I’ve previously shared a bit about our experiments with virtual reality (see A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Virtual Reality In Education).
Mary Stokke, a very talented student teacher, has “taken the ball and run with it” recently while she has taught a group of Intermediate English Language Learners (my classes are often comprised of multi-level ELLs and, when possible, student teachers work with small groups of them).
Here’s a guest post from her where she talks about initial experiments viewing virtual reality videos and photos to student creating their own. It’s now leading to ELLs teaching mainstream media classes in the school how to create virtual reality videos of the school.
Note that she has some questions for readers at the end of the post. Please contribute your responses in the comments section if you can help.
Mary Stokke Vides is a new English and Social Science teacher, studying at Sacramento State. She was union organizer for 8.5 years:
I have been working in Larry Ferlazzo’s Intermediate English class for seven months. It is a great opportunity to try out new methods and be creative, because it is a very small class (it started with three students and has grown to seven). Larry purchased durable VR headsets months ago, and we attempted to view 360 videos with them, but had a poor wifi connection and frankly hadn’t yet put a lot of time into figuring out how using the headsets added value to our instruction.
Later this year, our school’s innovative Digital Media teacher John Hull lent us our school’s only RICOH Theta S 360 degree camera to help us create our own images. We have been excited for the potential of this technology and looking for opportunities to try it out (and not waste Larry’s money). I thought that a good chance to do this again would be in our Persuasive Essay unit, as VR lends itself to taking a perspective.
More than just a novelty, I have found 360 media to be a great way for students to build empathy by immersing themselves in someone else’s story, like the children of this mother who is in hiding to avoid deportation.
Below you will find descriptions of the lessons that I created, and some of the results. There are some challenges to making this technology accessible to students through school, so feedback from technically inclined readers in the comments would be greatly appreciated!
Persuasion Lesson Plan Using 360 Technology
Evaluating & Creating 360 Photos
- Students wrote a prediction about what they thought the qualities of a good 360 photo would be using a graphic organizer.
- Students viewed 360 photos on the app Roundme. We explored the map function of this app and students played around with different photos before we examined this photo together.
- Students then revised their predictions based on what they saw.
- Next, students shared what they wrote and created a list of what makes a good versus a bad 360 photo.
- Next, we created our own photos. I borrowed some clothing props (hats, jackets, a bathrobe) from our drama teacher, Mr. McElheney and students had fun going out to the school stadium in their new attire.
- Students created 360 photos that we uploaded via Google Street View. Here’s a sample:
The entire lesson plan link is here.
Results: Students enjoyed going outdoors to take photos. They debriefed their results as “good” or “so-so” because their pictures had an interesting background and people doing things, but as one student said, you don’t know what the people are doing, and some parts of the picture are blurry. If I did this again, I’d give students more specific prompts for the elements of the story they are trying to tell. Some words or captions would also be a good way to get students to write during this assignment, and make the purpose of the photo more clear to the audience.
Resources for viewing 360 photos and videos:
- NYT Daily 360: This site has beautifully produced 360 degree videos on current news topics. They are especially good at producing pieces that allow students to explore an interesting landscape or experience a new perspective, like a brief narrative from a woman who faced xenophobic hatred on the subway in New York, or a view from the crowd at a huge free rural health clinic in Tennessee. In my experience, it’s actually easier to load and view this videos through the YouTube app at the New York Times Daily 360 channel rather than the NYT VR app when you have a slow internet connection.
- Facebook now allows you to post and view 360 degree photos. There are some amazing images of man-made and natural wonders on the page 360 Photos that would be great for geography classes. The great thing about this site, and Roundme (used in the plan above) is that the images can be viewed well in a VR viewer or right on your desktop or tablet.
- The Google Cardboard app and Google Streetview also are good resources for viewing still images of interesting places all over the world.
360 Video Creation
My English students read the book about a young teen who joins a gang, called “It Doesn’t Have to be This Way/No tiene que ser asi” by Luis J. Rodriguez. After reading, they wrote a brief essay evaluating why some people say gangs have positive or negative consequences, and then explaining their own opinion about the consequences of joining gangs. I thought a great way to expand this lesson to give students chances to listen, speak, write, and collaborate was to figure out how to create 360 degree skits about questions related to gangs.
My lesson plan with links to different scaffolding documents (Storyboard, setting, dialogue, etc.) to help students prepare sketches is here.
Here are two of the videos that they came up with:
If they look strange on your browser, you will have better luck viewing them on your phone through the YouTube app.
Results: Students were highly engaged in this activity. They were creative, and had fun. They were motivated to write the elements of their videos, plan their props, practice their acting, and help one another record.
- Here are the notes students typed up as we debriefed the lesson as well as the agenda we created for teaching other students about the lesson.
- Frontload some vocabulary activities before making the video and ask students to use some of those words in their skit.
- Use a microphone and teach students to add captions on YouTube (I did it this time) so they get practice creating videos that are more engaging and comprehensible to an audience.
- Students are going teach what they learned to Mr. Hull’s yearbook class to inform an experiment with creating a 360 digital yearbook to go with the print copy.
Technical Practices for 360 photos and video
- The Google Street View app is a great tool for this. An important thing to do is pair your smartphone with your RICOH Theta S before you take photos. That way you can use the photo editor. Make sure to hit the wifi button on your camera and then go to your phone setting and select the camera’s wifi connection as your wifi source. It will be a name that includes the word “ricoh” or “theta” and a lot of digits. Once you do this, you can go to Google Street View on your smartphone, select the camera icon, and as you take photos with the Ricoh camera, you’re able to view them on your phone, make edits, and upload the photos.
- The great thing about the Street View app is that it can detect faces and blur them out for anonymity.
- Uploading photos on the Theta S smartphone app also allows you to blur photos, but as far as I can tell, you can only share photos to Facebook, not save them to your phone or another location.
Shooting, editing and uploading videos:
- 360 videos need to be uploaded to spherical format in order to appear on Youtube to be compatible with Google Cardboard or other VR viewers. This format also makes it possible for you to watch the video on your desktop in Youtube on a flat screen where you can drag the cursor in order to navigate to different views within the video.
- The RICOH company offers a variety of applications for editing and sharing photos and videos for phones and desktops. However, the desktop doesn’t seem to allow you to do a spherical conversion. As a result, I had to download 2 smartphone apps from the company, the “Theta S” app and the “THETA+ Video” app. First, I had to upload a video from the camera to the Theta S app (by connecting through the device’s wifi as by hitting the wifi button on the camera and then selecting the camera’s wifi connection as my wifi source). Then, I had to open the THETA+ Video app and select the video format 360 video in the app. In this app you can add filters and trim the video or edit it’s frame speed. Finally, you can upload this video to your Youtube account.
- In YouTube, you can add captions to your video by going to the “Subtitles/CC” tab in your editing settings. Happily, the captions carry over into a VR viewer like Google Cardboard.
Materials we used:
360 camera, Camera mount (we put it on a borrowed hard hat),VR viewer (for viewing the final product), and a smartphone.
Questions for readers:
- Is there a way to upload 360 videos into a desktop computer and convert them to the spherical view needed for VR viewers so students could edit these videos in a computer lab?
- What kinds of lessons have you done using 360 cameras? Do find it adds value in the classroom above simply viewing or taking pictures and videos?