I have a lab dubbed “The Knowledge Garden” where I jump, feet first, into the unknown with my students. Change comes so fast in the Technology landscape that waiting until I have a demonstrable grasp of the subject matter—enough to tailor assets tied to predictable learning outcomes—seems completely at odds with the lay of the land. Instead, the classroom is flattened and my role shifts from being an authority on a technology to being a co-explorer with a few more notches on my belt than my students. Typically, we wade into Beta environments where documentation is scarce to non-existent. There are few signposts and worn paths in these environments and even fewer materials. This allows my students and I to experience a just in time or JIT learning paradigm. What we explore, we map, document, demonstrate, illustrate and publish. It is a form of informal, applied research. My students and I then curate the collective knowledge gleaned from these explorations into a learning repository that is hosted on a course WIKI and made searchable and usable by future groups that may wish to repeat what we did or expand the horizon of discovery in some area that we did not previously investigate and, so, in this fashion, we put our collective shoulders to the task of moving the ball further up the hill.
Last year my students explored mobile publishing on a beta deployment of Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite and, for the very first time, my students and I had produced learning assets that pre-dated the public release of that software by one month! This meant that we had moved from JIT to BIT learning (BEFORE ITS TIME)! This was a very exciting proof of concept that demonstrated how student-based research could be an extremely valuable mechanism for pushing the exploration of new technologies in education.
After my students finished their explorations, we then teamed up with interested faculty members to mentor them on using these technologies in their own teaching practice. This resulted in the production of our school’s very first App on the Apple App store and stood as a use case for integrating the power of the Adobe DPS system as an internal communications vehicle. This has spawned several knowledge transfer workshops to other stakeholders in the school that included using the platform for Academic Publishing at our Institute Without Boundaries (http://worldhouse.ca). Students from the Knowledge Garden are providing leadership in the transformation of how we do things by actively promoting and mentoring the use of the technologies that they have explored.
This sort of knowledge transfer represents a complete inversion of the original educational hierarchy. This winter we worked on using two Augmented Reality products called Aurasma and Layar to support an interactive exhibition on The History of Game Design. Students used Adobe After Effects to produce short, 2 minute documentaries on seminal games in the evolution of game design. These videos were then “bound” to “Trigger” images that were vinyl cut and displayed around the halls in our new School of Game Design. This content was then geo-located on a GoogleMaps API within an Aurasma channel titled “The History of Game Design” and then socialized for discovery. Interested users can “Follow” our channel or perform location-based browsing that indicates that there is content nearby. Once they have subscribed to our feed they are given thumbnails of all the visual triggers or “auras” so that they can look for them on location. Exhibit goers used smart phones and tablets to access this video content by pointing their devices at the triggers or Auras (Aurasma). We also produced a printed catalogue for the exhibit that a person could read in the conventional manner, yet when they scanned its pages, their devices pushed the video content to their devices (LAYAR).
It was amazing to see throngs of people actively engaging in learning that had exploded beyond the traditional confines of the boxed classroom. One student lamented “I wish we could learn like this.” To which I added. “That is the point of this exercise. This is paving the way for new models of delivery.” It allows us to rethink the locus of learning as well as our conventional notions of time and place. The learning is always there, waiting for the intrepid explorer to find it and uncover its bounty. The notion of geocaching learning invites comparisons to a treasure hunt. Exploring the hallways of our school with a smart device is a little bit like having those X-Ray specs that they used to advertise on the back of popular comic books years ago. Our space is bristling with information you just have to know how to look!
Below is a sequence showing short introductory sequences that we shot against a green screen then rotoscoped in After Effects. We created pixelated avatars of each team member as our trigger images and matched up the video so that when the user pointed at the screen (see image above) the video image of the person would dissolve in over the avatar and tell the viewer what that video game that person first played and what they were currently playing. CLICK below to learn about MY gaming habits!
Below is a short student sequence documenting their interaction and impressions of the medium.
Below is a sample of one of the documentaries produced by one of my students Evan Gerber.
If you are ever in the Toronto area, please drop by the George Brown, School of Game Design at 241 King Street East, 5th floor and discover the learning that silently and invisibly clings to our walls!
I am currently working with a small group of Design and Fashion faculty to share what we learned on our journey into AR. I am assisting them with creating short demonstration videos and tying this trigger images that they will be able to post up in their labs.
I would like to hear from anyone else who is using this technology in a teaching and learning context.