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The Future of Teacher Education: 360 Video with Dr. Karl Kosko

POSTED: May. 24, 2021

A few years ago, my wife and I were visiting some friends when one of them decided to show us their new PlayStation VR headset. We tried out various experiences like skydiving in Dubai, riding a rollercoaster, and so forth. It was fun, but I left wondering whether there was much use for the technology beyond a few ‘fun’ excursions. A few days later I had the idea for recording classrooms so that future teachers could “visit” a classroom like I visited various places wearing the VR headset. To do this, I learned I would need to create 360 videos: videos that record omnidirectionally, where the viewer can adjust the perspective wherever they wish (think Google StreetView but in video). Unfortunately, the cameras available at the time were too expensive and I had to wait a few years before something affordable would become available.

Kent State University researchers (from left to right) Richard Ferdig, Ph.D., Cheng Chang Lu, Ph.D., and Karl Kosko, Ph.D., have received a three-year, $1.48 million grant from the National Science Foundation to apply a novel video technology to train fut
Fast forward to early 2018, and I ran across an affordable 360 camera to experiment with. I talked about my ideas with my friend and colleague Dr. Richard Ferdig, and we sketched out a plan to record my teaching some elementary students. We connected with classrooms that were willing to host me guest teaching a math lesson, and set a date for recording. The only problem was that we had never used the cameras. I knew from watching 360 videos, as well as my own experience recording classrooms, that the camera placement mattered. So, I set about recording test clips with the 360 camera to find the best locations for recording what children might be doing during a math lesson. After hours of playing with the technology, we felt comfortable with having a basic idea of where to place cameras for maximum effect. We created our first 360 video of classroom teaching in May 2018, and I made plans to use the video with future teachers in the fall (see video below). A year later, we received funding from the National Science Foundation to further study the use of 360 video and other forms of Extended Reality (XR) in mathematics teacher education. Over the past year and a half, we have recorded more classrooms, created multiple clips for use in our methods courses for future teachers, and explored how these technologies can be used in preparing future teachers.

 

 

Over the past few years, I have learned a great deal about how XR should be used in teacher education, and how the technology might be used in the future. One big lesson is how important our physical bodies are in learning to teach – a lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized more than we could have anticipated. Specifically, the field has known for decades that early in-person field experiences for prospective teachers are extremely valuable – even when they are only observing. Video is useful but being in a classroom to observe students is more valuable. Even before the pandemic, sending a class of future teachers to observe classrooms was not always possible. Video is typically used when teacher educators can’t send prospective teachers into a field experience, for whatever reason. The biggest lesson I’ve learned these past few years is that if we must use video in place of a face-to-face field experience, we should make that video as close to being in the classroom as possible.

Early in our use of 360 videos with future teachers, we discovered that the ability to turn where to look improved their ability to notice what students were doing. When future teachers used a VR headset instead of watching on a laptop screen, this ability to notice student thinking improved even more. We conjectured that using the headsets more closely mimicked turning one’s head/body when prospective teachers are standing and observing students in a classroom. To better approximate the feeling of “being there” in the classroom, we began creating and using multi-perspective 360 videos. These videos included multiple 360 cameras and allow the viewer to move from one 360 position in the classroom to another.

Karl Kosko, Ph.D., and his colleagues use virtual reality goggles and 360 videos to help train future teachers.
We have also experimented with 360 sound (ambisonic audio) and have begun to think about other sensory data that could be included in such experiences (smell, touch via haptic controls, etc.). What’s unclear is what sensory data is most useful to include. Having sound that is directional appears to matter and is something that future teachers need only have headphones to experience if watching on a device at home. As technology evolves, it’s possible that smart glasses will become affordable and common enough (like smart phones) that our students can watch 360 videos at home using such devices. Another technology around the corner is volumetric video. Volumetric video essentially allows a viewer to physically walk around a holographic replication of a recorded event. Such recordings already exist but are expensive to create. As the cost of these existing technologies fall, and the technologies themselves evolve, I predict they will make their way into teacher education. On this front, I also predict Kent State will lead the way. It is my sincere hope, and not a farfetched expectation, that someone visiting White Hall 10 years from now could put on a comfortable set of smart glasses, walk around a holographic recording of a classroom, and interact with a set of digital student avatars in those holographic scenarios. To me, this is part of the future of teaching and teacher education.

For those interested, there are several ways of engaging with our work at the Extended Reality Initiative (XRi). First, we are actively researching different aspects of the technology for teacher education. Due to COVID, much of this is research is conducted remotely. We are also interested in working with peers who would like to create 360 videos for other facets of professional education and have equipment to support such collaborative efforts. Lastly, we seek to create and disseminate resources for interested parties to use. These various resources are designed for use in teacher education courses and can be found on the following digital outlets:

Explore the Extended Reality Initiative (XRi) Website

Visit the XRi YouTube Channel