or so when the visitors come to see the octopus and she won’t come out of her den, they can view videos of her feeding or playing without us having to hang a monitor somewhere. I found it was fairly easy to create my first Aura but I can see that putting all the best content together in Auras is going to be time consuming. Building them will make great projects for student though!

Makerspaces

 I chose to explore the makerspaces quest in OLTD 509 for a specific reason. The term “makerspace” has been floating around for a while, but I’ve never been sure of exactly what a makerspace was. I had a pretty good idea, but I needed more information. This article by the NMC Horizon Report details what a makerspace is and how to go about creating one. It is indeed similar to what I had imagined, but far more exciting and rich with possibilities than I had once thought.
 
Simply put, a makerspace is an area (school, community centre etc.) where students are given tools/materials generally based around a theme and asked to create! Quite often the theme is centered around a STEM topic, which has become increasingly popular in our schools in recent years. Some schools that have perhaps a lack of resources and funding to acquire the physical tools to bring to a makerspace are utilizing technology and creating themes based around this. Students are creating code, learning to program as well as experiencing virtual reality.
 
Looking at this from a student’s perspective, this seems pretty fun! You mean we can make anything we want? We can invent!? This would seem like a dream come true for many students.  Some teachers that tend to err on the side of tradition, might question this activity and ask how exactly you assess one’s work in this type of environment. Do you assess the final product? How can you create a fair system of assessment when everyone ends up somewhere completely different?
 
This exact predicament is what makes the makerspace so attractive. Not only are students using critical thinking skills, inquiry and investigation, they are also problem solving and making their learning meaningful. As an educator that gets excited about new ventures and ideas that might just be the next greatest thing, I love that students are able to be assessed on the processes on learning rather than the actual product. Because makerspace projects generally occur over a period of time, it should be easier to evaluate how their thinking and problem solving are evolving as they progress.
 
As an educator working in the province of British Columbia, I see great value in the utilisation of a makerspace. It fits very well with the goals of our new curriculum and is something that I will be looking into this further to see how I can assist and inspire the 21st century learners in my own classroom.