Remember the feeling of sitting next to a fellow edtech enthusiast at the ISTE Conference & Expo and starting up a spontaneous conversation while the room hums with chitchat around you? Like many events and gatherings of 2020, the ISTE conference is going to be virtual this year. But what if after all these months of two-dimensional video meetings, it was possible to be around other people in 3D again?
What if, much like walking into Star Trek Next Generation’s holodeck, you could enter a room with fellow participants from all over the world and play a game together? No, not Uno over Zoom. What if you could interact with a friend in the seat next to you in a virtual 3D space, and even share objects like a ball? No masks or COVID test required.
All these experiences and more are possible at ISTE20 Live. James McCrary, incoming chair of ISTE Virtual Environments Network, and Steven Sato, founder and executive director of LifesaVR, will facilitate multiple sessions throughout the week, including Designing Wonder. Led by Stanford’s Caitlin Krause, founder of MindWise, Designing Wonder is an “un-session” focusing on SEL and mindfulness in VR.
“We'll get hands on with methodologies I've designed for virtual reality that involve the Hero's Journey applied to immersive learning, using collaboration tools that include 3D objects, immersive storytelling, mindfulness, SEL and design thinking applications,” says Krause. “Many people are now recognizing the critical importance of actively meeting social-emotional primary needs as we integrate technology, and this VR SCUBA dive is all about crossing thresholds into new technologies with care for the overall experience, framing it as something positive, productive and personal."
Other sessions offer opportunities to experience what it’s like for your neurodiverse students. Walking in Another Person’s Shoes: Augmented and Virtual Reality for Empathy lets you experience what it’s like to focus in an overly stimulating environment. Kristina Holzweiss will demonstrate how to integrate apps into lessons to promote empathy in students.
"By engaging our key critical core senses — hearing, sight and touch — along with a social component through collaborative platforms such as Engage, users can participate in a realistic facsimile just as they would in real life,” says Sato.
Engage is a virtual reality platform used for meetings, presentations, classes and events that allows participants to meet in a virtual reality environment with or without a headset. You can download the program onto your computer or tablet and also use it with a headset.
The sessions will be entirely in VR, and no experience is necessary to participate. At least five of the presenters will be using VR for the first time. Once registered, you'll receive an instructional video to get you started. And don’t worry if you don’t have an Oculus headset. The experience is available to anyone with a Windows PC or an Android device. However, if you do have a stand-alone headset, there will be additional immersive opportunities.
While many of the sessions are not specifically about VR, the small group experience will promote connectedness that many of us miss these days.
“This is for everyone, not just for people who are already in VR,” says McCrary. Two dimensional screens are fine, he says, but everyone is getting tired of video calls.
“The focus of the sessions isn't on VR. It ’s about the shared experience.”