Virtual Reality: Not Ready for Primetime

Promises, Promises, Promises

During this week’s presentation Kim, Brian, and I gave a presentation on the use of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality in the classroom.  Now that it is done, I feel that I can speak candidly about some of the shortcomings of these technologies and why I don’t feel that they will have a place in my own classroom (in the near term).

My father once told me, “Never buy something based on promises; focus on what it can do right now, not what the salesperson tells you it might be able to do in the future.”  Immersive technologies have an incredible sales pitch: travel across the world, go into space, explore the bottom of the ocean, make the impossible possible!  It is incredibly convincing, and initially I was taken in by it.  For an example of this see the video below.

I started imagining how I could use it to teach mathematics, and was quite excited when I saw a video of a teacher employing it to record his math lessons.  As interesting as the demonstration was I had a nagging thought in the back of my head, “Is this really better than just teaching in person?”  The more I read through research the more I noticed a trend, in many of the studies it felt like they were trying to justify the existence of the technology.  I personally have never seen a VR headset employed in the classroom (mostly due to their exorbitant pricing).  With such a incredible up front investment for a class set of these devices I keep thinking back to what my father said.  What can this do right now, today?  In a cost benefit analysis would this be better than re-equipping and updating our art room, purchasing our band a set of brass instruments, or purchasing literally thousands of new books for our library?  I know what those investments would mean to my school, and our student population.  Can virtual reality make a similar impact?  I have my doubts.  Studies have shown that VR increases student enjoyment of lessons and increases their engagement (it has an undeniable ‘wow’ factor), but when combined with well designed lessons students using traditional teaching methods performed just as well as those who experienced instruction through VR.  If this is the case it hardly seems worth it.

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My School’s Experience Creating a Makerspace

Before we begin…

I wanted this blog post to be a little bit different.  My high school has jumped headlong into creating a makerspace, going so far as to rip out our old auto shop and buy ten 3D printers, soldering stations, and drones.  My school division has essentially pulled out most of the stops (more on that later) to create a program around this idea.  As such I took an hour after school to talk with the head of our program (let’s call him “Tim”) and asked him to speak to some of the challenges of running a course based on these principles.

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Some Assembly Required: My Experiences with Assistive Technology

How hard could it be?

Hello again!  This week’s presentation on Assistive Technology (AT) got me thinking about one of the more challenging experiences of my teaching career.  I had been teaching mathematics at the same high school for about 8 years and was feeling pretty confident in my abilities.  In late August, a few days before my students arrived, I received a visit from my vice principal.  The exchange went something like this:

Vice Principal: Matt, you’re getting a student who is blind in your senior math class.  He is also wheelchair bound.

Me: Oh, okay, what should I know about teaching him?

Vice Principal: He has an assistant assigned to him.

Me: I have a lot of questions…

Vice Principal: (disappears as if he’s Batman)

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Test Driving Online Assessment

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

In 2011 blogger Mary Beth Hertz contended there were 4 levels of technology integration in the classroom: sparse, basic, comfortable, and seamless.  At the lowest level, sparse, a teacher seldom employs technology, and their students almost never use it complete tasks or assignments.  This precisely describes my approach to classroom assessment.  I have only briefly flirted with the prospects of employing technology in my day to day evaluations of student work, and very little has come of it.  However, as this week’s presenters (Brittney, Megan, and Bret) argued there are numerous positives to using technology for assessment.  These benefits include increased student engagement, timely feedback for participants, and a marked reduction in teacher workload.  In light of this I decided to try one of these online assessment aids in my classroom.

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Beta Testing Education 3.0

Background: The Web and Education

The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being, and people influence the development of the web.  The evolution of the web from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 can be sued as a metaphor of how education should also be evolving, as a movement from Education 1.0 toward that of Education 3.0.  The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources tools, open and free information access.”

– Jackie Gerstein

It is important to keep in mind when discussing Web 3.0 that there are no versions of the web; version numbers provide the illusion of delineation which helps us conceptualize where technology has been and where it is going (Yarmosh, 2021).  I tend to think of the web as a continuous series of developments ebbing and flowing with the needs and desires of its creators and users.  This process has changed the web into something that its original founder, Tim Berners-Lee, could hardly have envisioned, much less predicted.  The Web has changed the nature of wisdom, de-emphasizing the necessity of memorization and enhancing the collection of data, the analysis of complex problems, and the prioritization of tasks (Prensky, 2009).  This has led some experts to posit that school (in its current form) isn’t necessary.  In the era of an ubiquitous, AI-powered web where does this leave education?

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We’ve Got the Tools, We’ve Got the Talent

There are a number of reasonable reactions when you’re instructor tells you that you are officially halfway through the semester.  For myself, the most obvious response is abject terror (with impending due dates looming), but for others this is a time for reflection.

Adapted from “Canis Lupus Familaris Perro Mestizo” by Petruss, and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Overconnected and Under Committed

Is the Internet Really a Productivity Tool, or Merely an Endless Series of Distractions?

In my own academic writing I have a tendency to sit on the fence.  I have been trained to look for evidence from peer reviewed sources, to carefully avoid grandiose and unverified claims, and to formulate cohesive arguments that walk my reader to a logical, and well thought out conclusion.  Bearing this in mind, and with due consideration to our readings and class discussions, I have come to the following conclusion:

The Internet is slowly ruining productivity.

Or, more accurately, the Internet is slowly ruining my productivity.

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Mean Streets: What Anthropomorphic Sock Puppets Tell Us About the Impact of Audio Visual Technologies on Education

Part 1: Why Some Teachers Hate Big Bird

We Know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school if school is like “Sesame Street.”  Which is to say, we know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.

Neil Postman from Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Educational Theories vs. Reality

The Theories of Knowledge that Underpin My Teaching

Part 1: The Good (Constructivism)

Listen, we all knew this one was coming.  The constructivist perspective is a darling amongst educators.  Constructivists argue that students are active participants in the creation of knowledge, and do so while working through challenging and engaging tasks with their peers (Ertmer & Newby, 2013).  I have always been drawn to the authenticity of constructivist tasks.  They acknowledge the importance of context.  This element is often sorely lacking in mathematics instruction (my primary field).  I shudder every time I hear the mantra that “math is simple because there is always a correct answer.”  Using statistics students in my classroom have pointed out systemic racism in policing, established connections between health outcomes and vaccination rates, and examined price fixing in retail sales.  This type of learning requires a vast amount of preparation on my part as a teacher as facilitating is far more difficult for me than simply lecturing.  Overall I feel that the extra effort is worth it.

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