Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Spatial Understanding through Immersive Learning

There are a couple of interesting developments coming out of the Innovation Incubator Virtual Reality project. A new project has started funded by GLBD and led by Spiros Soulis and myself with the school of Property Construction and Project Management (PCPM). Recently it has become relatively easy to turn a 3d drawing diagram (done in the program Revit) into a virtual reality experience viewable in virtual reality devices such as Occulus Rift and Google Cardboard. The new academic street designs for RMIT building 8 Along Swanston street have been recently showcased around the university both as the fly-through video above and also in VR form, where you can stand within the model and choose to focus on the direction of your choice.

One of the issues for lecturers in both PCPM and Building Construction (in the school of Architecture and Design) is the need to take increasingly large numbers of students to view building sites. it is becoming increasingly challenging logistically. Instead if students could have options to view a site in Virtual Reality with enough detail to practice observation and decision making it could save everyone a lot of effort.

Another development towards these aims has been the recent uptake of 360 degree video. You can now view several 360 degree videos on youtube - just search 360 degree video on youtube. Camera solutions are just becoming available as previously described

The aim of the project is to capture a location for viewing in VR devices and to then see if we can make workable 360 degree video solutions. It would be great to be able to make something available to teaching staff, especially if it is usable in Google Cardboard.

We now have the option to purchase the 3rd generation of a camera called the Ricoh Theta which records high definition 360 video in a tech specific hand held device - a bit like what the Flip Cam did a few years ago. It makes it all look very easy as the promotional video shows, although I am not sure how such videos could be edited. I am looking forward to having a play.

It looks like there will be some interesting developments as well from the university with Google Cardboard so we will keep you posted.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Language of Studios

Sarah Charles leading her fashion design studio
It was great to be a part of the first studio visit as part of the Language of Studios project. This project brings together design teachers from 4 RMIT schools, Architecture and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Art and Media and Communications. The aim is to observe in particular the language of each others' studios with a view to analysing common and contextual elements that will help translate into an online studio. Each visit generates a report about the language, which is curated in a G+ community amongst participants.

This visit was to the associate degree fashion design studio. In itself it was a very satisfying experience to see how collaborative the whole process is and how well students are doing. Context also mattered in that this studio is placed immediately beside a workshop enabling rapid prototyping. While we were observing a much later stage in the design process it occurred to us observers how you might replicate that particular experience online. One visitor referred to one of his industrial design phd students who always uploads photos of work in progress from their workshop.

There was nothing standout, for me, about the teacher’s language. It was practical and mostly kinaesthetic in choice of words, inviting students to express how they are thinking or feeling about their work.

The student's language was more illuminating with cultural references such as "tribal" or "street wear". This makes use of tools like Pinterest seem natural in a fashion studio whereas visiting art teacher,  says she would tend to steer away from Pinterest with her studios.

It was really valuable to also observe each of the studio teachers talk with the teachers afterwards. There was all sorts of exchange about studio teaching and learning, making me think the exercise was entirely valuable even if this was the only outcome. It was great to see Sarah who was running the fashion, keen to try a G+ community with this group given the success the visitors have had with G+ and with Facebook studios. As Sarah feels she has the engagement working so well with this group of students, a G+ community could add an extra level of learning opportunities. 

Innovation and Promotion

Eureka Machines - 29/05/09
We were very grateful for those running innovation projects who gave a brief presentation of their projects to the RMIT DSC college managers, who responded enthusiastically. It is also good to get together for these and hear the thinking behind what they are doing.

With success in the innovation incubator comes an unforseen problem. Several of those involved have since joining the incubator, been promoted into managerial positions, making it more challenging to participate in the incubator. The joke was made that that the promotions were caused by being involved in the Incubator, which may be partially true. It was also pointed out that maybe it is a sign we are choosing the right people. And it is pleasing that innovators are being promoted into places of influence in the schools.

On a more practical level there is a significant drain of time and agency when these promotions occur, at least for a while, which slows what we can make happen in the incubator. I am wondering if there is a way we can fill the gap? Maybe some of the others here can be enabled to step up into some of the projects? Or perhaps when promotions or extended leave occurs that person can nominate someone from their area who could join in? It does provide future opportunities for these managers when doing their staff members’ workplans the opportunity to ensure time for innovation activities.

We will certainly look at how we might approach this as we review the incubator later this year and look to potentially change how the college supports what we do.  

Any thoughts? What do you think could work here?

Photo Credit Richard Heaven Eureka Machines CC licence on Flickr

What are these cats up to?

Gatti alla finestra / Cats at the window
We get a lot of enquiries about what we are doing in the Elearning Innovation Incubator. Projects are self selected and managed by staff chosen as stand out innovators within their particular schools. It is a bit like herding cats trying to find common elements in project ideas and motivating staff. These staff are already overcommitted as innovators and as is increasingly the case, becoming program managers. It is a real challege to help them participate and share activities across schools.

