Icon for: D (David) Boyer

D (DAVID) BOYER

Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Researcher
    May 15, 2017 | 08:32 a.m.

    Hello, VRFE team. Your project is very intriguing. With a background in ecosystem science, I understand how hard it can be to help students experience the excitement of field research. That's something we're trying to address in the EcoXPT project as well. Could you offer a description of the kinds of geology practices students can use or the phenomena they can observe through the VR as they participate in the simulated field investigation?

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2017 | 12:03 a.m.

    Hi Amy - EcoXPT looks pretty cool.  I would love to check it out some time!  Capturing the "excitement of field research" is definitely a key issue for us.

    In VRFE we are trying to provide students some sense of what it is like to be a geologist through field-based discovery that builds on typical concepts taught in intro physical geology courses.  Though we are formulating the experience as a narrative game to engage students in a story, players freely explore the environment to collect hand samples and study outcrops.  Through their observations and testing of rock samples, students progress from identification-type problems to synthesis problems where they use their findings to interpret depositional environments, apply spatial relationships to infer sequences of events, and apply an understanding of processes to locate resources.  Completing tasks helps them to proceed further toward objectives within the story of the game.  

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: D. Matthew Boyer

    D. Matthew Boyer

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 12:27 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing the link to your EcoXPT project, Amy. I was fortunate to experience River City as a master's student in one of Chris's classes back in 2003 and it provided a great foundation for my future work with simulation-based learning environments. I'm also interested in the development of the EcoMOBILE project and eager to see where we can use AR/MR as well. Thanks again.

     
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  • Icon for: Michael Stone

    Michael Stone

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 09:41 a.m.

    It is clear the VR will play an increasingly pivotal role in education. This is a fascinating application of the technology. Can you share a few of the specific benefits of geological field experiences that can be replicated/simulated with your platform?

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2017 | 01:59 a.m.

    One of the most important benefits of immersive VR is the creation of a sense of excitement that engages students and makes them want to explore.  Though this is a different experience than truly being in the field and VR shouldn’t be considered a replacement for authentic field experiences, it does provide a means to “get students into the field” (note that I also love Atchison's approach for overcoming barriers to field experiences - http://videohall.com/p/920).  Within our VR environment students learn field skills by collecting samples that they need to put into a geologic context to interpret the history of the Grand Canyon.  Thus they need to apply spatial reasoning skills to support their interpretations, which is also a unique feature made possible by VR.   Students can investigate hand samples and outcrops in 3D, enabling a deeper investigation of these objects that is supplemented by hand lens and acid test observations. 

     
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    Michael Stone
    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Chris Thorn

    Chris Thorn

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 11:53 p.m.

    I think you've made a solid call on platform. The advent of inexpensive smartphones does seem to make the most consistently available platform - particular for traditionally underserved students. Are the special challenge around authoring material for geosciences that you found challenging (thinking about both macro- and micro-scale images)?

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
    Carol Boston
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2017 | 02:09 a.m.

    Yes!  While our choice to target smart phones increases accessibility, it puts substantial constraints on what is possible.  For example, we initially experimented with using SRTM topography data to procedurally generate the entire Canyon (or in fact anywhere in the world) - it looked great on a computer and would be viable using a headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.  We had to scale this back for mobile phones, however, and are now using a more "VR-like" environment split into individual levels to reduce computational and memory burdens.  However, we continue to use 3d scans of real rock sample and outcrops within the phone version of the game.  To address the multi-resolution issue, we have a "hand lens" tool that displays a high-resolution 2D image of the rock texture. 

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
    Carol Boston
  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:19 a.m.

    I like conceits of things like a "hand lens," but I'm thinking we probably shouldn't think of them as a conceit and put quotes around them but rather think about these tools as giving kids access to the real tools of scientists and engineers. ;-) They use the hand lens when they want to look closer at something, just like in the real world. The advantage of thinking about them as the tools scientists use in field work is that then you also think about the whole repertoire of tools used in the field and remember to make all of the appropriate ones available.

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2017 | 02:05 p.m.

    Hi Janet - you bet!  I totally agree.  I only used quotes here because in some cases our "hand lens" actually goes to microscopic scale rather than hand lens scale in the images that are shown when students use the tool. 

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 10:43 a.m.

    Hello Team,

    This project has many strengths, the biggest one being the use of technology to take kids to places they can't go and allow them to have experiences of awe that are so important to science learning and practice. I've been speaking for years about immersion being the most important future of technology for fostering learning and recently about the importance of experiencing awe, so there's lots in what you are doing that resonates for me. I have questions about the decisions you've made about the experiences the kids will have and questions about how your system supports learning itself.

    1. I think you have the kids engaging with a cartoon-like environment. I wonder why a cartoon-like environment rather than using real footage of the places they are visiting. What do you think are the trade-offs between immersion in the real-look environment vs the cartoon-like one? Advantages and disadvantages of each? How can you make a cartoon-like environment as awe-inspiring as the real world?

    2. Since the environment you have the kids in is one you build, I wonder why you chose VR rather than simply a virtual world (similar, e.g., to EcoXPT). What are the affordances and disadvantages of each with respect to fostering engagement, curiosity, and making sense? Do you have recommendations, or can you make conjectures, about when to use each?

