Friday, February 12, 2016

Encourage to Empower

My 13-year old son said something to his father last night that really make me think.

“Dad, after this loss Coach is going to be upset. He takes things pretty hard. Can you text him and tell him you’re with him. Nothing long, just something to let him know that you support him.”

Even though his 7th grade middle school basketball team had played an excellent game, they still lost by three points. My son had his best game to date. 

I was surprised that he chose not to focus on what he did in the game or on the loss. His focus was on the goals ahead; the next game, the tournaments that will follow, possible championships. 

Maybe he's wise beyond his years or maybe he's just a sensitive soul. Whatever the motive, I took a mental note to share it with others because it’s something so simple that we often forget about how much it’s needed. I'm talking about encouraging others.

Our main focus as the Teaching and Learning Commons is to empower all who teach. We can’t empower without encouragement. Often people are not naturally confident at trying new things or testing new technologies. Whether we’re working with faculty, graduate students, or each other remember that a little encouragement can go a long, long way. 

Enlighten. Encourage. Empower.

Say it three times fast. It’s not as hard as you think.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Virtual and Augmented Reality Devices with Educational Potential

Graphic of many people wearing virtual reality headsets.
Image from Thinkstock.
There were a number of new products with educational potential shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 held in early January. Popular among them were virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices nearing consumer and business-level versions intended for mass adoption. VR typically simulates an entire environment whereas AR supplements a real-world view with computer generated elements. Augmented reality can work particularly well for topics in which it is not possible to expose learners to real-world environments that they will be expected to operate within.

You may already be familiar with the emerging virtual reality headsets from Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive VR. And you may know of augmented reality devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s upcoming Hololens project. An intriguing device that has been in the works, initially intended for industrial workers, called the DAQRI Smart Helmet, straps to one’s head and uses an interface that combines augmented and mixed reality. Data can be overlaid onto a visual heads-up display which presents the user with a real-time modified view of reality. Thermal vision can provide real-world temperature data onscreen. Work instructions can appear directly overtop an item that needs to be manipulated.

Potential educational applications of this kind of augmented reality technology could be realized in fields such as:

  • Medical - Overlay 3D models to aid during surgery
  • Arts - Visually alter paintings and sculptures
  • History - Map locations of famous landmarks and events while on a walking tour
  • Industrial Arts - Overlay design templates onto material to be fabricated
  • Marketing - Scan advertisements that reveal additional information
  • Outdoor Sciences - Overlay information pertaining to parts of trees, flowers, and plants
  • Almost Anything - A set of instructions can be presented through the visor to assist the wearer with almost any task imaginable

These are just a few of the many educational possibilities on the horizon for AR technologies. In the coming years, it will be exciting to see what rises to the forefront and what sort of gear we will all be strapping onto our heads.