Friday, July 01, 2016

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

This post originally appeared on my Discovery Education blog, Kathy's Kathy, in April of 2016. 

We hear a lot of talk about the use of augmented and virtual reality in the classroom to support teaching and learning. Here is a simple explanation showcasing the difference between them.

Augmented Reality
One way to experiment with and learn more about  augmented reality is with the use of the iPad and the app Quiver (previously known as colAR Mix). This app includes design pages to print out and color, and then, when viewing the page through the iPad app, the page “comes to life” and is interactive, as seen below. In addition, students can even record the interactivity as seen in the video below. 

video

Virtual Reality
To learn more about virtual reality, the use of Google Cardboard is a great way to start. Although the definition above of virtual reality includes the words “alternate world”, I like to describe it as immersion into another place or space.
As an early adopter of  new technologies, I have assembled and experimented with a Google Cardboard device since 2014. For those of you not familiar with the Google Cardboard technology and what it can do, it is really quite simple to get started. You need three things. First, you need a smartphone. Second, you need a Google Cardboard-certified viewer. The smartphone is housed in the viewer and the viewer includes two lenses that focus on the smartphone screen.
Some Cardboard-certified viewers I own include:

And thirdly, using an app on a smartphone, you simply load a VR image, game, or movie that shows up on the cell phone screen looking something like this. You then place the smartphone in the Google Cardboard viewer.


When you view a 360° spherical panoramic image with Cardboard viewer, you are able to move your head up and down, turn your body around, and view a 360° aspect of the image, as if you were standing where the image was taken.
To get a feel for this without Google Cardboard, there are now Web sites that allow you to use your mouse or finger to move a spherical panoramic image to interact with a 360° view. It is not as immersive as looking through a Google Cardboard device, but click on this URL and use your mouse to move the image left, right, up and down to get a tour of my geodesic dome home!
There are are also Web sites and smartphone apps that allow the viewer to both manipulate a 360° image (like above)  as well as view the same image using a Google Cardboard device for an immersive experience. Using your smartphone, download the Round.me app for iOS or Android, search on “Cape Cod Houses” and, when you see the full image of the interior of my house on your smartphone screen, you will also, for a short second, see a little Google Cardboard icon. If you miss the icon, which fades away quickly, just lightly tap your smartphone screen to make it appear again, and then tap the icon. You will see the split view of image, and can load your phone into your Cardboard viewer, and now have an immersive tour of my home!

DiscoveryVR
In addition to static images, Google Cardboard allows you to be immersed in a video, as if you were there. You can move away from the view of the camera to look around at anything you want! Discovery has begun to create virtual reality experiences and tours through their Discovery VR project. In this project, you can view videos in 360° through your computer Web browser or via the Discovery VR app for iOS,Android. In addition, using the same app, you can be immersed in the video via a Google Cardboard device or Gear VR.



I cannot show you the immersive view I see when using Cardboard to view the video, but below is a short movie shot in the the app as I moved from viewing the video in 360° and then viewing it in the way Cardboard needs to see it.


video

The Discovery VR site  includes many great videos and tours, which include the videos below and others in the areas of extinction, extreme sports, a visit to Austin, and more. With a Google Cardboard headset, students can experience these events as if they were there! And, without a headset, they can interact with the videos and control what items they are viewing.



Creating virtual reality tours
Virtual reality is an engaging way to experience something that you can’t do in real life because you aren’t at the site, don’t like rollercoasters in real-life, or have no desire to really swim with the sharks!
However, the exciting thing about this new technology is your students can easily create their own virtual reality tours to share with the world!  I have just started doing this in the last month, and have created 360° spherical panoramic images and and few videos that others can view with a Web browser or via a Google Cardboard headset. You can see a few of them here. I also discovered, when uploading my VR images to Google Photos, they become interactive when clicked on in a Web browser or in the Google Photos app. Check it out!
The start-up cost is under $400 (in addition to having a smartphone) and I guarantee you and your students will find it as fun and educational to create these images and videos as I do!
My VR toolkit includes:
An iPhone 6s+, the Ricoh Theta S camera, the View-Master VR Starter Pack, aSmatree tripod, and a Promaster SystemPRO TB1 tripod bag (not pictured).


The use of this technology to support teaching and learning, both by embedding videos such as those in Discovery VR to enhance the curriculum or by students creating their own VR images and videos, is starting to be used in classrooms across the world. I add links to my augmented and virtual reality page as I find new information, apps, successful practices, and tutorials, so please visit often!
Have you used Discovery VR in your classroom yet? How about Google Cardboard devices? Have your students created 360° images that others can view? Please share your experiences and ideas with the rest of us!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tech Armor has you covered!

Because I am a "gadget geek", and purchase new tech as soon as it is released, I am always very careful with my current devices so I can sell them when new models come out. I am never without screen protection for any device, and, when Tech Armor asked me to review the screen protection products they offered for the devices I currently owned, I jumped at the chance!

Tech Armor has been selling screen protectors, cases, and various accessories since June of 2012. Their co-founder, Joseph Jaconi, talks about wanting to bring big-brand value to the consumer at a much-better cost, which they have done. However, Tech Armor's commitment to customer service and support (including a lifetime product replacement warranty) is what makes them stand out from the competitors!



