Now that I’ve been back in the classroom for a little while, I’m starting to collect various tips and tricks for preparing my course materials. I teach Japanese to high schoolers in the upper mid-west, so I don’t really have my pick of ready-made curricular materials. I generally make my own versions of activities even when I find that someone else has posted something useful. So I do a LOT of material creation!
Thus, I’m starting a new segment to my very sparse blog: Teaching with Tech Tips. These are little tricks that I’ve found along the way to help me make materials faster and with fewer clicks. As I come up with more of them, I’ll try to write about it quickly to share with the world. I have no doubt that many other people have found these tricks, too. But they were new to me, so they might also be new to others!
This won’t be a clue-by-clue discussion of the experience (how boring!), but rather will highlight a couple clues to point to some broader points about crafting place-based experiences that employ augmented reality (AR).
What’s in a Clue?
The clues are delivered via a text/email type message through the app, with a body of text giving the main part of the clue. The envelope button takes users to the full list of unlocked clues, and the camera opens up your phone’s camera for the clues that include AR aspects (which is maybe half of the total clues). The point opens the official museum map with floorplans for the 2nd and 3rd floors, which are the relevant floors for the app.
The “?” opens a menu of 3 additional options: Map, Puzzle, and Answer. The Map tab opens a selection of the museum gallery map with a line drawing showing where to go for the next clue. The Puzzle tab often gives you the actual information you need to complete the clue, eg. look for this kind of thing. The Answer tab gives the full answer.
My greatest challenge with the app and the overall experience was the structure of the clues. I know, I know, the puzzle aspect is part of the fun! But, I found the ways the clues were written confusing at times because of either word choice or how the clue text was parsed into the sections of the app. For example, for almost every clue there didn’t seem to be a consistent approach to what information landed in the main clue message and what was included in the Puzzle section. I would have preferred having all the information for the puzzle clue on 1 screen and then toggling over to the Map and Answer on another page, more clearly parsing the clues from the solutions in the interface. More signposting in the clues around when to use the camera and when an AR element was going to factor in would also have been welcome.
Direction and Scale Matters
We successfully completed the game in the estimated time of 1 hour. That hour was dedicated almost entirely to moving through the clues, which encompassed 2 floors and numerous galleries.
From the user perspective, I would suggest some ways to flag distance and movement through spaces between clues. The slices of map shown with each clue aren’t accompanied with a scale for estimated travel time. The graffiti clue is the clearest example of this: it suggests that the object is either on the 2nd or 3rd floor and has a considerable amount of travel time from origin to endpoint, including the level change and in our experience winding around some exhibit construction.
To be sure, the ambition of the app is one of its strengths as is the desire to expose users to a wide swatch of art styles, media, and artists. It moves users through MIA’s rich collections and I thoroughly enjoyed zipping through galleries that I had never ventured through before. A group of young people were also participating in the game and were about 4 clues “behind” so it was fun to hear snippets of their time working through the clues.
As I think about how to take inspiration from RiddleMIAThis, I’m pondering the issue of scale. One wish I have for a future version of the RiddleMIAThis (or other comparable museum gallery app) would be different “levels,” each one focused on 1 floor and/or 1 particular set of galleries, moving users from object to object and room to room on a smaller scale and around a particular theme or iconography. A week or so later, I’m hard pressed to think of a cohesive through-line for the art we saw, and the educator in me is always interested in those ways that technology can open up or reinforce teachable moments around the content.
Thinking about platforms for public-facing student work? Each has its own pros and cons, and there are several key factors to think about:
What are the platform’s policies for how the data are stored, and what are the possibilities to export the work to another platform?
How easy is it to work with a given platform (interface, navigability, collaborative functions)?
Are there associated costs? Is the platform freemium, free in the educational context but paid after leaving the college?
To help students, staff, and faculty make their own decisions on what is right for them, I put together these handouts. One covers Edublogs, which is our college subscription for WordPress and the New Google Sites, which is available to everyone at Carleton via our institutional license.
Time for my second post. This post is a lot later than expected; I still haven’t got this blogging down yet.
As part of the fun new tech we have been purchasing at Carleton, we managed to get a hold of a Hololens. Unlike the HTC Vive, which is VR, the Hololens is AR (Augmented Reality). The Hololens is an impressive piece of kit and one I am the most excited about. According to Microsoft (its developer), the Hololens is “the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.” In normal terms, it is a tiny computer attached to a set of glass lenses, which look like a very futuristic headset.
These lenses are where the magic happens. The Hololens has three layered screens for Red, Green and Blue channels, which are combined to render full-color objects. The onboard computer uses an inertial measurement unit to calculate the location of you and the “holographic” object within your surrounds. This technology work in a similar way to AR on your cell phone with games like Pokemon Go and Ingress.
The Hololens opens up some fascinating teaching possibilities. Unlike the Vive and VR, which is very isolating and a single users experience, the Hololens and AR can be developed to be a multi-user experience. This multi-user experience enables to each Hololens to view the same 3D, providing some exciting possibilities within the class.
One of the first projects we worked on was to develop an AR model of the Piper J3 Cub used to train Carleton students in the 1940-50s. This was a part of a museum display for Sesquicentennial celebrations. The original idea of this project was to utilize the VR and HTC Vive, but I felt the Hololens would be more fun for visitors and would still allow them to be present within the space. Thank you to PEPS for editing one of my favorite videos using the Hololens.
