So That’s What Rain Looks Like #ISTE2015

Rain

I was reminded what rain is this week at ISTE. Visiting Pennsylvania from drought stricken California, I had forgotten that rain can go horizontal. Even when it rains in California, it generally doesn’t defy gravity to whip underneath umbrellas like it did here in Philadelphia this week. In driving to and from the airport, I was also reminded that droughts are regional. There is an abundance of water, it’s just not evenly distributed!

2015-06-26 12.51.14

Speaking of evenly distributed, Philadelphia is the birthplace of our nation and as such it is steeped in rich history that I’ve had the good fortune to visit during conference downtime this week. Historical sites like Old Town are also not evenly distributed. As I was walking through Independence Hall contemplating the formation of the United States in a stuffy, hot, impossibly small room for the birthing of a nation, I wondered how many Americans will every get to see this place? I mean, it’s kind of historically important, right? I bet school kids in Philly get to visit it. Which got me thinking, how cool would it be for students around the US to connect with students in Philadelphia to discuss the founding our our Nation? Technology makes this kind of connecting stupid easy. Flat Connections, Global Read Aloud, One World Classroom and Skype in the Classroom are communities built around connecting classrooms to one another. Connections should be woven into as many curriculum maps, projects and learning outcomes as possible. It is 2015. No more pictures of the Liberty Bell in a book. Live Skype with a class or a park ranger at the Liberty Bell!

Liberty Bell

Enter PORTS, ubiquitous bandwidth and Virtual Reality.

In California we have a virtual field-trip program run by the state parks called PORTS. I know there are other organizations doing similar things across the world. Several classrooms in my district have experienced these virtual field trips. Requiring only an iPad or laptop with a video camera, decent bandwidth and a teacher willing to give it a go, the technical barrier to entry for this is effectively zero. Usually consisting of a live facilitator and a multimedia presentation, I see these types of “presentations” as very early days for this technology in education.

With the ability to stream live video via LTE, experiencing the actual historical site doesn’t need to be dependent on a recorded video or a canned slide show. Visits can be live, dynamic and interactive. Additionally, Virtual Reality like Google Cardboard, which was on the exhibit floor at ISTE this week, can be added to extend the learning experience either before, after or during a live video stream. Telepresence is an untapped technology for Museums and historical sites to connect classrooms to their experiences. With something like Double Robotics, organizations could offer virtual tours of existing physical spaces, without having to program unique “online” experiences. In other words, the Liberty Bell could be accessible to any classroom today if we wanted it to be.

Google Cardboard

Technology is changing our world. We can choose to actively shape that change or we can let the change shape us. Embracing technology in education is an imperative, not for technology’s sake but for the sake of learning. We learn through experiences, technology can connect us to those experiences.

Now, to get a PO for Double Robotics and Google Cardboard through the purchasing process…

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