All of the protectors I received were made from ballistic glass, which excels at protecting the devices from scratches, has the best clarity, touchscreen accuracy, and leaves minimal smudging and fingerprints on the screen!


TECH ARMOR GLASS SCREEN PROTECTORS FOR IPAD PROS



I have both the iPad Pro 9.7" and the 12.9" and was very impressed with Tech Armor's solution to help apply screen protectors to these larger devices. The inclusion of two small suction cups to support the installation process is a great idea and made the screen protector very easy to install! This ballistic glass screen protector is available for $19.95 for either the 9.7" or 12.9" iPad Pro.




TECH ARMOR SCREEN PROTECTOR FOR APPLE WATCH

I have the 38mm stainless steel Apple Watch with the more scratch-proof glass, but I still worry about scratching the face of the watch.

The Tech Armor Ballistic Glass Screen protector ($9.95+) comes with one or two protectors, great instructions, dust removing strips, a cleaning cloth, and a squeegee for removing any bubbles. In addition, there is an online tutorial for those that want to watch the process before applying the protector.




TECH ARMOR IPHONE 6+/6S+ 3D CURVED GLASS PROTECTOR


The 3D curved glass iPhone screen protector ($24.95) provides protection for the phone from edge-to-edge and even curves, oh-so-slightly, over the edges of the phone. The kit includes all the instructions and materials to apply the full-face protector, and comes in black or white.




TECH ARMOR IPHONE 6+/6S+ GLASS SCREEN PROTECTOR


This clear ballistic glass screen protector for the iPhone 6+/6s+ ($8.95) provides complete, clear, coverage for the phone with scratch protection, impact resistance, and minimal fingerprints! This screen protector does not cover the curved edges of the phone, and makes it easy to add a back case for protection, too.




TECH ARMOR ACTIVE SERIES CASE FOR IPHONE 6+/6S+



This iPhone case ($19.95) is a flexible case that adds minimal bulk to the phone, and provides both drop protection and screen protection when your phone is face-down because of the raised edges.

The ports are all easily accessible and the headphone jack port even accommodates a headphone with a bit larger plug size than the Apple headphones.

I have not used this case for too long, but I was concerned that dirt might make its way in through the cut-out square on the back. I have had no problem with this yet, though.



Tech Armor offers protection and cases for many technology products, as you can see below! If you want a low-cost, high-quality product to protect your mobile technology, give them a try!



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Unique Tablet Cases for Educators

I received a note from Cooper Cases recently asking me to review some of their products. After looking through their Web site, I picked items to review I felt were unique and would be useful for educators and administrators.

I requested items that would fit my iPad Pro 9.7" (which is the same size as the iPad Air 2), but many of these products are available in sizes to fit other tablets, too.


Cooper K2000 Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Dock for Tablets and Phones




Having a keyboard that will work with any device with Bluetooth is a great addition to an educator's technology bag! The Cooper K2000 Universal Bluetooth Keyboard will work with any tablet from 5" to 12". For those of us with multiple  phones and tablets, this sturdy full-size keyboard includes a metal support for sturdiness and the ability to place the device in landscape or portrait mode at two angles. It charges via a micro-USB port and weighs only 8.2 oz.


Cooper Foldertab Executive Portfolio





The Cooper Foldertab Portfolio Case is available for various manufacturers' 7-10" tablets. I received the Cooper Foldertab Portfolio Case for the iPad Air 2 to use with my iPad Pro 9.7. I love how professional I feel when I waltz into a meeting carrying this portfolio. It houses the iPad in a sturdy tablet tray, and includes room for paper, business cards or credit cards, a slip pocket inside the front and back covers, and has a loop for a pen, stylus, or the Apple Pencil. The iPad holder can be easily removed from the notebook to use on its own, too. The magnetic closure tab keeps your device safe. The Portfolio material is "pleather".

Cooper Magic Carry II Pro Universal Travel Portfolio Case










For the times when paper is not needed, the Cooper Magic Carry II Universal Travel Portfolio Case is another great choice. It is available in two sizes to fit 7-8" or 9-10.1" tablets. The tablet is held in place by four sturdy corner holders. The Cooper Magic Carry II Portfolio also allows the tablet to be set at three different angles for viewing. The best features of this case include a shoulder strap that allows the device to be carried in portrait or landscape mode and the inclusion of an elastic hand strap when the cover is folder back to hold your tablet securely while using it. There is even a strap on the back of the case to hold it on the back of a car headrest for viewing. This truly is a "magic" universal case-- it has a shoulder strap for easy carrying, a hand strap for secure usage, the ability to view the tablet at three separate angles, and can attach to a car headrest for movie-watching in the back seat!

Cooper Voda Universal Waterproof Tablet Sleeve





The Cooper Voda Universal Waterproof Tablet Sleeve fits the iPad and other 9-10.1" tablets. This unique sleeve has an innovative sealing method with rotating dial locks at the top. It can keep your tablet dry in up to 10 meters of water! The touchscreen on the tablet is usable through the clear front, and, for the iPad, the camera is usable on the back. The rear also includes a carabiner connection and an adjustable shoulder/waist strap for carrying the tablet in the waterproof sleeve.


