Hollywood Studios Embrace Cinematic VR

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A 100 years after they began telling stories on film, the movie business is rapidly embracing the virtual reality wave to move beyond telling stories and into creating immersive storytelling experiences.

Currently, major Hollywood studios like Lionsgate, Warner Brothers, Disney and 20th Century are creating virtual reality studio divisions looking at how they can incorporate virtual reality into the filmmaking process to create immersive experiences through film.

Disney Studios is especially is bullish on the possibilities of VR films, recently investing $65 million into virtual reality hardware and content startup, Jaunt.

Every major studio is testing the VR waters, with small scale projects run for popular franchise such Warner Bros ‘Batman vs Superman’, Fox’s ‘The X-Man’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon.

This trend towards virtual reality infused entertainment is also being fueled by Facebook forming a virtual reality movie studio, staffed by former creatives from Pixar and Lucasfilm, to explore how its own virtual reality (and 360 degree video) technology, powered by Oculus, can be used to create immersive and emotionally driven story experiences.

Read the entire story over on Medium.com/@derekeb

 

Using Virtual Reality as a Pathway to Learning

Virtual-reality-in-the-classroomVirtual Reality as a Pathway to Learning

“Sharing knowledge is a lovely thing.”Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef

In my previous blog post, I outlined how technologies like virtual reality, especially for Gen Z students, provides avenues that allow them to engage in a social, collaborative, and active learning environment.

The theory of constructivist-based learning is even more powerful when placed in a social and immersive and spatial context like that provided by virtual reality.

Under this new “
digital pedagogy” learners tend to construct knowledge via self-directed and collaborative project based learning (PBL) activities, forming social learning communities, and technologies such as Oculus Rift headsets and virtual reality platforms like MissionV and Google Expeditions.

 

As students go through process of choosing, utilizing, and integrating technology into their projects, it provides opportunities for them to be actively engaged, as well as acquire, share, and make use of community knowledge and showcase their skill sets and contributions.

“What it [VR] offers as a tool for creating worlds and experimenting with some of the ideas underpinning logic and programming that make it exciting — together with the incredible community of users and their creations.” -Tom Chatfield

In addition, collaborative and interactive projects undertaken in a community structure allow students to interact with other members of the class, identify who has a particular skill or expertise they want to acquire, and provides opportunities for them to model and scaffold this knowledge with their peers.

Constructing the Future of Virtual Reality Learning

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” --Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In an evaluation report on the MissionV Schools Pilot Programme in Ireland,  Dr. Conor Galvin, a professor at University College School of Education, found that the use of virtual reality technology in the classroom showed real benefit in tackling students’ social issues.

For example, Galvin points out that the students struggling to being included in their classroom, were able to become accepted by their peers because of their technology skills. Integrating the virtual reality project into the curriculum allowed for shy students ‘come out of their shells’ and boost confidence in students who were previously lacking in confidence in their maths skills.

One thing is clear, as Gen Z move from the classroom to the workforce, it will be increasingly important to deepen our understanding of these burgeoning digital learning styles and prepare educational and training programs (online and off) to meet their learning styles.

If the future for education is going to involve virtual reality, how exactly can virtual reality technology make an impact on the learning process? While in many ways we are just getting started using VR in the classroom, the future is here and it will be exciting to see where it takes us!


The Social Life of Virtual Reality Learning Environments

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The Social Life of Virtual Learning

Perhaps our generation focused on information, but these kids focus on meaning -- how does information take on meaning?" - John Seeley Brown

Early in their seminal work on knowledge management and social learning--The Social Life of Information, John Seeley Brown and Paul Duguid, point out that, “learning requires more than just information, but also the ability to engage in the practice.”

Brown/Duguid further illustrate the active nature of learning by outlining the (action-oriented) steps required for a “newbie” to effectively utilize, integrate, and understand a knowledge base existent within a Community of Practice (CoP) or learning community:

  • Become a member of a community
  • Engage in its practice
  • Acquire and make use of its knowledge

When learners fail to be actively “engaged in the practice” they will, in turn, be excluded from the “local topography” of the practice, as well as the opportunity to “understand the CoP from the inside out”—both of which are crucial in the transformation of information into meaning.

Actively Constructing Knowledge in Virtual Reality Learning Environments
Shifts in students’ learning style will prompt a shift to active construction of knowledge through mediated immersion.”-Chris Dede

Constructivist-based learning, according to Dr. Seymour Papert, “is grounded in the idea that people learn by actively constructing new knowledge, rather than having information 'poured' into their heads.”