We have had particular success with a badging project that grew out of a badging interest group in the incubator last year. Karen Carter is leading a project joining credentials both from the education organisation and industry to form an industry badge. This badge will represent both a qualification and a set of work experiences. The advantage of owning one is instant recognition of a certain level of capacity by the industry. This project has been funded for further development by the College of Design and Social Context between now and the end of the year.

There are a number of small projects playing around with tools such as Aurasma and Google Apps. As well we recently managed to purchase some GoPro cameras for use as wearable cameras in textile development and for use by photography students. A few of us are interested to investigate better integration of Wordpress as subject portals and as professional eportfolios. There is the VR project, following on from last year, described in more detail here. And we have a group of Studio lecturers from various disciplines investigating the Language of Studios.

Later this year we will have a showcase that will highlight these successes and open the way for bigger and better innovation incubator success next year.

Walking through New Elearning Frontiers

Photo credit: View of occulus artery flythrough installation. Derek CC licence on Flickr
Several sets of Google Cardboard have arrived. They are a great reminder of the value of play in innovation. They will be handed around to members of our Elearning Innovation Incubator within the RMIT College of Design and Social Context. I took one home to my daughter who quickly assembled it and played around for several hours. One of the rare moments when she thinks I’m cool.

On a larger scale with Virtual Reality, we have been looking for wider support for a project using 3D headsets such as the Occulus Rift and 360 degree video, to enable students to experience environments such as building sites and architectural interiors. It is now possible to easily convert 3D Revit design diagrams used by architects and building designers, into immersive 3d spaces. As an example the RMIT New Academic Street plans are now viewable as a walk through experience with the Occulus Rift headsets. Lecturers in project management and building design have the common problem of not being able to take their students in large numbers onto building sites, for learning aspects of design, safety and management.

At present student access is limited in experience and the Occulus developments will allow availability to experience places that are otherwise restricted. This could then translate into enabling interior design students to be able to also experience places to which they do not otherwise have access. A series of environments could now be available at call in the classroom or the library with the right equipment. And the great potential of the OR is that the immersive experience can be social and at distance. Facebook knows this.  Students can meet in different parts of the world around or within an environment or shared virtual activity.

Along similar lines there are new developments in 360 video. Do a search for it on Youtube. There are soon to be released video cameras, and GoPro accessories here and here, that can easily enable 360 video creation. 
Photo credit Ellot Phillips cc licence on Flickr 
There is also a planned accessory with GoPro cameras that join 16 of them together to combine with the Google Jump program. This creates another method for bringing outside environments that teachers can film, into the classroom.

In the meantime thanks to the smart thinking at Google, we have some low tech options to get us used to these new potentials. Try the Google 360 degree photo app on your phone which allows you to stitch together a 360 degree photo. And there is Google Cardboard as a low tech VR headset. They are cheap to buy and can quickly create a cool experience adapting students’ mobiles. As a word of warning, the hardest part could be getting your manager to approve the purchase of these via their credit card on Ebay!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Designing EII

At the moment I am preparing a draft presentation for the Theta2015 conference. The presentation looks at the workings of both the Whatonearth14 and the EII projects. It is following on from the suggestion to have a read of Dark Matter and Trojan Horses by Dan Hill.

This has stimulated lots of thinking about how we might proceed with EII this year. We have been asked to continue and there is little or no budget available. We think it is worth pursuing as there has been considerable benefit from joining projects across schools and discussion in our Google community.

A few of the ideas I have gleaned from the Dark Matter book so far.
  • It is ok to jump into the mess. It is ok with innovation to not be exactly clear what is going on or what direction things are going with. This is the nature of emerging practice.
  • Work at the local and the global at the same time. One thing I have noticed is that the “general” meetings about the Incubator matter to some of the participants. We also need to hone in on the smaller scale details of each group projects and facilitate activity at that level.
  • There are also a number of “plays” suggested in project design, including Dark Matter and Trojan horses, which will be the focus of another post.

One idea has been to look at funding opportunities such as Kickstarter to help some of the good projects along. Anyway I am looking forward to working with everyone and collecting some more good stories this year.

I am interested to receive any suggestions for the presentation. Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Onwards and upwards - 2015

Howard's and my purpose for 2015 is to continue to readjust and re-frame our processes with input from the EII team. With that in mind, we started mapping how we can find alignment and joint efforts across possible projects. The EII Wall, which now exists in Howard's and my office, captures our work and efforts to that end.

Our next steps are to meet up with the EII members and together move forward in a cohesive but constantly varying and deviating process. Although being unstructured is important, we still need some structure to achieve our outcomes.

Local and global dimensions are now being thoughtfully added. In this context local refers to the work being completed at ground zero, the academics who are part of EII working on their projects and sharing the outcomes with colleagues, professional staff, and teachers. The global dimensions can have far reaching implications well beyond RMIT as the projects are documented and now reach out to others far a field.

The EII group will continue on its original values however, with local and global dimensions.

The EII group values:

1. Experimentation/innovation
2. Contextualisation (school, college, RMIT needs)
3. Collaboration
4. Dissemination
5. Output

Photo Credit howard61 cc licence on Flickr.