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.
Since we released ThingLink 360 last year, our team has gathered tons of feedback from many user groups. We’re excited to share 5 enhancements to ThingLink 360, based on your feedback.
We have more enhancements planned as ThingLink 360 continues to grow more powerful in 2018. We take user requests very seriously, and they play a big role in what we create. Feel free to drop us a note with requests for new features for ThingLink 360, and be sure to stay tuned to this blog for news as we release new features based on feedback from our community.
Did you know that there are over 6,500,000 images, videos, and 360s on ThingLink? Not only is ThingLink the place to create interactive masterpieces, it’s also the place to find inspiration from others. Now, not only can you search our database of images, videos, and 360s, you can also filter your results to find exactly what you’re looking for! Use this feature when searching for that perfect content to remix.
ThingLink users have made projects on everything from art history to zoology. Enter a search term in the box at the top of ThingLink.
Now, with the new search filter, select the type of media you’re looking for. Use the check boxes for images, videos, 360 images, and 360 videos to determine your results.
When tagging 360 images, often the hardest step is the photography, or finding images to tag. Before creating your own images, use the search to see what other ThingLink users have already created. If a user marks their image as public, you will be able to use the remix function to copy their image into your account. Delete the previous person’s tags and get started on your own creation!
While the most popular ThingLink format is standard images, there are also thousands of videos and 360s already tagged. If you’re new to tagging videos and want some guidance, searching without a filter may leave the video results lost in the crowd. Filter to get exactly what you’re looking for the first time without too much sifting.
Now that you’re acquainted with the new search features, get searching and start tagging! If you want to learn more about our advanced features for join us for an upcoming webinar.
We are excited to launch VR Lessons, our first virtual reality content app. The app is designed for elementary school students, their teachers and parents.