Moreover, constructionism asserts that people learn with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful artifacts (such as computer programs, animations, 3D modeling, virtual reality or robots)."

Technologies like virtual reality, especially for Gen Z students', provides avenues that allow them to engage in a social, collaborative, and active learning environment. The theory of constructivist-based learning is even more powerful when placed in a social and immersive context like that provided by virtual reality.

Virtual reality, especially when combined with storytelling, allows the student to participate in the story, develop empathy to experiences outside their current realm of understanding and allows them to be fully immersed in their own exploration and learning.

"The experience of participating in a story, as teller or audience, is typically that of being caught up in it while it is being told...Stories convey meaning about the social context and identity of the teller and audience. However, stories also have an effect on that identity and context." --John McLeod

 

How Irish Students Use VR in the Classroom
“...students are eager and excited about the project, queuing outside the classroom door in the morning.” -St. Kieran Principal Esther Lambe

Students at St. Kieran’s, a school in the Irish town of Broughal, recently went on a field trip to Clonmacnoise, a nearby site with historic ruins. Nothing unusual or exceptional about that, right? This sort of thing happens in schools around the world, right? But wait--there’s more!

What makes this school field trip unusual is what the students did when they came back to the classroom. The students, part of a virtual reality pilot program in Irish schools, used the MissionV platform to create a virtual model of the Clonmacnoise in OpenSim and then viewed it using Oculus Rift headsets.

 


A key element of course design that is often overlooked: designing opportunities (both digital and analog) for students to create social bonds (through interaction) is equally as important as the course content or technology used in a project based learning activity.

In this virtual Clonmacnoise example, these 10-12 year old students utilized both technology (maths, scripting, 3D modeling, programming), creative (archaeology, history, design) and social skills (project management, collaboration, face-to-face interaction) in a constructivist-based project to create a virtual reality experience.

“What it [VR] offers as a tool for creating worlds and experimenting with some of the ideas underpinning logic and programming that make it exciting — together with the incredible community of users and their creations.” -Tom Chatfield

In short, all learning is rooted in relationships. Not technology. Social interaction will continue to be at the heart of any effective constructivist-based or virtual learning environment. I'll explain more about how to use virtual reality as a pathway to learning in my next blog post.

 Related: Top Educational Virtual Reality Apps for Education (via medium.com/@derekeb)


YA Book Review: Dumplin by Julie Murphy

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Dumplin’ Will Steal Your Heart

YA author Julie Murphy’s writing shows a deep understanding of creating characters and a stories that readers will care deeply about.

Anyone who picks up this book, but most importantly teen readers, will relate to the main character Willowdean’s insecurities and learn how to get past their own.

This charming novel has a big dose of West Texas culture, a deep appreciation of the master storyteller Dolly Parton, and a wildly unforgettable heroine — Dumplin’ is a stunning debut novel.

Read the entire review over on Medium.com/derekeb


Josh Shipp: The Power of One Caring Adult

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Recently, Josh gave a TED talk which serves as a call to action for all adults to intentionally invest time with a kid.

Your kid. Your neighbor. Your nephew.

Take 15 minutes out of your day to watch and listen to Josh share his story. Learn how you can be the caring adult that changes the life of a kid.

  Originally posted on Medium.com/derekeb

  Josh Shipp: The Power of One Caring Adult


Why Reading Your Kids A Bedtime Story is the Key to Literacy

The childhood tradition of a bedtime story is in serious peril, as experts warn that parents are not making the time to read to their children at the end of the working day and stop reading to them at too young an age.  image from 1.bp.blogspot.com

A recent survey, by YouGov for the children’s publisher Scholastic, revealed last week that many parents stop reading to their children when they become independent readers, even if the child isn’t ready to lose their bedtime story.

The study found that 83% of children enjoyed being read aloud to, with 68% describing it as a special time with their parents. (“It felt so warm, so spirit-rising,” as one 11-year-old boy put it.)

One in five of the parents surveyed stopped reading aloud to their children before the age of nine, and almost a third of children aged six to 11 whose parents had stopped reading aloud to them wanted them to carry on.


Meet Adam Meltzer: Your "Neurotic Zombie" BFF

2015-09-18 00.41.47-1Jeff Norton Shares the 'Memoirs of An Neurotic Zombie'

I was first introduced to Jeff Norton’s writing a few years back when we connected over on Twitter. At that time, Jeff had just finished his popular MetaWars book series and I bought a copy for my nephew who absolutely loved the book (no small feat!)! Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie

He read them almost as fast as Jeff could write them! And even though I’m not really much of a science fiction kinda guy, I also really enjoyed the MetaWars books too!

