Virtual Reality in PE to Rock Climb Yosemite

Practically overnight virtual reality (VR) technology has become our reality, and more and more educational applications are becoming available. Using a $9 viewer and a smartphone you can enhance student learning by using VR technology in your classroom. Here’s one way to get started using this technology in the physical education classroom.

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VR Basics

As used in our classroom, there are 3 basic components that provide the VR experience:

  • the smartphone
  • the viewer (we use a cardboard version)
  • the phone app, website, or file that displays media in VR format

The smartphone provides the media (what is seen, heard, or interacted with) by accessing an app, website, or file. The viewer is the mechanism that holds the phone and makes what appears on the the phone screen appear realistic when looked into. Viewers come in different forms from cardboard designs that costs as little as $9 to more elaborate models that vary in price depending on functionality.

How We Used VR Technology In Our Phys Ed Class

The traverse climbing wall is a major component of our climbing unit, and I was excited to show students how the skills developed while climbing this wall compared to those needed to climb in a natural setting. As I explored the internet and Google Earth looking for 360° views of rock climbers I happily came across Google Treks. Google Treks is an in-depth VR experience that as explained by Google explores “some of the most interesting places in the world”, including our classroom’s journey up the vertical rock formation known as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

Starting at the base of the base of the the rock climb and moving all the way to the top students learn about the equipment, technique, basic needs, and history of the climbers featured in El Capitan 360° VR climb. The website provides a wealth of information about different parts of the climb, while the 360° view opened in the Google Street View App shows the setting. We used stations during our climbing unit, and while at the VR station students saw the 360° VR climb using the viewer and then read about what they saw by looking at the visual fact sheet I created using the facts from the website.

At any given time, students were talking about the climbers, the scenery, and the rocks that were being climbed. Students were pointing up as they discussed what they were seeing, and one student even commented that she, “Really felt like she was sitting in the dirt looking at the climber!” After viewing the scene students connected what they saw in VR to what they do while climbing the wall by answering a quick reflection question.

Procedure

The smartphone, VR viewer, internet, and Google Street View app were all that was needed to complete this virtual climb. I bookmarked the El Capitan Climb on my smartphone’s internet browser for easy access, and opened the specific part of the climb I wanted students to view that day by clicking “Explore”.

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Once opened, the scene has various interactive options. First, by moving the phone in space you can view 360° of the scene. Second, there are small white circles that when clicked share facts about the climbing scene being viewed (this is where I got the facts for our scene fact sheet). Third, there are options to share the scene on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Finally, the 360° VR climb can be opened using Google Maps, which will open up automatically in the Street View app. In our classroom I did the latter by clicking on “Google Maps”.

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Once opened in the Google Street View App, all you need to look for is the mini VR viewer icon to start the 360° VR climb.

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You will know that the phone is ready to be placed in the viewer when the view appears to look like it is being seen through a big pair of goggles. Turn the phone so that the image appears upright and place in viewer to begin the 360°  view of different parts of the El Capitan climb.

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Final Considerations

Although some preparation was needed initially, I was able to put the phone to sleep and turn it back on with the VR view screen opening right up. This meant that I only had to use the internet bookmark and open the VR view for the first class of the day and could just unlock my smartphone to access the VR climb from thereon. Next, with safety as the first priority, students used the viewer while seated. As you download and use the VR capability of Google Street View, additional considerations are presented.

 

I would love to hear how you are using VR in your classroom. I am extremely curious about Google Excursions if you can share how you have applied it into your lessons.

*All virtual reality image screenshots obtained from: https://www.google.com/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/yosemite/

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One App to Explain Everything

One App to Explain Everything

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Explained…

It is time to rethink your typical classroom presentations… think Explain Everything. This app allows teachers to create by providing an interactive whiteboard and a screencast tool in one place. Using this app, presentation slides can include a variety of media- from websites and drawings to pictures and videos- Explain Everything has it all. Sharing your creations is simple, and screencasts can be shared and exported as videos, PDFs, and Explain Everything project files to programs like Dropbox, Google Drive, and YouTube for viewing on and off of the Internet. Explain Everything offers different presentation formats to meet the needs of all learners. Flexible viewing options also allow the teacher to control how screencasts are viewed. Teachers can provide students with the option to control the pace at which a Presentation is viewed, or it can be viewed and paced at the teacher’s timing.

