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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Three Interesting Studies on Virtual Reality in Education

This week at ISTE 2016 Google and Samsung had large booth displays devoted to virtual reality headsets. The proliferation of virtual reality headsets has been the catalyst for some good conversations about the value of virtual reality in education. Many have wondered if it is a novelty or if could have a meaningful impact on students. I have been a part of those conversations. But as I want to be prepared with good information on the topic, I turned to Google Scholar to see what has been written on the topic of VR in education. The following three papers stood out to me.

Construct3D: a virtual reality application for mathematics and geometry education.

On the usability and likeability of virtual reality games for education: The case of VR-ENGAGE.

Can virtual reality improve anatomy education? A randomised controlled study of a computer‐generated three‐dimensional anatomical ear model.

All three of these studies found that virtual reality was beneficial to students. Each study came to that conclusion in a different context. The first found an improvement in students' comprehension of geometrical concepts. The second found an improvement in students' understanding of geographical concepts and relationships, but only with prior knowledge. And the third study found an improvement in students' understanding of anatomy.

These three studies had small sample sizes and control groups that could probably be categorized as "high achieving, highly engaged" students. Whether or not the outcome of the students linked above will be similar to those of other students is still to be determined. That said, I'm excited to see what happens with virtual reality in K-12 classrooms over the next five years.

Disclosure: Samsung paid for my hotel room during the 2016 ISTE conference. 

5 Features to Look for on Formative in the Fall

Earlier this week at the ISTE 2016 conference I had a nice meeting with the founders of the popular assessment tool, Formative. Formative is hard at work to add new features in time for the new school year in the northern hemisphere. The list of features that they showed me is fifteen deep. Many of those features are focused on data, but some are focused on providing solutions to practical problems that almost every teacher has faced at one time or another while using online assessment tools. These are the five practical Formative features that I'm looking forward to seeing this fall.

  • Send assignments/ quizzes to individual students. 
  • Scheduling a start time and an end time for assignments/ quizzes. 
  • Scheduling a time for the return of quiz scores/ feedback. You'll be able to hold scores until every student has completed the assignment/ quiz. 
  • Students will have a progress meter to show them where they are in a particular quiz/ assignment. 
  • Improved font formatting tools. 

Applications for Education
One of the things that has helped Formative become popular is the "show your work" response option that allows students to draw responses to your questions and prompts. The addition of these new features should only help to make Formative a better tool for gathering formal and informal assessment responses from students.

Connect Your Classroom Through SeeSaw Connected Blogs

On Tuesday morning at the ISTE 2016 conference I sat down with the founder of the popular digital portfolio tool, SeeSaw. He showed me some of updated features of SeeSaw's free product as well as the new analytics options within SeeSaw Plus (a subscription service).

One of the best features of SeeSaw's free service is the classroom blogging component. SeeSaw added the blogging feature in January in response to requests from users. SeeSaw's blogging feature allows you to select artifacts from your students' digital portfolios to feature on your classroom's blog. You can also have students submit written blog posts that you approve before they go live on the blog. The video in this post shows you how to create a blog within SeeSaw.

Applications for Education
Connecting with other classroom blogs is a great way to build an authentic audience for your students' work. SeeSaw put together a spreadsheet of public classroom blogs to help teachers connect their classroom blogs. The spreadsheet includes the Twitter and or Google+ ID of the teacher in charge of each listed blog.

SeeSaw's blog feature includes a "following" option that makes it easy to quickly see when a blog your class is following publishes a new post. The video embedded below demonstrates how to connect and follow a SeeSaw blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Evernote Shrinks Free Plan - Here's What I'm Using Now

For a long time I have used Evernote as my primary tool for personal bookmarks. That's about to change because today Evernote announced that their free plan will soon only allow you to use Evernote on two devices. As I use three devices or more in the course of a typical week, the new Evernote free plan won't work for me. So instead of using Evernote I'm going to start using Google Keep for bookmarking.

Google Keep can be used on any device on which I sign into my Google Account. As you can see in the video embedded below, you can add labels to your Google Keep notes. Those labels can also be applied to bookmarks. All Google Keep notes and bookmarks can be shared with others.

Apps Made by Students - And a Challenge for Your Students

For the last few years Verizon has hosted the Innovative App Challenge for students. Verizon recently published the list of the best apps developed in the 2015-16 Innovative App Challenge. The top app was created by middle school students in Michigan. Their app provides a way for the public to alert local government to safety concerns in public parks. The whole list of top student-created apps can be seen in this PDF.

The next Verizon Innovative App Challenge begins in August. Students must make a video to explain the concept of their apps and write a short essay about their apps. Complete entry rules are available here.

If your students do want to build an app either for this contest or for their own enjoyment, the MIT App Inventor offers a great way to do that. Students can build working apps in their web browsers before using them on their Android devices. Click here to read more about the MIT App Inventor.