Big Potential: Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education

This week Logan Petlak and Bill Cook presented on the topic of virtual reality and augmented reality. The image below is a screen shot I took during their presentation which explains the differences between reality, augmented reality and virtual reality.

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Last week, I proposed two assistive technologies I would like to see created for the education sector.

This week, I felt it appropriate to carry on the ‘futuristic’ discussion of where virtual reality and augmented reality could take teaching and learning in the  foreseeable future.

Virtual Reality (VR)

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Imagine a virtual trip to a museum. No travel time!

Virtual Reality (VR) reminds me of the television show, The Magic School Bus.  Imagine if you and your students could put on a pair of VR glasses and be transported into an ‘alternate dimension’. You could visit locations you were learning about. Your class could be on a field trip everyday with ‘virtually’ no cost, travel time or need to sign permission forms!  Yes, I think teaching and learning would be more authentic and engaging if we all had the ability to teach like The Magic School Bus’s teacher Mrs. Frizzle.

In the following video, Mrs. Frizzle takes her class to learn in space!

Imagine VR in kindergarten during play time. Students could put on their VR glasses and be playing with their friends in a castle, in a pool or on a mountain. Some students have a hard time pretending that they are holding a baby in their arms or driving in an imaginary car to grandma’s house. VR could assist a student having difficulty with visualizing how their friends are ‘playing make believe’ by projecting a VR world. (I do see a downside to having an over dependence on VR and not using our own imagination for creativity, but that is another post for another day) From a cost saving perspective, VR could eliminate the need for many play props in my kindergarten room, as most of the ‘props’ could be virtually created with one pair of VR glasses!

I see VR playing an important role in my safety unit. It could simulate a street for when I teach students to look both ways before crossing the road. It could simulate a fire and the importance of evacuating a building, having a safe family meeting place, stop drop and roll or how to crawl under the smoke. As stated in the article, When Virtual Reality Meets Education,

This global distribution of VR content and access will undoubtedly influence a pedagogical shift as these new technologies allow a literature teacher in Chicago to “take” her students to Verona to look at the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or a teacher in the Bronx to “bring” her Ancient Civilizations class to the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

VR makes the possibilities of teaching and learning endless!

Augmented Reality (AR)

I see augmented reality helping my kindergarten students learn how to print their names. Instead of me showing students step-by-step, hand over hand or having them trace the dots to learn to write their name, student could trace over the virtual dots.24495237233_5c31cbfb56

Augmented reality could be used to guide students in remembering how to hold their book upright and how to turn the pages of a book from right to left. 

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I also see AR help students track letters or words when learning how to read (left to right progression, top to bottom of the page)

I am hoping AR aids my students in becoming more independent learners. Augmented Reality could guide my students to the library and back to our room by placing arrows on the floor in front of them (kind of like IKEA has for us adults). Our school is so big, my students always seem to get lost a few feet past our classroom door. 

The following video got me excited about where AV will be in the future.

Do you see AR or VR playing a role in your future teaching or learning?

Nicole also asked a great question that I am eager to discuss:

Are our kids ready for a virtual world when they have yet to experience the real world? #eci833 #PLN #edtech #VR #AR
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Let me know your thoughts.


Forward to the Future

This week, Heidi, Holly, Benita, Allison and I presented on the topic of assistive technologies. I chose to respond to the following blog prompt:

In the future, what technologies would you like to see offered in your profession? Who would benefit from these technologies? What would be the advantages or disadvantages?

In the future, I would like to see two assistive technologies in the field of education. One that will predominantly aid students and one that will directly aid educators, both to my knowledge have yet to be created. If these assistive technologies already exist in some form, please let me know.

Assistive Technology for Students:

The first assistive technology I am envisioning is a technological device that helps primary school aged students resolve social conflicts. I have previously discussed the importance of children understanding the depth of conflict. Adding to that, I would like to help students better read social situations and act accordingly. Social stories alone do not seem to be meeting the needs of my early years students. Resolving conflicts continues to be a dominant part of my role as a kindergarten teacher. Most days, I am spreading myself thin trying to be in three places at once.

Short of cloning myself, here is my vision of a technology I would like created:

Children would wear a ‘customizable smart necklace’. (Idea of ‘Smart watch’ was taken).