In the LTC Lunch: Making Learning Visible with Electronic Portfolios (Jan. 19, 2016), Deborah Gross, Professor of Chemistry, talked about how Lab Archives captures the learning that her students are doing in her lab courses.
*Deborah’s presentation begins at 14:30
LabArchives (LA) is an electronic notebook software that comes in two versions: classroom and professional. The classroom version allows you to manage a set of individual notebooks for each student, replacing the traditional lab notebook; the professional version is great for organizing your professional research and involving collaborators.
Despite its name and logo, which features iconic chemistry vessels, please don’t think LA isn’t for you or your students if you aren’t in the Natural Sciences! It really is an electronic notebook and not a lab notebook. In fact, we’ve heard from our LA rep that staff working in the area of facilities find LA very helpful.
Based on the testing that Deborah and other Carleton faculty participated in, the College has purchased access to both the Professional and Classroom editions for anyone on campus. In a sense, we’re piloting a site license for LA to see if enough folks will use it to warrant continuing in this way (or, if buying on a case by case basis is more prudent).
Our AT [un]workshop on Wednesday October 26, Electronic Notebooks for Classroom & Research: Exploring LabArchives, is a great chance to learn more about LA. You may discover, as Deborah did, that in addition to making student learning more visible both to external audiences and to the students, electronic portfolios like LA can solve logistical problems. For example, in chemistry, LA eliminated the logjam that occurs when students have turned in their physical notebooks to be graded and then don’t have them to prep for the upcoming lab, or how to deal with group projects that are recorded only in one notebook. You also may discover how an electronic notebook might help you capture, archive, and curate your own work.
We also have the following hands on training sessions coming up:
Thursday, October 20 at 3:15 – 4:00 pm in the Weitz Center, Room 027
Tuesday, November 1 at 3:15 – 4:00 pm in the Weitz Center, Room 027
Questions? Contact Randy Hoffner, email@example.com
So this will be my first post for this blog, actually thinking about it probably my first ever blog post. Never having wrote a post before is a strange position to be in for a computer/technology geek, but I think blogs just past me by. Anyway I should get on with what I planned on writing.
It has definitely been a fun few weeks for me, with lots of boxes and new tech to open. With the addition of the 3D printer last week, am I very excited about the new box on my desk today. It is going to be a great addition to our technology provisions here at Carleton and Academic Technology. The title of this post is a very geeky reference to this new piece of kit….
Being the computer geek that I am, I was very excited to receive the Vive. The Vive is one of the new generation of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. Started by the successful Oculus Rift Kickstarter, this next generation of VR headsets are very different to the early 1990s counterparts. Rather than very basic graphics and simple polygons, these new headsets are capable of streaming two HD images into either eye giving the impression of depth within the 3D scene.
First project: a VR model of the Piper J3 Cub used to train Carleton students in the 1940-50s as part of a museum display for Sesquicentennial celebrations. Visitors will be able to view the model in a hanger setting and from the flight seat.
Come and experience VR for yourself either by visiting the Sesquicentennial museum exhibition or pop along to the ideaLab during our open house on Wednesday, September 21 from 12p-2p.
As the students return to Carleton and campus life resumes in earnest, you may notice some changes in the IdeaLab and the AT offices in the Weitz Center for Creativity (not to mention the massive construction project just outside…). The IdeaLab has been undergoing renovations and redesigns to better serve the whole community. We’ll be writing another post about that whole process, but for this post I’ll be focusing on one of our newest tools: our 3D printer. This post will also focus primarily on our initial prints, rather than how-tos, but those will also be coming in the future.
After a lot of consideration, talking with experts, and looking at samples, we decided to go with an Ultimaker2+, one of the most highly-regarded 3D printers on the market. It’s a very dependable, well-supported machine, and looks fantastic too.
A photo posted by CarletonAcademicTechnology (@carletonacademictechnology) on
As part of the initial set-up, we needed to calibrate and configure the machine. This took a few hours, as the build plate (the section that the 3D printer prints onto) needs to be perfectly level. This level of specificity goes beyond the standard bubble level; we were dealing with differences in size of less than the thickness of a piece of computer paper. With our filament loaded and the plate leveled, we printed our first test print: a little robot designed by Ultimaker.
In late July, I attended and presented at the Minnesota eLearning Summit 2016 at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College. My presentation, Writing with Light: Building A Low-Cost Lightboard at Carleton College, was selected as a session. I’ve embedded a screencast of it below, as well as on YouTube. Here’s how my conference went, as a story in annotated tweets…
I was selected as one of the speakers for the summit and chose to speak on the Lightboard, which we designed and built at Carleton College. Our Lightboard is notable for its very low cost and ease of use.
It was thrilling to see Randy Bass speak again. He came to Carleton last fall and gave an engaging and thrilling set of talks, inspiring us to think about the future of education and our roles within it.
Finally, Dr. Bass ended with an appeal to have every course teach three things: knowledge of the Domain, knowledge of the World, and Knowledge of Oneself. These three overlap to create an transformative learning experience.
…and then we were done! This was a great conference. I met and interacted with some passionate educators and other academic technologists. There are so many impressive and incredible things happening in this space. It makes me excited for the future of education.
Instructors have more tools at their fingertips than ever before. Sometimes the hardest (but most important) thing we can do for our students and our sanity is to . . . to limit ourselves. Before starting a new course, consider creating a list of the tools you’ll be using regularly as part of your instruction. Below is a sample list that might be used in a standard course. Items in [brackets] indicate a viable alternative tool instructor. Continue reading Course Tools