It started with an email...
"I've been interested in Google expeditions since I learned about it last year. Now that it's open, can we look into getting some Google cardboard sets? Would love to do some actual 'virtual' field trips, and I think other teachers would too."
My first stop on this rollercoaster ride of virtual reality was to see how we could get Google Cardboard to Hong Kong. The reality is with Amazon being pretty open and an awesome procurement team we were able to get the Viewmaster viewers within the fist semester.
But let's move back a little bit...
How do you integrate smart phone based virtual reality when the Parent Association DOES NOT want their middle school students using their own phones in the school?
I looked over the kits that are available from Best Buy and used this as a model for what we were going to need. To start off a test kit for 10 students and a teacher device. Ultimately we have build a kit that has:
Let's travel the world!
Once the kits were up and running I spent a few months getting teachers okay with the idea of using Virtual Reality in their lessons. I held voluntary expeditions where I took teachers to places that were related to their subjects, (Ocean scenes, body systems, historical sites). Ultimately, teachers were very excited about the possibility of using the VR in their class.
How is it being used?
So far, when I have come into a classroom with the VR machines we are doing a mix of pre-learning, lesson enhancement or post unit review. This allows students to gain a picture of the land, scene or image that they will be studying. 6th grade science traveled on a "magic school bus" type expedition through both the digestive and respiratory system. This provided the students who were going to be researching and presenting on these systems an additional viewpoint of understanding. This was greatly enhanced by the addition of excrement in the lower intestine that caused some students to laugh and others to look a little green.
Where are we headed?
My goal for this semester is really 2 areas:
1. Elementary integration-helping the ES teachers see the HUGE potential in this tool for them.
2. High School integration-Cracking into HS classes that could use an infusion of VR.
Ultimately, my goal is to make learning more effective and innovative. When that happens, VR or not, we are all good!
Teaching is a funny beast. As teachers we strive to connect with our students on so many levels, helping them to connect and achieve more in regards to our subjects. We are driven by standards, objectives, state and national policies on education as well as balancing standarized tests with our own curriculum that we have to trim and fit each year. Now, the Maker Movement, STEM or STEAM, 1:1, Educational Technology, and so many other initiative and strategies are constantly on the tips of our tongues as we are "looking to the future" of education.
But I am a teacher...right now
What can I do?
Think about a time you have had an incredible idea. Something that is earth shattering, that would change everything. You quickly write your idea down on the nearest piece of paper, napkin, stickynote, etc. Now what. You have the holy grail of ideas on a napkin that eventually was used to wipe the peanut butter off of your toddler's eyebrows.
You do your best to reignite that creative champion moment, but for not a lack of trying...inspiration at this point has been wiped away with the peanut butter.
If you are like me, ideas get lost, but also lists. If I am sent on a grocery run with a paper list, it is inevitable that it gets crunched, lost or ripped before I get to where I am going... thus the family is in peril because I forgot greek yogurt on the list.
Enter Google Keep
Google Keep is a mobile cloud based "sticky Note" app that connects with your Gmail account. You can access this anywhere, through the app, online, tablet, iOS, Android, etc. Anywhere google can reach, you will find Keep-- simply go to keep.google.com
For me it works in two ways
1. I can use it to jot down ideas (every one ground breaking) for my classroom/professional world. I can organize them by color, share the information through email or google docs to colleagues and stay relatively arranged in a clear manner. I can create a checklist and share it for information or tasks that need to be completed.
2. I can use Keep for my personal notes. I can take a picture of the paper list that has been created so that I don't lose it. I can create a checklist for items that will be crossed out as they are found. Very valuable in the husband department.
Keep Vs. Evernote
I have been a loyal user of Evernote for a long time. In fact I still have some files stored on it. Keep is very similar. Though Evernote has more functions and abilities in regard to voice, video, presentation and organizational structure (notebooks, notes, etc.) it is a bigger app than what I have needed. Even the Pro version allows many more functions, but in using the entire suite of GAFE there isn't a need for the total Evernote.
I'm choosing Keep as my sticky notes because it is quick, easy to organize and share, and quality access on all platforms without issue.
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.