Category : Immersive learning

Featured project: POKE vocational college brings virtual tours to learning in Microsoft Teams

POKE vocational college has made virtual tours an integral part of their learning environment in Microsoft Teams. This example shows how they are used to increase flexibility in learning and to develop future skills.

Pekka Ouli works as an eLearning specialist at POKE vocational college in Finland. He is one of the early adopters of virtual tours in vocational education, integrating them both to teaching materials as well as student presentations. 

Image: Pekka Ouli from POKE vocational college is an active MIE Expert

Like many other vocational colleges, POKE accepts new students around the year. They come from different cities or countries, and many have previous experience from working life. The increased demand for flexibility and easy access led Pekka to start building a digital learning environment in MS Teams that would be accessible to students 24/7, from school or from home. Here, they could find materials for the different programs and degrees, participate in discussions and get feedback for their work. Being one of the early adopters of 360 degree media technology, virtual tours and their creation with ThingLink became a natural part of this environment.

“In our case, ThingLink is part of the basic toolset that students get when they begin studying at POKE. We train them to use Teams, ThingLink, and Adobe  Students typically learn these tools very fast.”

Video: POKE vocational college collaboration space in Microsoft Teams Mobile app incorporates ThingLink to give students access to virtual tours from their mobile phones.

Orientation to physical working environments

Several areas of technical education contain specific knowledge about the physical space where the work is done. This knowledge is difficult to share without visiting the place in person. For example, if you study to become an emergency room nurse, orientation in the space is an important part of the training.  The same logic applies to other areas such as construction engineering.

At POKE, virtual orientations to the school campus and different working environments are accessible both from the MS Teams desktop and mobile applications. These orientations may be created by teachers or learning specialists such as Pekka or by students themselves. 

“Micorosft Teams is our home base for all materials, but it is great that when our students use ThingLink to create virtual tours, these tours can also be shared with external partners on other platforms and websites, or as stand-alone VR experiences.”  

Image: A tour to the biotechnology campus by students of the POKE Digilab

360 degree storytelling as part of the curriculum

Another use case for virtual tours in vocational training has to do with learning relevant future skills.  For example, at POKE one of the general course modules in ICT studies is called “Future technologies”. In this course, students learn to use VR and AR technologies through various projects. An example of this kind of project was a collaboration with the city of Äänekoski: over 1000 people contributed to building Äänekoski in Minecraft.  To showcase this project to people who did not have a Minecraft account, the POKE students used 360 captures annotated with ThingLink. 

 Image: A 360 capture of a virtual city in Minecraft was annotated with ThingLink and shared on multiple platforms to showcase the collaborative project

In a collaborative project with the city, POKE students created virtual tours from different locations and places that are popular tourist attractions in the city of Äänekoski. These tours were made accessible in the various info points for tourists using VR glasses. Another group of students is currently exploring the use of virtual tours to familiar places in occupational therapy.

Image:A patient in occupational therapy is exploring a virtual tours with students from POKE vocational college

Summary and results:

POKE vocational college uses Microsoft Teams as their digital learning environment, and virtual tours of real-world working environments are a part of this environment. For example, virtual tours to the campus or to physical working environments such as the emergency room and construction sites are provided as course materials in the different learning modules. These tours are accessible on both desktop and mobile devices.

All students are equipped with the same tools from the beginning of their studies. 360 degree virtual tour creation is taught as a future ICT skill, any student at the vocational college has access to this course module.

Results:

  • Increased flexibility for students in different locations to access course materials and turn in assignments on any device
  • Improved access to physical locations (e.g. emergency room, construction site) via virtual tours
  • A new option to develop contextual knowledge of a real-world environment in the cloud
  • Ability to share materials to multiple platforms and invite collaborators to view students’ work.

Inspired by Pekka’s example? Contact our team for more information at education@thinglink.com or say hi to Pekka on Facebook.

 

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How to Increase Your Virtual Instruction Time Without Putting in More Hours

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:

  1. A learner benefits from an expert introduction: a teacher guiding a VR tour helps a student pay attention to relevant things.
  2. Shared VR does not have to be live VR. Asynchronous viewing is improves access and flexibility.
  3. Students should be able to revisit the experience and explore at their own pace.

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.

 

The introduction that was previously available for students only once in a certain physical space is now available and accessible to students any time. The teacher does not have to stress about giving the introduction on the spots while helping students to set up their headsets. Instead, this time can be saved for individual and group discussions.