Supported…

Explain Everything is used by over 2 million people, and is growing daily. In fact it is not only used in classrooms, but by leaders and learners worldwide. The Hytech Lawyer, which is devoted to technology solutions for lawyers writes, “The potential uses for this app are only limited by your imagination.” Similarly learninginspired.com, a website devoted to Apple technology in the classroom writes, “Some apps are like swiss army knives. Some can do more than you think. Some can be used in thousands of ways in the classroom. Explain Everything is one such app.”

Useful…

The uses for Explain Everything is the classroom are plentiful. Teachers can use the app as a learning medium that includes a variety of rich media, and videos and images created on other apps are easily imported. Students can also assume the creator role using this app by constructing and sharing their knowledge while creating Explain Everything screencasts of their own. 

Furthermore, formative assessment opportunities are created as both teachers and students can share and respond to the same screencast when the file is shared as an Explain Everything project; thus allowing for instruction and responses that include text, video, audio, and more. Explain Everything is also a great medium for utilizing the flipped classroom model as screencasts provide student-centered learning opportunities that can be viewed and responded to at home and in school. Finally, why not connect with parents using this app? It is a great way to send home announcements and homework help tutorials.

Contact me to hear how we have used Explain Everything in our 1:1 classroom… and I’d love to hear how you have or how you see yourself using Explain Everything in your classroom!

(this blog was updated from an original post that was written by me and posted on this group blog. Check out this link for great posts contributed by the other authors!)

Two Pencil Free Assessments to Use Tomorrow

“My pencil is broken!” Words we hear and panic- the seemingly quick exit ticket is complicated by materials, and is taking time away from valuable teaching and activity time. Yet, as a teacher that knows the value of formative assessment to drive future instruction, you are not willing to give it up. Below are 2 pencil free assessments that are easy enough to use in your classroom tomorrow.

1. Plickers

Materials needed: 1 student plicker response card per student, 1 teacher mobile device.

Cost: Free

Using Plickers, students hold up a specific side of their printed Plickers card to indicate their answer. The teacher scans all of the responses at once, using a phone or tablet, for an immediate visual representation of correct and incorrect student responses.

Plicker

After viewing student answers live, a visual report of all responses is available online.

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Plickers is great for immediate feedback as well as for exposing individual student’s misconceptions, as each student’s card is different than anyone else’s in the class. The app recognizes the individual cards, and reports back to the teacher the answers for whomever the card is assigned. If you teach more than one class per day, the Plickers website allows you to organize students and reports by class. The same paper cards can be used from class to class, as long as students use the permanent card number assigned to them in their “class” on the Plickers website.
Plickers is free to download and use, and can be downloaded for both iOS and Android devices. The Plickers cards can be printed in varying quantities for free from the Plickers website, and laminated versions can be purchased from Amazon.

2. “Tear Along the Dotted Line” Assessment Slip

Materials needed: 1 paper tear assessment slip per student

Cost: Free
The concept of these is simple, students tear the sheet of paper along the dotted line to indicate their answer. It is a quick and easy task, and easily shows you what misconceptions students may have. These are great to pass out during lesson close, and as students exit the gym they drop their assessment in the bucket or hand it to the teacher. Tear assessment slips are not limited to lesson closure either- they are easily used at the beginning of class and during transitions from instruction to activity and the slips are easily reviewed as collected. Although you will not know which students submitted which slip, you learn which concepts to revisit or reteach after reviewing the assessment responses. Customize and print your own using this template (4 assessments per page).

Tear Slip Sample

 

What strategies have you used to formatively assess students in the classroom? Share the pencil free assessments have you used in your classroom.

Creating Knowledge as Student Authors

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The use of search engines has made it easy for us all to consume knowledge as they have streamlined the process of finding valid and reliable information online. However, consuming knowledge is only half of the picture. By helping students become authors in the classroom they are learning more about the other part of the process- creating knowledge.

An engaging way to do this is by providing students with the opportunity to create and share their own comics online. This active learning experience switches their role from knowledge consumer to knowledge creator while helping them construct their own knowledge. Furthermore, students are learning how to use the 21st century skills of communication, information literacy, and creativity & innovation. Below are a few comic book creators that can be used in the classroom.

