About the ImagiLearning Blog…

We have made some changes to the ImagiLearning Blog.

We’ve gone through and just trashed a bunch of posts that have either become dated, or we just got tired of seeing them keep popping up on here. We wanted to clean things up a bit, and clear-out some of the oldies.

We have a few more changes in the works, and look forward to getting more content posted as we continue our eLearning work at ImagiLearning. We’ll also be updating our “Resources” tab on this page, adding some new things we’ve been exploring.

Our primary site, where you will find our ongoing projects and resources, is on our LMS at ImagiLearning.net.

Thanks.

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Learning Through Video from PacktPub: Building an Architectural Walkthrough Using Unity

Unity3d is recognized as one of the leading game development engines on the market. However, Unity is being used for a wide range of activities other than “games”. This video course introduces how the engine can be used to create highly realistic, 3d walkthrough environments based on architectural models. The result could be a visual ‘walkthrough’ for a client or for marketing and PR, a virtual-visit to new model home designs, or perhaps to demonstrate the impact of major renovations in a building or location. Whatever the goal, the 8 sections of this video course provide the steps to move from a basic model, to a fully immersive, 3d walkthrough environment.

The instructor for Building an Architectural Walkthrough Using Unity is an architect and engineer, which can sometimes mean someone who really knows their stuff, but may not be able to communicate it clearly to new learners. But in this case, the instructor does an excellent job of presenting and explaining the steps, without getting bogged-down in jargon.

However, it is important to stress that this course is not an introductory tutorial to any of the software included in the lessons, including Unity. The instructor is up-front about this at the beginning of the course by saying that “a basic understanding” of Unity is required, as well as for the other programs covered.

To help clarify that point for Unity, it will be important that the learner understand how to create a new project in Unity, and have a comfort level with how to look and move around the screen, and how to work with basic objects. To help those who are completely new to Unity3d, I would suggest taking a quick look at the tutorials on the Unity site, especially the two tutorials called “Editor” and “Architecture” http://unity3d.com/learn/tutorials/modules.

I’ll add that the course also assumes some basic computer skills, such as downloading and “unpacking” compressed files.

Along with Unity, the course will also include activities with SketchUp, ArchiCAD and Photoshop. You can use the free version of these programs for the course, some of the more advanced features will require the purchase of the retail versions. But again, you can complete the course and evaluate the potential use, using only the free versions of the programs. If you don’t have access to PhotoShop, it would be possible to use the free GIMP photo editor instead.

The course is divided into 8 sections, following a nice flow that takes you from importing your first simple model, all the way to learning how to publish your immersive environment on you mobile device. Each section contains five or six video lessons, and some lessons include code examples that come with the course download.
Here is a quick look at the eight sections:

1. Importing Architectural Models in Unity: This is not a tutorial about how to create models, so it assumes you either have a model available in SketchUp or ArchiCAD, or you will download one from one of the many free sources online.

2. Navigating an Architectural Model: This shows how to enter the environment using either a first or third-person character. Following the full steps for the 3rd person character will require a purchase from the Unity Asset Store amounting to about $30.00. You can create the 1st person character approach at no cost.

3. Improving Materials with Shaders and Texures: This section shows how to make the model look better using textures and images, and to add a sky and other environmental visuals.

4. Adding Lights and Shadows: This section shows how to use lighting effects to improve both the appearance and performance of your environment.

5. Animating Objects and Lighting: This module shows how to use animation to create doors that open, and elevator and light movement. It is important to note that Unity has added new animation features, yet the steps presented here are still fully usable.

6. Scripting to Add Interactivity, and
7. Expanding the Scripts: These two modules show how you can create scripts to bring the environment to life, creating objects that can change their texture when touched, adding a user interface on the screen to provide information, how to switch cameras and more. Using these, you could touch an object and have information display on-screen, of have your camera view change to have a close-up view at something. And, no previous experience with scripting is needed; these tutorials begin with the very basics and will teach you what you need.

8. Presenting the Final Walkthrough: This section shows how to share your environment once you have created it. This includes posting it online, and what is involved in making it mobile using IOS.

While it is true that a beginner is unlikely to sit-down and create a 3d masterpiece over their first weekend with this course, it is also true that it no longer requires a full-blown, hard-core programmer to create these highly immersive, interactive 3d environments. This PacktPub video course, when coupled with at least a basic beginner understanding of Unity and computer file management, will provide what you need to create 3d architectural environments that your users can walkthrough and interact with.