Cooper Envelope Universal Business Sleeve





The Cooper Envelope Universal Business Sleeve is available for the iPad Mini, the iPad, the iPad Air/2, the iPad Pro 9.7"/12.9", and any other 7-13" tablets. What drew me to this item was the gold color that was available in addition to the black version. It matches my iPad Pro perfectly! The soft interior keeps my tablet safe, and the availability of two pockets on the front and a zipper pocket on the back, allows me to carry slim items such as cables, papers, and small headphones. The magnetic closing flap also doubles as a stylus holder. This minimalist sleeve is great for protecting your tablet in your business bag or backpack.

If you are looking for some unique cases to house your tablet, take a look at these offerings by
Cooper Cases and follow them on Twitter (@coopercases) to find out about new cases they are offering!
 


Friday, April 08, 2016

Financial Literacy for All

April is Financial Literacy Month. Financial literacy is one of the literacies our students need to succeed. Financial and economic literacy are about understanding the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, as well as understanding the connection that personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy. How can you ensure students master the financial literacy skill-set?



The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Charitable Foundation offers a online comprehensive financial literacy program designed for students in grades 3-12. The content of the program is aligned with the Council for Economic Educators standards.

Students engage with financial literacy concepts through innovative self-paced modules featuring custom videos, animations, and interactive activities. The curriculum is called Earn Your Future Digital Lab




The modules are broken up into three levels-- Beginner, Intermediate, and Advance. Each set of modules include items of interest to students at their level. (The beginner level for grades 3-5 will not be launched until fall of 2016.)

Here is a screenshot of the modules for the Intermediate Level.


Intermediate level financial literacy modules

I logged in as a student and picked intermediate module three, "Can I Afford a Phone?" The module can be completed all in one sitting, or students can go back to a section later to finish it.

I completed the module using a laptop computer, but then went back and tested it with an iPad. Everything seemed to function perfectly on the tablet. Of course, since the site is Web-based, it should work fine with Chromebook and the Surface, too.

The module started off with a video of a clever texting session between a teenager and their parent. During the texting session, the parent gives the responsibility to their teenager to do the research for the best phone and also to figure out the costs of affording a new phone.





The module continues with sound advice on how the student might proceed and offers a commonsense plan on how the teenager might approach the problem. 





This is followed up with a quiz about spending and budgets to gauge what the student already knows. After answering each question, the student is provided with additional information if they answer incorrectly but also with clarifying information if they answer correctly.




The next component of the module is very engaging. Students pick an avatar to "become" the teenager who wants the cell phone. This is followed up with a checklist of tasks to research the phone purchase (with a pop-up for each item) and time is left for reflection by the student and a short two-question quiz.



The module then moves into teaching the budgeting process so students can apply the process to the teenager's research. The students can utilize the included calculator tool to determine if the teenager can successfully create a budget that allows him to purchase the new smartphone. There is a computation piece included with some simple math problems and a review of income vs. fixed expenses vs. variable expenses. 

There is a fun final activity that allows the students to build a balanced budget for the teenager. The interesting part is, as the student eliminates unnecessary expenses, there are pop-ups with unexpected expenses or income, like a library fine or income from babysitting. This component truly simulates what this is like in real-life and teaches the students the difference between wanting something and being able to afford it.



There is a wrap-up of the module with a nice overview of the processes taught and including some extension tips for dealing with budgeting throughout their lives for purchasing a home, saving for retirement, etc.


The final component of the module is the post-test, which includes several types of summative assessments. The post test should only take about ten minutes, and, at the completion, the student earns a badge to show the module is completed.





The Advanced modules, intended for high school students, also include real-life videos starring teenagers. This makes the modules even more engaging for the students.



After the student has completed the modules, the site also provides additional resources to build-upon the skills practiced in the program including planning for college, home buying, risk management and insurance, planning and money management, and more.



SET-UP PROCESS


To give students access to the site, the teacher or home school parent creates a teacher account on the site.

Once logged-in, the teacher creates a default password for all of the student accounts. When a default password is set, students will be asked to create a personal password on their first login.

Student names can be entered manually or uploaded via a CSV file.


The teacher then creates a class and picks students to add to the class.



Teachers then provides students with the the URL to the PwC Charitable Foundation Earn Your Future Digital Lab site, their username and the default password. Students can log-in to the site and work on the modules.

One suggestion, to make sure students stay on task and complete the modules they pick to complete is to have the student print out their "badges" page which will show the completed modules.

SUMMARY

The PwC Charitable Foundation Earn Your Future program is brand new and additional features are planned for the near future. These include handbooks and module planning tools for the teacher and the ability to provide feedback to students via embedded assessment tools.

If you want to engage your students in learning more about personal finances, whether in April or throughout the year, the PwC Charitable Foundation curriculum, Earn Your Future, is a wonderful way to engage students and help them practice and learn useful, life-long skills!



This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and the PwC Charitable Foundation
I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.