    3. The EcoXPT people have put a lot of effort into thinking about the scaffolding and tools needed to promote sense making around environmental science and causal relationships and systems thinking. What are you aiming for the kids to be learning or experiencing, and what decisions about scaffolding and tools have you made to support that? 

    4. A big part of experiencing the field is being there together with others. Being together with others plays a lot of roles. Participants can help each other focus on interesting features, get excited together, figure things out together, and so forth. When using VR, the kids are isolated. How do you envision them having experiences with each other when they are isolated by the technology? Or, why do you think experiences together is not as important in a virtual world as it is in the field?

    My intention here is not to criticize. You've thought a lot about the kids' experiences, especially they experiences of awe; I want to get you thinking about supporting their learning, i.e., all the experiences they need to have and the thinking they need to do to make sense of what they are experiencing and learn science content, practices, skills, and reasoning in that context.

    Janet

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Emerson Smith

    Emerson Smith

    May 16, 2017 | 06:42 p.m.

    Hey Janet! I think you've really hit on some of our key concerns we've had while developing VRFE and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

    1. There are two major factors that have led to VRFE's current visual style, which has evolved constantly during development. From the conception of the project we knew that we wanted to do something that was simulated in real time. We wanted players to be able to freely walk around in an interactive space, engage with parts of it at their own pace, and use that as a way to create a player guided, student directed field experience. This meant that if we were going to use any real footage it would need to be used sparingly so the focus of the experience is still on the learner's agency within the situated learning environment. The second reason is our platform of choice is Android and iOS smartphones. Right now our test phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6, a couple generations behind the current Galaxy model. By developing for a lowest common denominator, we want to open the availability of our game to as many people as possible, regardless of what level of technology they have access to. As a result we have a technology constraint that for a while we were constantly battling against. With our current environment style, we are able to not only free up some resources on the hardware, but by designing the environment ourselves we're able to use the physical space as a mode for scaffolding player experience and introduce them to different geologic concepts as they get deeper into the game. The low poly visuals haven't replaced our most important realistic parts of the game, which are the real life rock samples and outcrops that we've scanned in using photogrammetry. There's a video on our VRFE webpage which shows what some of our rock scans look like in the game engine.

    2. I'm mainly a game developer so I'd love for Stephen or Matthew to elaborate on this question from an educators viewpoint, but I would say that part of the development of this project was asking this exact question and going into it looking to learn not just what's possible in VR but what those affordances might be. The times we've brought in early iterations of the game and had people try it we've gotten lots of feedback on the level of engagement and focus students have had on the activity at hand. As far as when to use each, I think the user experience and user interface is going to be a big part of answering that question.

    3. A core chunk of the development has been centered around equipping players with tools that geologists use in the field. We've very deliberately created our user interface as part of the game's scaffolding, using the process through which they approach and interact with rock samples as a repeatable and habit building process that will apply in the field when they find themselves in a real life field experience. In addition we're using a narrative to apply a level-based structure on when new mechanics are added and new tools are given to the player. It's my goal to build the player's understanding one set of tools at the time so by the end they have an intimate knowledge of everything they have in their field geologist's tool belt and and the process to gain the data needed to answer higher order questions about the environment around them.

    4. We've all had conversations about multiplayer and it's something I'm personally very invested in, but that's something that as of right now is being put on hold for a later iteration of VRFE. It isn't a question of value as much as it is a matter of development time and resources.

    Thank you so much for your questions, Janet. Feel free to follow up or reach out to us as we continue our development of VRFE!

     
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    Sean Smink
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 12:51 a.m.

    Great questions! 

     

    1) As Emerson mentioned, the cartoon-like environment is primarily a result of technical limitations related to using fully immersive environment on a phone. I am also interested in using 360 images/video (e.g., the ASU group has been producing great examples of this approach via their Virtual Field Trips project; http://vft.asu.edu/). To me the trade off is immersion vs. realism - this is a topic that we are actively researching. The other point that Emerson raises regarding creating environments to focus on specific learning goals is also valid, but as an earth scientist I would personally prefer realism in environment whenever possible.


    2) While learning about geologic features within the context of the field can help reinforce conceptual understanding, affect is another critical aspect of learning that make field experiences valuable in the geosciences. While a 2D environment could translate concepts to students, it does not necessarily provide the wonder or interest that we hope an immersive VR experience will deliver. Furthermore, a 2D environment can't provide the same appreciation of spatial relationships (or simply physical scales) that can be achieved with an immersive environment.  Nor can 360 imagery provide the kinesthetic learning experience of a true immersive VR environment.

    3) Nice answer Emerson! I will further add that our primary audience for this game is undergraduates in intro physical geology courses. While the game could be played as an independent learning experience and we are providing scaffolds to support this, our intent is for VRFE to be used as a tool for students to apply the knowledge that they are learning in class or lab to interpreting a field setting as one might do in an actual field (mapping) exercise, i.e., students must make inferences about past processes from field observations. From my very limited understanding of EcoXPT, the goal there seems to be somewhat different in that they are building student mental models of dynamic systems where processes and hypotheses can be tested through direct analogs to real-world experiments (e.g., toxicology experiments or tracer studies). I would love to add a simulation component to our game, but it is currently beyond what is possible within the scope of our current project!