Building an Architectural Walkthrough Using Unity
PacktPub Video Course

Full course details HERE.

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Learning through Video – from Packt Publishing

Unity3d is a powerful tool for creating games and learning activities, but for someone new to Unity3d, it can be a bit intimidating. There is a huge selection of learning materials online, including a good number of videos. However, many of those videos suffer from the same issue that a lot of other “training materials” suffer from: they are created by people who really are ‘experts’ in Unity3d, but have little or no experience in designing and creating ‘training’ materials. So, many of the videos we have explored go way too fast, have no real focus, skip the pieces that really help you scaffold the learning, or are just fuzzy and to hard to see. And sometimes we do find a really good video, but the cost is just more than I want to deal with.

But if you are looking for some intro videos for Unity3d that are actually designed really well, are very clear to see and follow, and are also a good value, you might want to take a look at the set available at Packt Publishing. As I write this, there are currently only three in the series on Unity3d, but each video is actually a ‘set’ of individual video lessons. For example, the first video entitled Unity 3D Game Development by Example consists of 8 individual lessons filling two and a half hours, each with a focused group of objectives covered in a manageable 20 minutes or so of time. So the content is presented in an intentional way, and you have time to soak it up, section at a time. The pacing is good, the instructor takes time to explain details that others usually just skip-over, and the details on the screen are crisp and very easy to follow.

One of the real challenges of any video training, especially for a program as active as Unity3D, is how to keep up with the constant changes as the software is updated. So far, the content I’ve explored in the PactPub videos is focused enough on the ‘core’ skills and practices of Unity3d, that the learning has been transferable to any of the new Unity3d versions.

As I write this, along with the Unity3D Game Development by Example video, which provides a strong overview of the basics of using Unity, there are two additional videos, both of which focus on scripting in Unity3D. Having some understanding of how to script in Unity3d is really valuable, but it can also be one of the more intimidating of all of the skills needed, especially for someone with little or no previous experience. Getting Started with Unity4 Scripting does an excellent job of providing that ‘first step’ in a painless way, and Mastering Unity4 Scripting picks up from there and covers some of the more sophisticated features that help you create more ‘exciting’ Unity3d activities. These two videos follow the same basic format as the first, and provide a very accessible path to becoming comfortable with Unity3d.

Finally, while this post is about videos, I’ll just add that I am a huge fan of the PackPub books on Unity3d as well, both print and eBook. What sets them apart from many others is that most of the materials in the PackPub books actually follow the development of ‘real’ activities in Unity3d, and aren’t just “here’s something you ought to learn”. As a result, as you go through the material and build actual ‘games’, you clearly see the ‘why’ in the things you do, making them more meaningful. While I may not be all that excited about the specific “game” we are actually creating, having that as the center of everything makes a huge difference in having things make sense.

And finally…finally, it’s worth taking a quick look at the PackPub website every now and then. They occasionally offer some pretty amazing sales on things, like the eBook Bonanza offered over the Christmas Holiday in which all eBooks were $5.

And finally…finally…finally, I’ll just say that this post is not intended as a “commercial” for PackPub. However, as we dig through the huge amounts of training materials available today, when I find something that stands out as “really, really good”, I want to point it out…and give them some credit along the way.

http://bit.ly/1dqzpEO

- John

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Why ImagiLearning?

We were lucky to be able to attend a concert by ‘the legend’, B. B. King a few days ago. Along with hearing some great music and fun stories, I came away with a new thought running through my mind that helped me understand something about why ImagiLearning has something to offer our clients that many others just don’t have. I’ll explain.

The warm-up band for B. B. King was a really good, local Blue’s band, made of of some really good musicians. They started out strong and by the end of their 30 minute set they had the audience up and clapping, having a great time with the music. Then we had the brief intermission while the stage was reset for B. B. King’s band.

Without any fanfare or even introduction, the intermission ended with a guy in a black suit, slowly walking across the stage carrying a saxophone. He walked slowly, and was hunched so far over, I began to wonder if the poor guy was going to make it to the mike. He didn’t look up, but slowly tipped the microphone to face his horn, and then he began. The crowd went quiet. I mean ‘deadly’ quiet. Every eye in the place was on the horn player, and the look in every eye was one of awe. The sound that came out of that horn was something similar to what we heard from the warm-up band, but then again, it was nothing like it all.

