“Alright class, I have some great news! It looks like we are going on a field trip!”
Those 2 worlds: Field Trip, evoke such fond memories of excitement. Clapping, even cheering, as exuberant curiosity raced through the minds of a class of mentally checked out statues from our almost permanently seated bodies. So exhausted from literature textbook chapters, math worksheets and never ending history lectures. For most of us as students, the Field Trip was always a welcomed alternative to just about anything that even a good teacher could plan for us in the classroom.
This past summer I had lots of opportunities to check out over a dozen locations in the southwest corner of the U.S. that would be perfect for a field trip (The USS Midway is still my favorite, they have amazing PD every summer). Unfortunately, many of the places we study throughout my social studies courses, like the dozens of museums I visited, are just too far away from our school to ever consider. How can we bring the excitement of the Field Trip to our classroom more often without breaking the bank, and without spending a half a day on a loud crowded bus?
Digital explorations, like those available through Google Expeditions are pretty cool and all, but students can only do so much with a Virtual Reality (VR) head mounted display or Augmented Reality (AR) pose on their phone that includes some animation and a little description.
What if the students designed the destination?
I know what you are thinking: Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute! Pump the breaks. We all tried the ‘Night at the Museum’ theme years back. Students wasted time cutting and painting cardboard, while us teachers cleaned up paper mache stations and chased 30 plus kids with a vacuum. Huge waste of time, little was learned, never again!
Alright, I get it, and I have to agree. Many of the project based learning activities we can look back on as epic fails from our very optimistic formative teaching years can now be revisited and brought back to life through technology. In particular, I am talking about trying Virtual Reality, and not some quick view finder glance at a single historic site or artifact. I’m talking about a tool that transforms the process of designing the museum into something that reinforces cutting edge digital skills. Something that challenges learners of all levels and is easy enough for students from elementary all the way up to advanced technology learners in college STEM courses.
CoSpaces has bridged the VR/AR student creation gap by developing a K-12 centered browser based environment that students can use to unlock limitless tech potential. We are talking CAD, code, multimedia, and endless learning methods and modalities, all in one place! It has superseded my expectations where all others in this realm have failed miserably. CoSpaces provides a Minecraft like building experience, coupled with Scratch style drag and drop coding options (and JS syntax options for advanced coders) and rich upload features for audio, video, 360 images and 3D/CAD that are easier than ever to use!
So now I have your attention, and I know exactly what you are thinking: How are we supposed to find the time to learn Mixed Reality, CAD and Code?
Stop right there. In the 21st century, technology is emerging and changing so fast, you will no longer be able to become an expert or even extremely proficient with digital tools every time you want to launch a new tech based project, unit or even an entire course. Take it from me, a once keyboard fumbling Social Science major who now teaches five tech (STEM/CompSci) courses, yet only three Social Studies classes. If you learn alongside them, and start now, you will be the teacher giving your students the modern competitive advantage by exposing them to the 21st century skills they need to soar as digital designers, content creators, and tech developers. It only gets easier with practice and a willingness to take a risk and try something just outside your current skill set. (If you can use Google Slides, you can do this.) CoSpaces is only intimidating because VR/AR is new to just about everyone, especially on the design and development end, it will even be new to your mobile addicted students! But I have another piece of good news just for you K-12 teachers out there. I’ve got a link to the help support you and your students, hold your hand and walk you through the whole experience of designing your own Virtual Museums.
Welcome to the CoSpaces Virtual Museum Project, a collaborative effort that brought together the needs of students and teachers who wanted a little guidance to help them get started. I worked with a spectacular team of Learning Design and Technology students from San Diego State University to create video tutorials, instructional documents and all of the support and partner app links you will need to get your class designing their own Virtual Museums as soon as tomorrow. Yes, CoSpaces does have a cost. However, unlike most other services, they are offering a Free Class Trial for a Full Month! You can take this for a full test flight and see what it is really made of before you go begging parents, admin or the almighty for some funding. (CoSpaces is actually so cheap, you can pay out of pocket without breaking the bank. Trust me, I am a poor San Diego educator and I paid for it on my own, and I am not one to ever spend my own money on digital tools for my students.)
So whats next? Are the gears turning? Have I piqued your curiosity?
Take a look at a few of the great examples from both SDSU Learning Design and Technology students and my amazing middle school students. I think you will be very pleased with the depth of knowledge, the intricacy and agility of this development tool and the creative potential it unlocks for both students and teachers. I challenge you to try to follow along with the tutorials and design with your students, share what you are learning together, and of course, have fun in the process!
As always, if you have questions or are excited to share, tag me on twitter @KevinWhiteSD. I can’t wait to see what your class is creating!