    What I hope undergrad students get out of the game is less about concept knowledge and more about affect. In particular, can role playing to perform the actions of a geologist within the immersive game environment increase student identity as an earth scientist in the real world...or can it at least make them more receptive to understanding how we use geologic evidence to understand earth processes and thereby make them better stewards of the earth?

    4) Can't wait until we get to do this. It will really transform the experience. I have previously made an online multiplayer watershed game that I use in classes and the interactions between students often turn out to be the most interesting aspect of play!

     
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    Chris Thorn
  • Icon for: Carol Boston

    Carol Boston

    Researcher
    May 17, 2017 | 05:08 p.m.

    Is the watershed game available online anywhere? I  would love to have a look at that too! 

     
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  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 05:27 p.m.

    Hi Carol - I usually only have it running during class, but you can get a flavor of it from this talk I gave at AGU in 2013.  https://www.dropbox.com/s/7kjkamv4gna4rhy/Moyse...

     

    If you contact me directly by email, I might be able to set up something for you to check it out online.

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 02:49 p.m.

    Excellent answers. Thank you. I'm glad you are already thinking about many of the things I wondered about. I urge you to continue thinking about these kinds of things as you refine this and as you design other virtual worlds for learning in the future. 

    With respect to your answers about social interaction, I don't really care if the kids are interacting in a multiplayer way or alongside each other. I do think, however, that you should think about the whole range of different things social interaction adds to our experiences -- from others pointing things out to look at, to enjoying together, to getting excited together, to making sense together, to exploring together, and so forth. Each of these adds to the affordances of the experience, with respect to the experience itself, making sense of it, and appreciating it. Some of this you can get by having them immerse themselves side by side; some only by making it multiplayer. Think about what is necessary for them getting what you want them to from the experience, and go from there. BY the way, pedagogy around using it in a class will change once they can be in the environment together; think about that as well.

     

    Thank you for the opportunity to experience your technology.

     

    Janet

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Julia Geschke

    Julia Geschke

    May 16, 2017 | 10:48 a.m.

    Really cool! Any ideas for connecting this with informal learning opportunities, or people other than students? (Maybe in a different format that isn't as geared for classroom learning.) You mentioned that experiencing field science and getting a genuine connection is often what causes people to learn the most or care about it. Maybe letting members of the general public play around with something like this could lead to changes in ideas about earth sciences, climate change, etc?

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Emerson Smith

    Emerson Smith

    May 16, 2017 | 06:47 p.m.

    I couldn't agree more, Julia. It takes more time and energy to develop something that can be digestible to larger audiences because you have to include a lot more background information that an introductory geology student might not need to contextualize the experience, but we are including a notebook that you get from another character that can give the player more background information if they need it and I'm trying to make the interface as well as the narrative as accessible as possible so we can attract people who might not approach a game for it's earth science content.

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 02:53 p.m.

    That is a nice way to think about getting more resources to people. I'd suggest thinking about high-school students and geology enthusiasts and maybe hikers as your audience; they might all actually have the same needs, so it might not be hard. And like I said, I like the idea of designing the resources so that they are authentic to the environment very much. You might also think about a connected web site for discussing what they've found and are curious about; I suggest reading Jim Gee's book on games and learning and Constance Steinkuhler's papers about what she learned about kids learning in the context of playing Worlds of Warcraft.

     
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  • Icon for: James Larsen

    James Larsen

    Researcher
    May 16, 2017 | 11:27 a.m.

    Excellent project! With VR working its way into public awareness and some viewing it as the next big thing in education, applications like yours gives me hope that it might not all be hype! Good call on the smartphone route AND the game-based storyline. I'm wondering how you might (or are) using real world connected experiences to drive the storyline in-game. One of the challenges I'm interested in when it comes to VR is how do you get learners to put down the tech, go outside, exhibit or apply their understanding, and bringing that experience back into the game. One of the paths we are exploring at EdGE is connecting a real world geocaching experience with a VR/AR/MR experience. I could see how your game might lend itself to such an approach. Looking forward to learning more! 

     
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    D. Matthew Boyer
  • Icon for: Stephen Moysey

    Stephen Moysey

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 01:04 a.m.

    Wow James - would love to see what you guys do with MR!  Our focus for VRFE is fully VR, so we haven't considered linking real field experiences to it, but the idea is pretty interesting.  

    In a different project (NSF Geopaths) we are definitely focused on getting students outside via geocaching.  We have developed an initial set of local geocaches around campus that students complete for extra credit.  Last year we had around 350 students participate in these activities and the results are looking pretty promising.  You can learn more about our Geopaths project at http://www.clemsongeopaths.com/.  Look under the "activities" menu for examples of the geocaches.  You might also be interested to know that Matthew Dawson at GSA has been working with geocaching.com to provide students in courses free premium accounts for one semester so that they can access Earthcaches (they are currently behind a paywall).

     
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