Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Augmented Reality 4D Mishkan

I first learned about Twitter about three years ago while attending YouthCon, an educators convention in New York, from Rabbi Dov Emerson (@dovemerson), now the Head of School in YULA (@yulaboys). To this day I owe him thanks for opening my eyes to the world of Twitter and EdTech in the classroom.  Since then, it has become my passion. 

Augmented reality is one of the hit words now in education, and really, the world. Whether it is the Microsoft Hololens, or advertising companies like Pepsi, or the famous Ted talk using Aurasma, AR (augmented reality) is gaining in popularity. Over the past few years, the EdTech world has caught on. Educators such as Brad Waid (@techbradwaid) and Drew Minock (@techminock) lead and continue to lead the way. Although it looked cool, I never truly understood it's educational power until one day in January when I logged on to Twitter, Brad Waid tweeted:

Thinking it was worth a try, I messaged him back that I was interested and my school would love to host him. Our conversation progressed and in less than 48 hours Brad and his counterpart Drew were introducing augmented reality to my sixth-grade students and middle school staff.

Prior to Twitter, this simply would have been impossible. I view it as divine intervention that I was in the right place at the right time and now had two superstars teaching my own students about an incredible new element in educational technology.

It happened to be that just after Brad and Drew came, my Chumash class was up to Parashat Terumah which deals with the very technical and detailed description of the Mishkan.  Typically, with a demanding curriculum that requires us to cover a lot of ground, I would have shown a few pictures, work through the text and move on. Perhaps at the end I'd be adventurous and have them build it out of cardboard as an assessment.  But at the end, I would know that the students probably would forget the majority of the material in a short amount of time. The various pieces of the Mishkan were so intricate and detailed that makes it nearly impossible to remember.  Then a light bulb went off. I thought to myself, what if we could re-create the Mishkan in 3-D and augmented reality? I've always been big into having students take ownership over their learning. In a previous post I talked about students that re-created the Beit Hamikdash using Minecraft. The one thing I can tell you is that when students create and build on their own, they remember their learning. There is a sense of ownership over the material and to this day I am 100% confident that those three students will never forget the intricacies of the Beit Hamikdash. The same is true with this project (see the final projects at the bottom of this post).

Whenever using EdTech, the process is of utmost importance. The goal is that the tech makes the learning more dynamic and transforms the learning experience. However, the learning must comes first.  Before any 3D rendering, the students needed to conquer a few things. Using a mastery-based, blended approach, the students needed to show mastery over: 

1) The machloket of the dimensions of an amah/tefach nowadays in feet. 
2) A basic understanding of the items within the Mishkan and the materials they were made with. 
3) The dimensions of each of the objects in the Mishkan.

After this step, I called in our Director of Educational Technology, Rabbi Michael Cohen (@thetechrabbi) to teach the class about Google SketchUp (www.sketchup.com) and how to render 3-D objects. Together we created a series of challenges that helped the students learn the basics of the program so they could begin their project. Then finally, the re-creation began. Using their notes and a number of resources, the class re-created the entire Mishkan in five days. The entire project from start to finish only took two weeks. 

All in all, although there are some things I would tweak for next time, I think of the project was a tremendous success. After speaking with the students and assessing what they learned, their scores were up tremendously and their level of comprehension was impressive. Huge thanks to the +DAQRI Education team, Brad Waid, Drew Minock, Rabbi Michael Cohen, and of course my amazing students for making this a reality.

Check out 3 of my students final projects by downloading the free Daqri app and holding the images below to it. After a few seconds if it downloading, you'll see the magic yourself.

Next up, my augmented reality yearbook :)

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