It’s the morning of Edcamp Leadership, and all around the world educational leaders will be learning from each other, sharing ideas, and talking about how to better their schools, classrooms, and education in general.
I, for one, am excited to help lead our team of 22 school administrators (yes, all of them including business and HR) down to Philadelphia for Edcamp Leadership today. It’s going to be the first time at an Edcamp for many of them, and I know how exciting, exhausting, and uplifting of an experience that can be!
Today I want to share a quick idea (that is also cheap) that has the potential to truly boost the learning and instructional practice at any school.
Virtual Reality Classroom Walkthroughs
It seems like augmented reality and virtual reality are both beginning to have their coming of age moments. Augmented reality has been used by educators in the classroom (in the form of apps like Aurasma) for a while, but the Pokemon GO phenomenon has made AR a household name.
Similarly, virtual reality, with its cheap headsets like Google Cardboard, is beginning to become a household name as organizations like the New York Times have sent these devices to all of their readers.
Often we wonder how can we use this new technology in our schools? Today I have an idea for you that is simple, relatively cheap, and extremely effective.
The Power of Learning Walks
At Upper Perkiomen School District we’ve begun to do learning walks the past two years to focus on instructional practice in the classroom. Learning walks have teachers going into their colleagues classroom for a lesson, to learn, observe, and eventually reflect on the type of instruction and pedagogy that took place.
These are very short, often informal, learning opportunities for teacher to learn alongside their colleagues. I’ve said before that learning from each other is often the best way to grow as a teacher. Teachers do learn best from other teachers, and the learning walks have demonstrated a way to open up conversations about instructional practice that might not come up if you did not have that opportunity.
It’s hard to get out of the classroom and visit other teachers during the school day. Sometimes it requires loss of prep time, or getting a substitute.
And there are many times where schedules don’t line up and teachers are unable to get into a classroom and see a mini-lesson that they were hoping to check out based on these limitations.
The solution: Virtual reality walkthroughs.
If teachers learn best from observing each other and having follow up conversations, then we need more of these learning walks to take place!
Virtual reality has now made it possible to do this on your own time, when it is convenient and fits the teacher’s schedule.
Here’s how the filming works:
First, you’ll have to get a 360 degree video camera. This allows you to film in 360, so you can watch the entire room (and lesson) as if you were in the classroom in real-time. There are many different types of 360 cameras, and they have all different levels of pricing. One I’d recommend is 360fly HD at $399.
Next, you’ll have to mount this 360 camera in the middle of the room (sometimes on a projector works) so that it can film the entire learning scene.
Once the setup is complete, you have to make sure to let the teacher pick the appropriate parts of the lesson that they’d like to film. I think short 10 minute type mini-lessons are perfect for filming. Teachers should try and film multiple lessons and choose the ones they best feel represent the learning they want to share with colleagues.
The filming is simple and afterwards you have a number of different editing options (I’d try to edit as little as possible) before sharing it out with colleagues.
Now for the virtual learning walk:
You are able to share and export the video to all kinds of platforms (including YouTube). However, be sure to keep it as private as possible, and respect student privacy in the classroom. There will be students on the “do not photo” list as well as others who would rather their face not be on Youtube for all to see. Remember this is for learning purposes inside the school, and unless everyone is ok with it being online and shared, you want to keep the videos on a private school-only site.
I’d pick a common time (like an in service, PLC, or department meeting) to watch these lessons. You’ll need a cheap VR headset, like Google Cardboard, to watch in 360 virtual reality.
Depending on how many lessons you have filmed in 360, teachers can plug in their headphones, start the video, and begin to watch a lesson as they look around the classroom…just as they would if they were watching live!
And the follow up:
This is a fantastic way to share best practices. It’s also a smart way to share lessons where teachers and students are taking a learning/making risk, and all may not go as planned. If every lesson you watch is “perfect” you might not learn as much as getting the experience of watching students stumble through trying something new.
Now teachers can reference lessons, moments, and experiences during reflection that they have all witnessed. The learning opportunities are extremely empowering.
If you plan on using VR to share out lessons this school year, please use the hashtag #vrlesson. We can all learn from each other, and this is just a new and powerful way to share those experiences!