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Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler has spent his entire career working in educational technology. He is currently Associate Professor of Learning Technology at Plymouth University, where his research interests include social media and mobile technologies in education. He has conducted research into learning technology in all sectors of education and training and, having been invited to present his findings at conferences in more than 30 countries, he is truly a global educator.

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Publications by Steve Wheeler

Learning with ‘e’s

In an age where young people seem to have a…

Don’t Change the Light Bulbs

Curated by Rachel Jones, Don’t Change the Light Bulbs offers…

Author Blog

Learning spaces of the third kind

February 12 2017

The first kind of space was highly organised. In these 'class' rooms, our students gathered, seated in rows, facing toward a single part of the space - the front. At the front of the classroom were all of the important things, such as the teacher, and of course, the teacher's tools. Many of these, the blackboard, the projector and the screen, and eventually other new technologies such as television and video, were placed at the front of the room because this was where all the action was. The students looked on as spectators, and occasionally as active participants in their education. Students learnt by listening. The sage on the stage was the centre of attention, and pivotal to the process.

Next came the second kind of space - rooms where people could face in more than one direction. The action in these rooms had moved away from 'the front', because although the teacher still influenced the students' education, there was now more emphasis on participation, interaction, ... and yes, collaboration. Now students were seated around tables, facing each other. They had technology on the tables. They were able to create their own projects, learning together with the teacher acting as a facilitator. Students learnt by doing and making. The guide on the side was still within the room, but now every part of the room assumed equal significance.

The third kind of space is still emerging. It is appearing in more and more institutions every week. It is an active, immersive space where just about anything might happen. This third kind of space is no longer confined to a room. Students carry technology in their pockets, information floats through the air, and the they use their own devices to seek and capture it. There is a sense that learning can occur without the teacher being present in this same space, although the teacher may be there anyway, as a co-learner as much as a facilitator. Education is co-constructed, and the tools and technologies provide the scaffolding to support the learning. Students learn by creating, connecting, discovering and sharing.

In my institution, we will soon be embarking on a new project. I'm calling it eXSpace. One of our computing suites will be taken away, the benches removed and the desktop computers and cabling reassigned elsewhere. We want to move away from giving students the message 'this is where computing is done.' The result will be a new experimental learning space. It will be a place where anything can and might happen. All of the space will be flexible, and the walls will play a role in that flexibility. We are planning makerspaces, technology sandpits, soft play areas, gaming and robot testing zones, experimental lighting and sound systems. There will also be interactive touch surfaces on the walls, and as new technologies and tools become available, we will test them out in this space before we deploy them anywhere else. eXSPace will be a place we can try out new ideas, new pedagogies, new tools. I aim to write more about our progress with eXSpace as the project develops. (Watch this space).

Photo by Steve Wheeler

Creative Commons License
Learning spaces of the third kind by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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The way we AR

February 08 2017

At Learning Technologies in London last week I expressed my view that Augmented Reality (AR) has more direct applications in workplace learning than Virtual Reality (VR). This is based on a number of factors. The first is that AR can be used through existing personal technologies, such as smartphones and tablets. Several apps are freely downloadable, including Aurasma, Layar and Blippar, each of which is capable of being used instantly to discover information about the world around us. AR views the world through the camera on your device and overlays additional information on the live images it presents on the screen. Another factor is that AR is a little easier to use than VR, taking less time to set up. Yes, VR visors are now common place and cheap to purchase from most online stores, and they also function using personal technologies. However, this additional cost, although not prohibitive on a small scale, could be a problem if a large organisation had to purchase them for every employee.

One compelling reason AR has the potential to be more successful than VR in the workplace however, is that the latter suffers from a similar stigma to Google Glass. Let's be honest here - wearing technology on your face looks strange, and most people would avoid using it if it made them feel stupid. Google Glass failed for a number of reasons, one of which was its geeky appearance. Holding a smartphone doesn't look nearly as out of place as wearing a visor.

Finally, probably the best reason VR tools will not be as successful in workplace learning as AR, is that while you are wearing a visor, your safety is less assured. With your vision obscured, and with images being rendered solely by a computer, there is inherent danger. With a smartphone as your window on richer information about the world around you, you are able to disengage instantly and are able to gauge any threat to your safety fairly quickly. There have been reports of people falling into danger while using the AR app for Pokemon Go, but these would be nothing compared to the chaos caused by widespread use of VR visors in public places. As Paul Travers (CEO of Vuzix) argues, there is a limit to what you can achieve when you are isolated from the real world inside a visor.

But ultimately, we don't know what the future holds for technology development. It will probably pan out in ways that mean the distinction between AR and VR, as Heather Kelley (Kokoromi) suggests, will become 'legacy terms' for a bygone age.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
The way we AR by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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