Accessibility, flexibility, and cost savings

To sum up, a narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots is an asynchronous shared VR experience that benefits teachers, students, and schools in three essential ways:

1.It takes learning out of the classroom, but keeps the teachers guiding their students. Just like in any other environment, teachers help students to pay attention to the things that are relevant to their learning process. This can include introducing key concepts, giving general instructions for viewing, or inviting the classroom to think about certain questions as they explore the tour.

2.Narrated VR tours increase accessibility and flexibility in learning. A recorded VR introduction can be explored at any time, on any device, and from any location. This leaves more time for group and individual discussions.

3.Viewing VR tours in small groups or individually saves money: Not every student needs their own headset. Headsets can be kept clean and shared with multiple students. This makes immersive learning experiences possible for schools with smaller budgets.

5 steps for creating your own narrated VR tour with sequential hotspots

1. Upload a 360 image to ThingLink or select one from ThingLink image library

2. Record your introduction using a voice memo app on mobile or desktop

3. Open ThingLink editor and add the voice memo file (mp3, m4a) as a background audio to your image

4. Click “Play” to listen to your audio in the background and start adding informational hotspots

5. Adjust duration for tags, when you are done, click Save and share via LMS or link.

We look forward to seeing your work so please keep sharing projects, ideas or comments to ThingLink Education Facebook group or ThingLink Education on Twitter!

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An Imaginary Interview with Lev Vygotsky on Immersive Storytelling and Learning

The theme of our Teacher Challenge 2018 is “Immersive Storytelling”. Many of you have asked what does it mean, and how does it connect to learning. Here is a playful conversation starter on the topic based on my presentation at the Festival della Didattica Digitale earlier this year. It is an imaginary interview about immersive storytelling and learning with Lev Vygotsky, one of the pioneers in developmental psychology and the founder of sociocultural theory of learning. The key point of the post is this: Naming or describing real or imaginary relations between objects in our field of perception using multiple forms of language awakens intellectual processes fundamental to learning. This explains the potential value of technologies like ThingLink and the reason why you should take the ThingLink Teacher Challenge this year!

A note about this imaginary interview: Even though the thought of this presentation emerged spontaneously, it’s clear that Vygotsky’s work and the sociocultural theory can provide valuable tools for understanding the impact of immersive technologies to learning. I warmly welcome comments and further discussion on the topic, as I continue to work on longer explanations and examples on each point.

Q: Let’s start with some of the key concepts. How would you define ‘storytelling’?

V: Storytelling is a logical form of thought. It is an analytical process including perception, labeling, organizing, categorizing real and imaginary objects and their real and imaginary relations in speech.

Q: What do you think immersive documentation technologies such as 360 images and videos can bring to this process?

V: 360 degree media and virtual reality are cultural-historically developed tools that mediate our relationship to the world in a new way. They expand the possible fields of perception transcending space and time. Perception precedes other psychological functions.

Q: What does this mean for a first grade student who at school attends to virtual reality classes across the world?

A child learns to speak by singling out and categorizing meaningful objects in their field of perception. If the field of perception expands beyond the child’s physical environment, so does the development of other psychological functions.

Another point to consider is language: we all perceive the world through our speech. Learning to use multiple forms of speech for expressing relations in real or digital environments expands our cognitive capabilities.

Q: Let’s talk more about expressing those relations and making them visible. How do you see the function of labels or annotations in images?

V: Labeling creates new structural centers to perception. Guiding attention, they can support the internalization of new concepts and meanings.

Q: How does this relate to immersive storytelling?

V: Immersive storytelling can be understood as an activity through which students use language to visualize relations and meaning in 360 degree digital environments.

Naming or describing relations between objects in our field of perception using verbal or visual language awakens intellectual processes fundamental to learning.

Q: Would you say immersive storytelling is a form of creative play?

V: That is a possible interpretation. Play is a psychological process through which we create an imaginary situation or place, reflecting or separating objects and their actual meaning, or creating new meanings. The ability to digitally create and modify situations and environments can be understood as a form of play, opening a realm of spontaneity and freedom, connected with pleasure.

Q: Can robots help us learn? Is AI already the More Knowledgeable Other?

V: The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) refers to anyone or anything who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. If a robot with artificial intelligence can function as an MKO and support our problem solving, it can expand our Zone of Proximal Development.

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