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Next Gen Classroom or Classroom Materials

This is a repost of a post i wrote in 2011. I've been giving a lot of thought to it as the debate of AR and VR come to the forefront again as the big new things that are twenty years in the making. 

Two years ago, I built a home made Interactive Whiteboard in my living room using the projector that i used as a tv, a $35 Wii-mote (the controller for the Nintendo Wii Game console), and open source software built by Johnny Lee who came up with the concept. You can see his TED talk on where he's gone with the technology using inexpensive goods he's found at Radio-Shack and his open source software here. You can view my video here. I feel that I should get some credit just due to the sheer size of what used to be my TV screen, and i apologize for the crappy music. I figured it was better than hearing me mumbling to myself at trying to figure out what to display to get the concept across. I used this to show the potential of interactivity to teachers and pricipals and that there existed low-cost options to implement it into the classroom with readily available technology. Two years later, I have helped three four schools introduce differnt solutions and am hoping to see the evolution of the curriculum that utilizes these tools to enhance the curriculum and not just become flashy toys that are forgotten and collect dust like the 'Channel One' tv screens that were used in my grade school.

Now, I'm going to ask you to take a little journey with me, if you will, down the rabbit hole. For the last year, I've been talking about the next step in interactive technology in the classroom. If you haven't heard the phrase before, you will start to hear it more and more over the next two years. Augmented Reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics. For a quick real world example of AR in action as a reference to what I am and will be talking about in this post, grab smart-phone and download 'Yelp'. The monocle feature utilizes the camera on the smartphone to show a live picture of whatever you're pointing the camera at, but uses GPS positioning and overlays relevant information and ratings of the restraunts in the area over their general viscinity. Play with it a lil and come back if you have to to have an understanding of where I'm going with this train of thought.

Concept 2: Then there was the 'GE: Plug Into The Smart Grid' commercial, this introduced to me the idea of glyphs in AR. The idea being that simple icons printed onto a page, when pulled up infront of a webcam on the computer could trigger an animation or video on screen. If you'd like to see it in action, click the link and it'll have you print out a page with a simple black and white pattern square on a piece of paper, and when you hold it up in front of your webcam, you'll see what blew my mind when i saw it over a year ago.

Inspired, I started thinking about how we could take real time information being presented in front of us and augment or enhance it with other information digitally.

Not surprisingly, people are already way ahead of me in this line of thought and some creative designers and engineers have already started implementing it for use with they CVs or portfolios.

This does begin to get a little sci-fi in my head when i say that what i picture is either people wearing a single monocle connected to a portable computing device or a full headset with cameras mounted to see what they would normally be seeing, but have it processed and then re-displayed to them with an overlay of digital content. Some companies have already started making content and hardware solutions that have students don headsets while the teacher

presents at the front of the class and places a glyph down in front of their document camera or pulls up on their computer and projects to the front of the class and while externally any looker on sees a seemingly random black and white square, the equiped viewers could see content pertinent to their lesson. Imagine a lesson on the solar system in which the students are able to be taken on a 3D tour and zoom in and examine the various layers that make up the Earth's crust. If we could use open source solutions and readily available technology to outfit a class with the hardware needed and the teachers with materials to utilize a class that otherwise couldn't afford a trip to the nation's capitol or the sites of ancient Greece they're learning about in their history class, they could take a tour of it without ever leaving their seats.

How hard is this to implement? How futuristic is this technology? It's already here. Admittedly, like all things, we'll probably see it in the entertainment

and gaming industry.

As with many things, the inspiration is now at hand, we need the implementation and people thinking about what they would want to show their class in a new way. I wouldn't mind having glyphs at the bottom of their text books that while reading, when they came across one would activate something like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, or activated archive footage of news reels from the Vietnam era. The possibilities for the tie in of multimedia with standard forms of media are endless, but this way we could put them in one place and make essentially the worlds most in-depth pop up books.


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