So as my friends remind me, I am bit #MergeCube obsessed.. My “teacher hoarder” “extreme couponer” tendencies are definitely awakened with this opportunity..
However, it has lead to other conversations.. that are proving to very fruitful. I have been collaborating with other ADE’s on ideas, working with former students on school integrations, and networking with new educators. So at #EdcampOKC I did a session on AR and VR and showed the MergeCube. As part of my practice (and general EdCamp practice) I tweeted out that I was doing the workshop. I showed a picture of Hangry Herb an App that is kind like a gigapet where you need to feed and water the little guy to keep him happy.
The creators saw my tweet and responded to it on Twitter.. See the exchange below.
When I found out Steelehouse (http://steelehouse.com/ ) was an Oklahoma company, (Tulsa about 2 hours away).. I started to make arrangements to visit. So I went to meet with them on Friday, and figured I would drive 4 hours, to meet them for an hour.. but I ended up spending the better part of the day. They have created Super Sugar Crush, Hangry Herb, Invasion for Merge Cube, and Ask Kranky.
So I will be honest, with my terrible eyesight, I have never been one to enjoy VR, I am more of an AR girl – because in early VR – I just cannot see.. but Steelehouse and their founder Kevin Anderson changed my mind after showing me some of their work and some of the favorite VR inspirations.
While I thought we would spend a lot of time talking about Merge Cubes – it really just opened the conversation. This company is well known production company in Oklahoma and they make their living on ads and promotions but their team is clearly seeing the potential of AR and VR and using it as part of their storytelling efforts.
So we had a fun frenetic conversation about the current status and future of AR and VR in education. It was a great exchange where we got to show each other stuff and make sure we were on the same page. I learned so much from it and I found my head spinning with new ideas, research ideas, and applications.. I went home and started reading some theory on AR and VR in education, and its been a long time since my creative gears have turned so fast..
So what did I learn from my visit:
- Well done Virtual Reality is about the story. If there is one great takeaway that is it.. It is not about touching unrelated stuff with goggles on, it is about having a narrative that engages the learner or participant! Steelehouse showed me some projects they are working on – and I was engaged in the story. I forgot where I was. Even though the graphics were sometimes cartoony – the story got me.. I learned something, and I found myself wanting to know more about the topic. And after talking to Kevin Anderson the owner – they are storytellers and that is why their content is so good.
2. Good AR and VR content is not free. After talking to several different app developers over the last year, this is a lesson that we must learn in education. I know we are broke.. (Come on, I am in Oklahoma.. right now we are the “brokest” education state in the country!) but we have to be willing to pay for content that is worthwhile. Now there is a Merge Cube app that is $50, that is a bit much, but we have to be willing to buy some apps at a reasonable price to keep the content coming or find funding to create apps to give away..(ie.. write a grant to fund the development). This goes for all apps. However, quality AR and VR requires animation and programmers to bring it to life.
2b. Also I had not really engaged in Oculus beyond just grabbing stuff, engaging in an Oculus story driven scenario was totally worth it.. and the goggles and computing power was an important part of the experience and the graphics continue to come a long way from my earlier experiences. Those things all come at an expense as well.
3)The Education market for AR and VR is not clear. To prepare for our meeting, Kevin got a list of the AR and VR apps that listed as being in the education space. I only knew one of them, Nearpod and I was able to show it to him and explain why it was so popular in education (a combination of teacher control and easy device integration). However, the other ones that were being promoted were not on my radar. and others that I know that teachers are using like Discovery VR and NYTVR were not even listed as education VR endeavors and I know they are used widely. For many of the VR apps that he showed me as being promoted in education, the cost of use of too high. Ie.. $10 per student per month.. Wowza.. Even CoSpaces, which I was so excited about, has gone to a subscription that does not work for US schools. We need to pay for content -but some of the pricing models are not school friendly. The VR content that is being developed specifically for schools is often quite pricey an maybe more appropriate for higher education settings.
4) Those that develop content want to talk to educators. We see this with the Merge Educators group on Facebook too, and all the ambassador programs, but developers want to create meaningful and successful apps. Having a relationship with developers helps them create things that educators can use and buy and meets our needs. Quality development has educators in the equation but also may need for us to support the apps by buying them and sharing our experiences with them. They are business people, they don’t want to spend countless hours to develop content that no one wants.
5). Entrepreneurs are fun to talk to . I found my day at Steelehouse productions energizing. Creatives have great ideas and they like to talk to about the future. For a professor that is lots of fun.
So after my visit to Steelehouse in Tulsa, Kevin is coming to talk to my graduate education class on April 13th to show off his team’s projects and brainstorm with my educator graduate students. I am super excited to see what we can come up with. We are also proposing a research/evaluation project that has great potential if we can make it happen.. I am excited for the possibilities.
We all have a role to play to harness the power of VR in education – there is a lot of room to learn and collaborate and these technologies can be the future of education if we work together to create amazing content with learning in mind.