After a few minutes, the rest of the band came on stage…a drummer, keyboard, electric bass and electric guitar, and four or five other horns you would expect to have around for the Blues. The first tune was one that allowed showcased each musician, giving them each a long solo, as well as plenty of opportunity to ‘jam’ and just have some fun. It was at that point that I began to understand.

The warm-up band was excellent, and made up of very talented Blues’ musicians. One was a music director who played the horns. Another was a “preacher” who played the keyboard. Another was an “IT” guy who played drums. Their first CD had just been released, and it was clear they were doing some good things.

But then.

The old, slow guy with the saxophone? He was a Blue’s sax player. That’s it. For the past 35 years he had played more than 250 nights a year with B. B., but he had played Blues since he was about 7 years old. That’s what it did. It’s who he was.

The guitar player, was a Blue’s guitar player. That’s all he did. Since around the age of 8 he had played Blues in any club that would have him, and if you named any Blues tune you could think of, he’d play it.

There was not one person in that band who was a “[fill in the blank] who also played the Blues”. This is all they did. Their lives were about their music, and a day didn’t pass in which they did not play their music.

The result was something that was felt as soon as the first saxophone player blew his first note into that microphone. It was the difference between a group of people who “played” the Blues, and who “lived” the Blues.

That is the thought that has stuck in my mind since the concert. There are a lot of companies who create eLearning and training, and do some very good things with what they create. Some of them are “marketing” companies who have gotten into eLearning and training. Some of them are “technical” companies who have gotten into eLearning and Training. Some are “HR” companies, others are “event” companies…the variety is big, and the reality is that many of them do create some very good things.

What hit me is that ImagiLearning is ‘just’ an eLearning and training company. It’s all we have done, and it’s what we do. We’ve not added eLearning and training to our previous skill-set and business model. We’ve been doing learning and training for as long as we’ve been around, and the only real change we’ve made is to add some new tools as we’ve moved forward.

We’re not all fancy and big, and don’t spend a lot of time and energy on marketing and promotion, hoping to get a big round of applause from the crowd. We just do our best to take all of our years of experience in practice in learning and training, and create one whale of an experience.

I invite you to talk with us and experience the ImagiLearning difference.

- John

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Subject and Object: Art and Learning

Two things happened over the past week that have led to a new appreciation for the challenges we face as we continue to introduce new approaches to learning in our academic and corporate training environments.

First, were three conversations I had with old friends that quickly evolved into their describing the pending disaster resulting from the increased use of technology and “games” in learning and training. They each detailed a long list of reasons for “going back to basics”, the way they were in the “good old days”.

The second came from watching an interview with Barnett Newman, one of the New York School of Artists from the period of early American modern painting. As Newman described the wide resistance to the emergence of abstract painting, he talked about how the opponents had such a difficult time distinguishing between object and subject. Yes, it first sounded like some philosophical, semantic jargon, but as he continued, his point became clear…and I began to see the connection with the work we are doing today.

Through the history of art, subject and object had been closely tied. The subject of the painting was clearly represented by the objects that were included on the canvas. They might be represented in different styles: realistic, impressionistic, etc. but the heart of the painting was found in the objects that were painted. The apples might look like apples, or just be impressions of apples, but they were fruit…they were objects that represented what the painting was about.

The abstract school began to draw a distinction between the object of a painting and the subjects that might be “in” that painting. The subject might be “fruit”, but the painting might include no recognizable objects that a viewer might associate with “fruit”. That “fruit” subject might be seen in the colors or something else, but there was no “fruit” in the “fruit”. Or the actual objects in the painting might be distorted in such a way that they lost any real visible association with what that object “should” look like, such as in cubism.

Newman

Newman

What the critics criticized as “a box with a line through it”, was described by Newman as “an expression of the subject of morning light on a wall”. But, there was no object that looked like a wall, and light beam ‘objects’ seldom appeared as straight lines. So the criticism was that there was “nothing” in the paintings. They were empty. They were not serious, and they were a threat to the future of the legitimate art world that used objects as they were supposed to be used.

As I listened to Newman and his colleagues; de Kooning, Pavia, Gottlieb and Pollack, I began to hear more and more things that sounded an awful lot like the things my colleagues and I talk about as we work to transform learning today.

