360-degree images and videos can help students develop understanding of real-world environments outside their classroom, but trying to successfully setup twenty-five headsets for a shared VR experience is not easy. For a while, we have been thinking of an alternative solution, based on the following three assumptions:
When Google launched Expeditions in 2015, ThingLink team started getting two kinds of emails from teachers. Most wanted to know if we could support 360 image annotation so that teachers could create their own expeditions and tours together with students. Shortly after, in May 2016, we launched our 360 image editor.
The second question concerned the ability to guide the tour to make sure students would pay attention to things that were relevant for the lesson. This one was tricky, because we did not think it was conceptually right to replicate the traditional classroom experience in VR.
In the traditional setup, a teacher stands in front of the classroom, and students are trying to get what the teacher says and means. It’s the same story, speed, and highlights for everyone, no matter if you are a fast or a slow learner, or if you speak the language or not.
Now, if you keep this setup and just put VR headsets on all the students, not much changes, except:
– You will need a lot of headsets, a budget to cover them, and a space to store them.
– Getting students to open the right app from the phone settings does not go smoothly. This eats time from instruction.
– Not all the devices will work properly. Not all the kids are patient.
– Some kids will stand up and bump into each other.
– It is harder for the students to hear the teacher wearing a headset.
Nevertheless, 360 viewing is a wonderful way to extend the boundaries of the classroom, but how to do that without complicating the logistics during instruction time? How can students get more quality time with their teacher in both the virtual and the physical learning space?
A narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots
The solution we came up with lets anyone record their introduction to a topic and save it in the background of a virtual tour. This also includes being able to define a sequence for informational hotspots that matches with the narration and guides viewers’ attention during a tour.
This new format came from the marriage of two existing ThingLink editor features: background audio and video editing. For lack of a better term, we will refer to it as a narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots.
Physical instruction time vs. virtual instruction time
Let’s say you have prepared a unit introduction of ancient Egypt, and the total physical instruction time for this one-time orientation in the classroom would be about 20 minutes.
Now, if you record the introduction and add it in the background of selected 360 images from Egypt, you as an educator have created yourself a presence in the cloud. From now on, views of this narrated VR experience by students will increase your virtual instruction time. Let’s continue the thought experiment and say all the students view your introduction at least once, and half of the students want to revisit the introduction from home as they are writing a related essay. In total, the virtual introduction is viewed 60 times each year (60 x 20min). This adds up to a total of 20 hours of virtual instruction time per year for this specific class and unit about ancient Egypt.
Today ThingLink is launching a new feature called “Channel”, an easy way to organize images into embeddable interactive albums. ThingLink Channel is an exciting feature that will allow for a multitude of new storytelling applications via rich media tags. Below are some examples for personal, business, and educational usages:
I. Channels for Personal Use
Interactive lifestyle magazines and and guides for travel, recipes, design, arts & crafts: Think about channel as a new way to start your own mobile magazine. If fashion or food are your passion and images are your preferred mode of expression, you can now start your own interactive magazine on ThingLink. ThingLink Channel works as a YouTube Channel: you can update it anytime and when you add new content it will be shown to your followers.
Interactive family albums: We all have our cameras full of images and videos of our pets and kids. With ThingLink you can combine the best of your gallery, adding notes, quotes, and music to images, ultimately creating albums that allow you to travel back in time and remember how your darlings looked and sounded just a couple of years ago!
Interactive slide sets and storybooks: Once you start using interactive image channels for your professional presentations, you can forget about powerpoint and keynote and problems with large file sizes. Not only will your slides be more visual, they can now play music, show video or embed any content from the web. Sharing? Just share your channel URL and people can replay your content at any time.
II. Channels for Businesses
If you run a small or large business, ThingLink Channel will be your new favorite tool for creating engaging material on social media. From now on, you can serve fans and followers interactive product catalogs and PR images.
For publishers, interactive image channels work both in display or native advertising. Contact us at sales @thinglink.com to learn more!
III. Channels for Teachers Teachers can use ThingLink Channels to organize student homework and projects. For example, a history teacher could create a channel for each course they are teaching this semester and have students add their homework to this channel. At the end of the semester, a channel will become a collection of student work that can be shared with other classes and studied for examinations.
Start using ThingLink image channels with 3 simple steps:
1. Above every image, you will see an “add to channel” link
2. Select a channel or create a new one by clicking “new channel” 3. Now click “done”. To view your images as a slideshow, click the slideshow button on the left. Some channel functionality will still improve, such as adding an option to arrange images within the channel, as well as the possibility to add other people’s images into a channel and be notified when that happens. All of this is in the works! If there is anything else you would like to see, as always, please let us know!