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The device would communicate with my students verbally or through images.

The device would let them know when they are upset or starting to feel a change in emotion. I would like the device to be able to interpret the child’s body language.

Children often are unable to label their emotions. This device would help my students develop the necessary language to express how they feel. The device would say ” I can see you are angry”, ” I can see you are sad” just as I, as their teacher, would use that customizable language.

Next, the device would guide students through self-regulation strategies practiced in class such as ‘take a deep breath’ and ‘count to ten slowly’.

Once the device has detected (perhaps through pulse rate) the student is calm (or at their baseline), the device would help students identify what the problem is, and how they arrived at the problem, and finally, steps to address the problem.

This assistive technology would not only be beneficial to students with autism spectrum disorder, as they often misread social cues, it would benefit all children learning social play rules and how to engage with others. Please note that this device would not force children to resolve conflict. A willingness to resolve the conflict must come from the student. I feel that sometimes conflict in class can get out of hand because of limited access to the teacher (25 students to 1 adult) and limited time in a day. This device would ideally go home with students as conflicts arise outside of school hours. I also foresee this device being a Web 3.0 device that would adapt to their social needs as they grow older.

Electronics for you’s article  highlights a possible disadvantage of this technology stating;

 “(…) concern that while kids are attracted to technology and it could help them discover new concepts, it comes with a huge risk of them becoming glued to the devices for long hours ignoring social interactions- which is indeed more important(…)”.

Assistive Technology for Teacher:

Teachers spend a great deal of time discussing our students needs however, I feel it is time to highlight our needs. Our chosen careers are becoming more challenging.  In an attempt to ‘solve the problems of the world’ I decided to propose the creation an assistive technology that addresses the most challenging part of my day. In recent years, the biggest challenge has been dealing with violence in the classroom. With every hit, kick, bite or object thrown in class by students (whether directed at another student or  at the teacher) comes 6 plus pages of paper work to fill out and a lot of emotions. I feel that violence against teachers is on the rise, however there is a general consensus of lack of  data in this area. Without the appropriate national, provincial or local ‘violence against teachers’ tracking mechanisms in place I do not see my chosen career’s working conditions, becoming any easier.

The correct avenue to address such concerns of collective interest is through our provincial teacher organization, the STF (Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation). Last year, in hopes of addressing this problem directly,  I wrote an STF resolution; “BE IT RESOLVED that the STF develop a reporting system to track all acts of physical and verbal violence against registered teachers in Saskatchewan in the workplace.”

What I am asking you is, what would the ideal reporting system look like for you? Would you consider a system that tracks violence against teachers (or violence in the classroom in general) to be an assistive technology?

Background information: When I wrote the resolution, in the back of my mind, I wanted the STF (Saskatchewan’s Teachers Federation) and CTF (Canadian Teachers Federation) to have concrete data in their hands so they could adequately advocate for our needs at the bargaining table and when developing policy. Initially, I wanted the wide array paper work that teachers were filling out across the province to be consistent, online and consolidated in one place.

Having taken this Ec&I 833 class I now want more out of that resolution from an assistive technology perspective.

I now envisioning the ‘tracking mechanism’ described in the resolution to be in the form of an app. I want to check off if I was hit, kicked, or bit in the workforce. Maybe the app would allow for visual documentation of damage to property? An additional function I would like the app to do is to automatically notify appropriate people; school board personnel, teacher associations and OH&S of the incident. Also in the app, I would like a box to be checked off where teachers could perhaps request restorative measures to be taken. Workplace wellness, OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) to mention a few, could then come into the classroom to do checks on students and staff post violent episode. Perhaps the next day additional school or division resources could be re-allocated to support that particular classroom.

This is my vision for an assistive technology for teachers.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Underused and Undervalued

The past few years teaching kindergarten,  I was required by my school division to assess students using Early Years Evaluation (EYE) and Help Me Tell My Story (HMTMS). The politics of education are interlaced with assessment. I debated discussing the above, but decided to discuss anecdotal notes and rubrics in this post as I find them to be the most relevant to my everyday practice.

For those that are not familiar with the EYE assessment, you may watch the video below. Most pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers in Regina complete the EYE assessment. 