Through the history of modern education, the ‘objects’ of education have been closely tied to the “subject” of education…learning. If we do not include those familiar objects in our activities, it appears that we are not doing something relating to the subject of learning. Lecture, textbooks, being face-to-face, quizzes, tests…there is a long list of “objects” that have come to represent the subject of “learning”. As we seek to use things like TranceFormational Learning ® to change some of these objects or add new ones, we aren’t just dealing with personal resistance from individuals, we are dealing with a philosophical change to the entire historical perception of just what learning actual is.

Hay Stacks

Hay Stacks

More importantly, if you walk through any major art gallery today, you are still going to overhear the debates about the value and credibility of modern and abstract art. After many decades, there are still those who see the absence of those historic “objects” to mean the art is meaningless or just silly. That would suggest that our efforts are going to face the same type of long-term challenges. Those waiting for the time that we finally all agree that education needs to be changed may have a longer wait than anticipated. Just as multiple schools of art survive, we may see multiple schools of learning as well. And in reality, that may be a good deal for our learners. Some learners will prefer the traditional approach, and some will prefer the ‘new’ approach, so why not offer both.

So it seems that our most important goal might not be to spend so much energy attempting to replace the old approach to learning, or to resist the new, but to determine how both can stand side-by-side to provide the best learning experience for every learner, based on which approach works for them. Some people stand in awe before Monet’s haystacks, while others stand in wonder before Newman’s “box with a line through it”.

And that’s ok.

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MOOCs and The “ANSWER!” Mindset

Most of us in the education and training world have at least heard of a MOOC, and most have some initial impressions of this approach to creating learning activities. As with most things, we have those who whole-heartedly support the MOOC and see it as outstanding…those who hate the MOOC and see it as another indicator of the decline of learning…and those who are watching it all go by and waiting to see what happens. In an article that will irritate the first group, thrill the second group, and probably be overlooked by the third group, Al Jazeera recently ran an article by Sarah Kendzior, a PhD Anthropologist from Wash-U, describing the MOOC as a “failure”.

The Article

I’ll leave the specific points of that discussion to others to debate, and want to focus on one other “little” issue that, for me, is the more important item in this ongoing MOOC debate. That issue is the ongoing tendency we educators have of constantly looking for something like a MOOC to provide the “answer”, or the “next big thing” that will address all of the existing weaknesses we see in today’s learning activities. And whenever something comes along, such as the MOOC, the discussion is all or nothing…the MOOC is either success, or failure. Just prior to the MOOC, the same theological debate existed over “virtual environments”. Prior to that it was over “games”. Prior to that it was over “online”. Prior to that it was…[fill in the blank].

We’ve taken each of these issues and made them the center of a huge debate that, in my opinion, is completely meaningless. This “discussion” serves as great fodder for academic papers and dissertations, sparks great blog debates, but pretty much does absolutely nothing at all to impact the effectiveness of learning. The primary value of these types of discussions and debates is to help some people become more visible, either by being popular or unpopular, to sell books, get really nice fees for speaking engagements, to meet publication requirements for our jobs, to just enjoy the ‘process’ of debating, and to continue this mythology that there is some “answer” waiting out there to be explained.

I’m not blaming educators, or wanting to somehow single them out as ‘bad people’ here. In fact, educators still have ‘amateur’ status in this “Find the Answer” game when compared to folks in the business world. Take the time to walk into a real bookstore…one that you can actually see books on shelves…and wander over to the “Business” section for a moment. I did that last week and saw 14 sections, each with 5 shelves, all filled with books presenting the “Answer” to being a successful business leader today. Browsing the flaps of a few of them I found that each one actually presents “THE” answer, not just “AN” answer. It’s the same belief that “when we find the answer, everything will be great!”

In education, we have invested years of research to describe things like individual learning preferences, and seeking to understand emerging brain research that describes how individual brains are wired differently and make connections in very different ways. Yet, we then spend time making our cases for or against the “MOOC”, or “virtual environments, or”games”, or “online”, as if we expect any one of those approaches to provide the end-all “answer” for every learner.

It seems to me that a more meaningful use of our energy would be to look at something like the MOOC and see if we can determine:

1. Are there specific learners and learning preferences that respond best to the MOOC approach?
2. Are there specific learning topics that appear to be best served by the MOOC approach?
3. Are there specific designs of the MOOC that demonstrate more effective learning activities for these learners and topics?

