Learn alongside Virtual Reality developers in England and Belgium skills for creating a free and accurate online course for students that provides real world contexts in which students can develop “hard skills” of software development and "soft skills" of communication, multi-party collaboration, and ambiguous problem solving.
Before this fellowship, I had a working theory that companies were using augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) for more than entertainment, as training and problem solving tools. As a result of the fellowship, I have critical insight not only how AR/VR are being used for training, but I have contacts with individuals that I met that are willing to talk to and work with my students and I on pursuing developing our own (much simpler!) apps in the AR/VR space.
I will be teaching from a problem-based learning perspective rather than a project-based learning. After seeing how quickly the AR/VR space is changing, and how companies are approaching training problems (efficiency, cost) by turning to AR and VR experiential learning, I will be helping students by defining a problem, then working to solve the problem. Essentially, the result is a faster paced version of “design thinking” to learn ourselves and teach community businesses to use our VR apps.
At one visit to a VR startup, I had a spare twenty minutes to just observe the culture of their team of six people. I observed that they could seamlessly shift between laser-focus on a task, sometimes with headphones, to making a silly joke to a teammate across the room, and right back to laser-focus. They used hastily written notes on dry erase boards to explain concepts to each other. It was a unique insight into startup culture that I can bring back to apply in my classroom.
I’ve always sought to create a “startup culture” in my classroom that is fast paced, solves real problems, and offers perks like couches and games. After seeing how actual startups in the AR/VR space interact with each other, and how often they test their work on the VR headsets (constantly), I feel like I can help my students to use design thinking to rapid prototype our VR app development. This is a completely new take on running a class, as it omits homework and tests.
I have reached out to some members of our local chamber of commerce that represent companies willing to chat with my students about how they currently train employees in jobs ranging from factory assembly line to electrical work. My students will create prototypes of AR or VR apps that these companies will test to evaluate if there is a practical advantage to the possible adoption of such apps. If so, polish the app or hire out a professional to help us finish it.
We have been offered in the past to speak at local chamber of commerce events about what we are working on and how that can impact local businesses (previously we spoke on company websites and social media), and we will continue these speaking engagements in regards to our VR app development, as well as presenting at the state education technology conference (Ohio EdTech Conference, OETC) so that other teachers can see how our program works, allowing us to mentor them.
I’ve sought to run my classroom more like a business where students learn things in a just-in-time manner rather than just-in-case. Up until now, I’ve felt like an outcast in the teaching world. It was refreshing to sit in on creative meetings at actual startups, to hear their intensity and urgency. It gives me a sense of calm and satisfaction that I actually AM doing something right, even if it doesn’t look and feel like other people’s classrooms.
I suspect students won’t realize how much they benefit from what I learned until they are out of school and working somewhere. They won’t quite get the context until they are amidst it as a full time employee in the real world. They will benefit because they will have authentic experience dealing with people, deadlines, pressures, and responding to setbacks. Even if they don’t go into a computer science field, the skills they learn in this type of startup-esque environment will serve them in any
This fellowship gave me the raw, unfiltered view of how actual startup companies and larger companies function that I needed. This completely changes how I feel about my methods of teaching. Before, I always had a hesitation to do things drastically different. Now I move forward confidently knowing that what I’m attempting to do is in fact preparing students for the real world. The untested skills like collaboration and creative problem solving will pay dividends in the future.