Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Asking what if? DevLearn 2017

I love DevLearn. It’s a conference that lets you dream about possibilities. It lets you throw “practical” out the window, put aside issues of cost and implementation, and just ask what-if.

What if there were a space dedicated to faculty for the exploration and experimentation of augmented reality? Faculty would be provided a bundle of development apps (think Aurasma) and a variety of devices such as an Android phone and iPad and a basic set of instructions. Completed test projects would be uploaded to a common area for sharing with other interested faculty developers. The words “no” and “can’t” would not be allowed, only a loosely structured testbed for the nurturing of ideas.

What if there were a series of open forums between faculty, students, course developers, and regional employers? The forums would consist of open discussion on how technologies could be implemented to improve 1) teaching, 2) the student learning experience, and 3) the media literacy needs of future employers.

What if Jesuit institutions could work as a collaborative to purchase technologies as a single unit? There would be one LMS solution for all 28 institutions. One SIS system. One Payroll system. One HR system. With one common support system for all that would be one phone call away. Annual cost savings alone would be sufficient to fund a number of technology projects.

Baycrest Medical Center AR orientation
What if we had the budget to fund a sampling of AR/VR/MR technologies along with several example apps and let faculty “geek out” and get a taste of what’s possible.

All of the above occurred at DevLearn this past October, although with not the specificity that’s described above. Several companies, including The eLearning Guild, sponsors of DevLearn, put on a display of augmented/virtual reality that was amazing to experience as well as watch others experience for the first time. eLearning Guild had a large booth set up with VR devices from Sony, HVC, Oculus, and Samsung. Attendees strapped on these devices and participated in experiences to demonstrate the power of virtual reality. No one was saying “too expensive” or “too resource intensive” or “too this” or “too that”. It was a hands-on, balls to the wall, real time demonstration of what’s possible.

Creating better infographics
There were also a number of round table discussions on topics related to technology in education. One of the most telling was an informal discussion on media literacy and digital literacy and how we are preparing students on their use in the workplace. The overarching opinion was that higher education, in general, does a poor job at preparing students in these crucial areas. In short, the majority of students are not prepared and higher education needs to place more emphasis on integrating the technology tools used by businesses so new hires can hit the ground running, particularly with electronic collaboration.

My biggest takeaway from this conference? Start any project, particularly projects involving something new and innovative, by asking those no-holds-barred, no boundaries, what-if questions of what's possible. Dream big. Scale back as reality sets in, but always reach for the stars. 

Several resources from notable sessions in no particular order:

Resources for creating microvideos

Resources for an inexpensive video podcast studio
Augmented reality on the cheap (new employee orientation, Baycrest Health Sciences)

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