  1. Make Beliefs Comix (Free)

Make Beliefs Comix is an easy to navigate website that has made the comic creation process simple. Comics are 2-4 panels long and include backgrounds, characters, objects, talk and thought balloons, and panel prompts. One great feature about this comic book creator is the detailed artwork available for use. Editing features for objects in panels include moving, resizing, flipping, layering, and deleting.

When comics are completed they can be saved as an image file, printed, or sent by email. Since there is no login for this site comics are not saved and therefore are not accessible once the window is closed.

The Make Beliefs Comix website offers various resources to teachers including lesson plans, a list of ways to use the site in the classroom, story ideas, writing prompts, and language options. There are also pages with information about how Make Beliefs Comix may be used in ESOL/Literacy and special needs classrooms.

Make Beliefs Comix is available free online and as a free or paid app. Here is a short video tutorial.

2. Pixton 

Pixton provides many customization options to users. Students can add and customize full color characters, down to how the character’s hand is positioned and the expression on the character’s face. Preset background images can be edited by selecting the color and gradient used in the image. Speech bubbles can be a variety of shapes allow layering options and props can be added to panels.

When finished comics can be printed, saved as a file, embedded, or shared on the web. Once submitted comics can be graded using a 5 point rating system or a built in rubric. There are opportunities for students to view their classmates comics on the site, with options for providing comments. There are opportunities for self-reflection and peer reviews with the format of the site. Pixton offers lesson plans in a variety of content areas and discusses the implications of using Pixton for second language acquisition.

With the teacher accounts students do not need to create a login, and students are added to one of the teacher’s groups or classes. The teacher and school accounts allow comics to be created in a private and secure space. The teacher account is free to try and has a monthly subscription, whereas the school or district account is a one year paid subscription. There is a free account, however, there are many features like privacy and grading options not available on this type of account. Pixton is available online and as an app. Below is a Pixton video overview.

3. ToonDoo

ToonDoo offers a nice balance between customization and ease of use. Comics can use horizontal or vertical layouts of 1-4 panels. Characters are mainly cartoons that offer multiple poses per character. Students are also able to create their own characters, editing emotion, physical features, stance, and clothing. These characters can be added to their gallery and comics. There are different text options, as well as a variety of props and backgrounds. Two additional features of this cartoon creator are that uploaded images can be and drawings can be added to comics. Editing features allow students to size, clone, flip, rotate, and layer objects.

When comics are completed they can be published on the ToonDoo website for everyone to see, associated with a title, description, and tags. Other options include keeping it private or sharing via email with friends.

Much like Pixton, a free version of the website is available to those who register. This version, however does not offer the same privacy and sharing options as the paid version called ToonDoo Spaces which uses a social media network format to feature cartoons. This version only allows students and educators to create and access content, site administrators monitor and manage content, and students do not need to register with an email. A free trial is available for ToonDoo Spaces.

Have you used any of these or other comic creator sites in your classroom? I would love to hear how! Please share as a comment!

3 Benefits of Technology in the Classroom

http://www.schooltechnology.org

Technology integration is a buzzword in education right now- and has been for a few years. The way we live our lives is changing due to technology, and so is the way we are teaching. Here are a few benefits of technology use in the classroom.

Constructivist Learning

One benefit of using technology in the classroom is that it allows students to construct their own knowledge as they take problem solving into their own hands. Rather than being passive listeners, students are actively using their 21st century skills of accessing, evaluating, and applying information. Whether they are using tablets, computers, or cell phones students are learning to use these tools as consumers and producers of information. An important lifelong skill for many professions today.

Differentiated Learning

As educators, we know how individual the learning process can be for students. Technology provides students and teachers with more resources and tools to meet diverse needs. Using technology resources in the classroom also helps diverse learners succeed by providing multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement- helping teachers align their lessons with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Collaborative Learning

As we know, it is important to have strong communication and problem solving skills. There are many technology resources that provide students with the opportunity to learn and share online. Google Drive allows students to work on the same document simultaneously while chatting about ideas and feedback. The website epals.com connects classrooms around the country as they complete research projects together. Collaborative learning websites foster skills that help prepare students for college and career.

As we can see there are great benefits to using technology in the classroom. However, it is important to remember that technology is constantly evolving and changing. Thankfully, there are excellent resources available to teachers online including websites like edutopia.org and iste.org that provide information from researchers, teachers, and writers in the field of educational technology.

Resources:

http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/3principles