Anecdotal notes

Anecdotal notes provide the opportunity to monitor student’s social skill development and work habits in class. I often feel like anecdotal notes are underused and undervalued. I write what I observe on a post it note and stick the post it in my assessment file. At the end of every day, I transfer the ‘anecdotal post it note’ information into a simple Google Docs. In the Google Doc, I have each student’s name, date and time of anecdotal comment. This system allows me to communicate specific concerns I have for individual students to administration, learning resource teachers, educational assistants, speech and language pathologist and our school counsellor. When monitoring students with ongoing behaviour and work habits difficulties, I have been asked to document how often incidents have happened with the date and time. For example, “When did Jonny hit Sally? How often did you have to ask Jonny to keep his hands and feet to himself ?” Generally, I have full classes; 25 students in the morning class and 25 students in afternoon class. It is difficult to remember specific incidents in my day without my anecdotal notes. The clarity in the anecdotal notes is crucial in determining the level of support a student will receive in the kindergarten program and moving into grade one. Our support team requires anecdotal notes to communicate efficiently with parents and as documentation to support their effort in advocating for great supports from the board office.

Example of anecdotal note:

December 8th 9:08 AM. –  Jonny was sitting at his table spot. A classmate walked by Jonny’s table spot. Jonny kicked his classmate. Jonny was unable to explain why he kicked his classmate. Spoke with both students involved. Johnny spent five minutes in the reflection chair and later apologized. Situation was communicated home to all parents in students’ agenda.

When it comes time to complete the personal and social growth rubrics, I refer to each child’s anecdotal notes. If parents have questions about why their child fell in a certain area on the rubric, I can refer to specific examples with date and time on my ‘anecdotal note’ document.

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Rubrics are another tool used to evaluate kindergarten student’s progress. They are generally easy to interpret for parents. They serve as a guide in understanding where their child is in relation to others in the class (or in relation to the standard). Rubrics also provide concrete examples of what their child must demonstrate in order to move to a higher level of achievement. Rubrics help in explaining where I would like to see most children’ end up’ by the end of kindergarten. Rubrics are used for pre-assessment and post-assessment. They can be formative or summative in nature. All French immersion kindergarten teachers in Regina Public Schools use the same rubrics to determine students Progress Report marks. Below is an example of Regina Public Schools French immersion kindergarten Progress Report.

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In terms of assessment in early childhood many questions come to mind. I often wonder how much can and should be done in a half day program. Further, is the assessment tool I am being asked to use, designed for four and five-year olds? Who is the assessor-consultant, classroom teacher, other? What is the frequency of the assessment?  Is this a perceived or actual need for assessment? What is the ‘why’ behind the assessment? For ‘who’ are we assessing? What will be done with the data? Who will it be accessible to? Is this a standardized assessment? By what definition? Will this inform my practice? As Amanda Ronan states ,

“(a)ssessments themselves have been vilified, when, in fact, it’s why assessments are given and how the data is used that is really the issue.”

In my mind, the focus of my assessments is to give constructive feedback to students and parents to help support student’s in their future learning. I am fearful of overwhelming kindergarten parents by sending them home with too much data on their child. If my child was struggling and I had data coming home every month both formally and informally, saying that they were struggling, I would be devastated and looking for support. What is the point in formal assessment if we are not prepared to offer additional support in a timely manner?

Do you feel that you have the necessary resources available to support parents whose children are struggling socially, emotionally and academically?

Will Web 3.0 Pigeonhole Students?

*Podcast of this post can be found here.

This week we were asked to take into consideration Jackie Gerstein‘s metaphor and discuss what impacts the shift to Web 3.0 has on education? Further we were asked what types of students and teachers are privileged/disadvantaged by the shift to Web 3.0?

Before we dive into that question, I thought it would be beneficial to review my understandings (from the readings) of Web 1.0-3.0 and the fundamental differences of each.

Web 1.0 views all learners as being ‘the same’. The teacher is the keeper of information and directs student’s learning. The emphasis is on the 3 R’s (receiving– listening to tea5623073342_60b2d9cb12_mcher, responding– talking notes and regurgitating students all take same assessment). The learning theory in alignment with Web 1.0 is behaviourism. Web 1.0, for example, allowed users to look up information from an online encyclopedia such as Encarta. Users of Web 1.0 no longer required a shelf full of encyclopedia’s, as all of the knowledge contained in those heavy encyclopedia books, was condensed into one light weight CD ROM. Web 1.0, also known as the World Wide Web, was very exciting for its time.