(Sidebar: I’m more of a campy science fiction kinda guy, think Lost in Space, Robot Apocalypse, The Jetsons or Guardians of the Galaxy. So imagine my delight when I heard that Jeff’s new book, StarPressed, is an homage to that particular niche of science fiction! But I digress...)

Last week Jeff tweeted about the release of the second book in his Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie series and I knew I had to give it a try. I immediately downloaded the first Neurotic Zombie book on my Kindle.

And guess what? I loved it! Yes, even more than Plants vs. Zombies!

So What's This Book About?

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie  follows the story of Adam Melzer and his two (misfit) friends, Corina and Nesto. It’s an exciting, yet very humorous and witty, adventure that is sure to capture the attention of even the most tech-obsessed kid. And as a bonus, old people will love reading this coming of age (zombie) tale too!

Adam, the main character and neurotic zombie, is just your average middle school (kinda) weird kid who, after being stung by a robot zombee (bzzzz!), finds himself, well, uhm.....Hashtag, #Awkward.

I’ll let “Adam” explain it to you.

 

Why You’ll Love It

  • First and foremost, Neurotic Zombie is a really fun book to read. Your kids, especially boys who often find it difficult to find books they enjoy reading, will rapidly embrace the story and will readily swipe to the next page to see what happens to Adam, Corina and Nesto.
  • Jeff does a fantastic job creating characters that kids will want to know more about. Adam,  and his weird kid posse, are characters that are really likable. Young readers will quickly develop a bond with with these characters and feel invested in the outcome of the story.
  • As an author, Jeff has mastered the Pixar and DreamWorks skill of developing kids entertainment content that both kids and adults will love.

    His witty use of wordplay, smart humor and double entendres will make kids laugh. And adults will especially enjoy the delightful chapter end notes--which I promise, will make you literally, LOL.
  • The series is perfectly situated to be the next big thing: It’s no secret that streaming media outlets are on the hunt for kid friendly content and Neurotic Zombie is ripe to be a snapped up by studios at Netflix, Amazon, Apple, HBO or the Disney Channel. Heck, this would be a great movie on the big screen!

    So why not jump on the Adam Melter bandwagon now, so you can brag about it later on Twitter? #TeamZombee
  • Like me, you’ll find yourself really caring about these characters, and wondering “How Can I Help Adam?” You’ll also find yourself thinking about Adam when you forget to refill the rinse aid in the dishwasher! (Read the book--it’s an Adam thing!)

Get the Book on Amazon!

If your kids are fans of Hotel Transylvania 2, they will LOVE Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie. In fact, use their love of the movie as a gateway to get them interested in reading!

So, go grab a copy of the book, throw in some Pop Rocks (what else would a vegan vampire eat?!), Purell (Adam’s right---GERMS people!) and Febreze (sorry, Nesto!) and immerse your kids in the snarky, fun and slightly creepy world of Adam, Nesta and Corina---trust me, it’s chupra-rrific!

Connect with Author Jeff Norton


State of the Kids Digital Space, Apps & Media

YouthNation_LivestreamAlison Bryant and Paul Levine of children's digital research company PlayScience present their latest findings on kids and digital media at Casual Connect in San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, most children hear about new apps from their friends, especially as they get older, though younger children are more likely to learn about new apps from their parents.

Here's the executive summary of the PlayScience report:

PlayScience: Kids, Apps and Digital Media

Here's the video of the PlayScience presentation at the Casual Connect 2015 Conference in San Francisco.

 

Thanks to Scott Traylor of 360 Kid for the video!


Camp Google

Camp GoogleCamp Google is a free summer camp that gets kids learning through fun, interactive science activities and adventures.

Led by experts, the activities have been designed to encourage kids to ask questions, setting them on a lifelong journey of exploration and discovery.

Starting Monday, kids can join Camp Google for free! Khan Academy, National Geographic, NASA, and the National Park Service teamed up to make a great experience!

 


Trend Watch: Facebook Freebooting

Slate has a really interesting article, Freebooting: Stolen YouTube Videos Go Viral on Facebook, that dives into a new phenomenon where YouTube videos are stolen and then uploaded to Facebook.

As one YouTube creator described it: 

"In May, he posted a YouTube video on how to make gummy candies in the shape of Legos, and it garnered about 600,000 views in the first 24 hours.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, someone else’s ripped version of his video was approaching 10 million views. “The worst thing is just the shock of how viral they go on Facebook compared to the ones I post on YouTube.”