Unfortunately, I wasn't in class last week so I missed the discussion of Stop Motion, Personification, and Blippar. I did, however, do a quick read into Blippar and I was amazed at the concept of augmented reality. I have never worked with AR before but the sample videos I found on YouTube were incredible. I immediately thought of how any museum - art, history, aquariums - could benefit from an AR-linked tour of their space. This tech elevates immersion to a new level and creates a sensory experience that could completely transform how we experience museums. I'm sure there are other contexts (e.g., flight simulations, corporate training) that could also benefit, but I confess I spent a good hour talking with my partner about all the cool and interesting ways AR could impact the museum space. I look forward to seeing how this technology evolves in time.
This week, we took a class field trip to Global Nomads Group and were given a tour of the organization's offerings by Afiya Williams. A important component of GNG's mission is that "young people lack the opportunities to meaningfully and productively engage with difference in a world that is undergoing vast social, cultural, technological…change." The organization attempts to close this opportunity gap by using synchronous and asynchronous tech-based learning modules to develop students' empathy, awareness, and action. For example, in Project Campfire classrooms from different parts of the world (e.g., US, Jordan, Europe, South Africa) connect virtually over a semester-long program. I was particularly intrigued by how each module can be seamlessly embedded within an existing ELA, social studies, or homeroom learning context. Another program Afiya discussed is Pulse, which are live-streamed, virtual events that take 2-3 class periods to complete. The two programs can also be combined through the Youth Voices project, where students mix real-time and asynchronous work over the course of several weeks. It's clear that GNG has worked hard to diversify their offerings and meet a wide range of needs. I also appreciated that Afiya confirmed the curricula and discussion guides align with the NYC/NYS standards, and that every module is designed to plug into existing content - not something that has to be taught separately as a one-off. This minimizes the demand placed on teachers and paves the way for ease-of-use in the classroom.
To help make the experience more vivid, Afiya provided each of us with a DODOcase VR kit, which is akin to Google Cardboard. We assembled the viewers and watched a few of the VR clips created by GNG for their modules. It was a mind-blowing experience. The immersive, 360-degree perspective heightens the sensory game unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's like a personalized IMAX theatre for each student. The content is authentic and student-centered, and carefully designed to resonate with young people. As with Blippar and AR, my mind was spinning with all of the possibilities.
As a sidenote, Afiya's work in South Africa reminded me of our doctoral student, Janelize van der Merwe. I believe that Janelize's work in the community music space and marimba bands might inspire some music-based modules for GNG. I will be sure to connect her with Afiya following our visit. I must also remember to check out a related partner organization: StudentsRebuild.org. Afiya mentioned that they do complementary work in the social justice space and leverage the resources of the Bezos Family Foundation to effect real change in the lives of young people around the world.
Overall, our visit to GNG was a wonderful experience. It was a great way to see how VR intersects with the ed tech world, and I know most if not all of my students would love this kind of content. I truly hope GNG and other companies like them develop music-based modules in the near future. I'll be among the first to pilot them in my classroom!