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Web 2.0 in my mind is the ‘social web’. It encourages more interact between teachers and students. The teacher continues to direct student’s learning. Web 2.0 enables students to look up a word in Wikipedia rather than on Encarta’s CDROM. The major shift in using Wikipedia, is that student’s can instantly change the Wikipedia definition 4037217553_30e35161c4_mthemselves based on new/instant information they receive. Under the umbrella of Web 2.0, student’s are seen as co-constructors of the web.  Skype in the classroom  and blogging are examples of Web 2.0 in action. In regards to learning theories, Web 2.0 is in alignment with constructivism and connectivism

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7158942356_0bee586f93_mWeb 3.0 has an emphasis on the 3 C’s; learner’s being connectorscreators and constructivists. Web 3.0’s keyword that differentiates it from Web 2.0, in my opinion is ‘personalized’.  Web 3.0,  also known as the Semantic Web, will be able to individually tailor our searches based on personal needs or interests. Web 3.0 will collect data and streamline the overabundance of information for us. With the introduction to Web 3.0, our students are being seen as “self-determined learners.” I hope that society will see a major shift not only in the role of the student, but also in the role of the teacher. The belief, with the introduction of Web 3.0, is that teachers will facilitate student’s learning rather than direct it. In regards to the shift in education to Web 3.0, Jackie Gerstein’s article states,

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“There is an emphasis on learning and teaching processes with the breakdown of boundaries (between teachers and students, institutions and disciplines (Keats & Schmidt, 2007, para. 9)”

Although Web 3.0 is still in its early creation, it holds much promise in shifting HOW our student’s learn. I predict that Web 3.0 will continue to make learning more engaging for students as it will be individually tailored for their needs.

Education 3.0 is characterized by educational opportunities where the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefits play a strong role in learning.”

In response to Kyle’s post, Erin asked “I wonder if my young students have even been alive long enough to have built up the learning communities which could lead to interest-based learning online?” I too am having a difficult time imagining what a learning community would look like in early childhood or the primary classrooms. I replied to Erin that “(w)orking on getting students to be comfortable learning in ‘our classroom environment’ comes first. We need to help build confidence to take risks within four walls before pushing (our students) to develop their learning network online. I think students would have the skills and emotional readiness for ‘self-directed’ learning online about grade 3.” Do you agree? Please share your thoughts.

Students that are privileged/disadvantaged

I do have concerns that Web 3.0 could potentially be pigeonholing students from different socioeconomic levels. Web 3.0 will have collected enough data on my students pre-entrance to kindergarten, that it will be able to ‘customize’ student’s searches engine results for them. (The web can already do this to a certain extend now.) My students who will be at a disadvantage, are the students who do not have consistent adults in their lives to guide them and advocate for them.  What if the web is their opponent as opposed to their adversary?

Allow me to clarify with an example. If my class was undertaking an inquiry project on ‘community helpers’ and ‘careers’, would my disadvantaged students only be presented careers that the search engine deemed were within their reach? This is a major concern I have for student’s coming from different socio-economic levels. Are the more affluent student’s searches going to be directed towards being lawyers, bio-chemists? Perhaps they do have a greater likelihood in achieving those fields because they have the finances and appropriate support system in place to guide them through their degree, however, is this morally where we want to go? I would hope society, as creators of Web 3.0 takes this, among many other issues, into consideration in its design. As Jason Ohler asks in the video below, “when do we talk (or even think) about this stuff?”

It is my hope that Web 3.0 keeps the world of possibilities open to my energetic, passionate 4 and 5 year olds. Creators of Web 3.0 (all of us), please do not squash children’s dreams and streamline them into careers based on data collected from such a young, easy influenced and impressionable, vulnerable age.

Questions to ponder:

In your role, how can you influence the development and content of  Web 3.0?

Do you feel as powerless as I do?

Do you also have a fear that your students could be placed into an unwanted mold?

Please let me know your thoughts. If you are looking to gain further knowledge on the functions of Web 3.0, take a look at this video.

Thanks for your time.