Is the MOOC a “failure”? No, of course not. Is the MOOC a “success”? Again, no, of course not…not in those general terms. The MOOC is a design option like all of the other options we now have available to us. It’s value is based on what we do with it, and the impact it has in each learning situation.

As with any design option, the question is: “In what instances is this the best approach to enhance the learning we want to see take place?” Let’s talk about that for a bit and see what we can really learn about the MOOC.

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Learning Online: John’s Tip #17

I thought I would share a post I just posted for my students in one of my online courses this term. I have two reasons for occasionally posting these in my courses. First, is to help explain how I grade, and what I think is important in the coursework. Second, is to provide a bit of input for how they might make the best of their learning experience to stand out in the crowd.

Hello!

As we begin our final two weeks of activities in the course, I would like to present a few ideas that are in my mind from our work together so far. Just a few observations, recommendations and challenges for you to consider and do with as you wish.

1. Thoughts about discussion questions.

The main thought in my mind is to just remind everyone of how important it is to ‘read the question’. Take the extra few minutes to re-read the questions, and jot-down a simple list of exactly what the question is asking you to do. This will save you some points, as well as some time. For example, some responses to our last discussion questions were very good, and included lots of good detail, but simply did not answer parts of the questions being asked.

Lets’ take a quick look:

  1. Research and select technological tools that can be used for summative and
    formative assessments (they can be the same technology – but must
    measure objectives in both ways) and explain in detail (using outside
    resources to support your position) how the technology would meet the
    need within your own educational environment.
  2. Research assessment technologies and find one to review that could be or will be
    used in your Final Project; share your review and include the link so
    your learning colleagues can benefit from your research.

As I read this, I would make the following list:

1. Select tech tools that can be used for summative and formative assessment.
2. Those tools must measure assessment in both ways.
3. Explain “IN DETAIL” how the tools meet the need IN MY OWN ENVIRONMENT.
4. Include outside resources.
5. Find an assessment tech tool that could or would be used IN MY CLASS PROJECT.
6. Review that tool.
7. Share the link to my review in my response.

That’s what I hear the question asking for. For a 10 out of 10, I need to respond to each part.

Note that the question never asks me to describe or define formative or summative assessment. It is ok to add that if you want, but taking the time to do so is optional, and more importantly, including it in the response doesn’t impact the grade, because it is not being asked for.

Most central to my response, since it is mentioned more than once, is the need to relate what I find to my personal situation and to my class project. Leaving this part out is going to cost me.

The question says nothing about the length of my response, so my goal is to just answer the specific questions. If I can do that in two brief paragraphs, that seems to be as effective as filling 3 pages.

So, to save time and points, read and outline the question, and then just work your way through those key questions.

2. “As it relates to your personal educational environment”

You see this line time and time again in the questions for discussion posts. From my perspective, this is actually the most important and most valuable piece of those questions and is the information I am most interested in seeing in a good response.

For me, this piece is asking you to take whatever you have searched for, reviewed and thought about, and to make the attempt to relate it to your personal, specific, real-world, “what you do during the day”, activities. This is the part that takes the content from being “about” something, and makes it something that has meaning in your world. While that sounds a bit “60′s” and academic-babble, it is actually (In my opinion) focusing on the entire reason you are taking these courses in the first place.

While it takes time to search for tools and think about how they might be used in “education”, “corporate training”, or used in a general sense “instructors might do this…”, stopping here means you are not getting your money’s worth out of your coursework. I’ve worked with people who have heads filled with tons of this “instructors might do this…” kind of information, but who have absolutely no ability to actually “DO” anything with that information. They have never made the actual connection between “instructors”, and “me”. Those people who do make that connection stand out in the crowd!

Here’s the deal. In writing the formal papers and project things, we want and need to avoid focusing on ourselves and our work. But in the informal discussions and blogs responding to the questions, it is how the material relates and connects to you personally, and to your unique work activities that is the gold. Anyone can tell me what “instructors” could do….I want to know what YOU could do in a specific situation in your unique place in the learning world.

The problem is that this is hard. It is much easier to stay at the superficial level and write generalities about what some hypothetical “instructor” might do. But my guess is that your goal is not to earn a hypothetical degree. So, I would encourage you to take that next step and when the question asks how the information “relates to your personal environment”, take a specific activity from your world and figure out how it actually might relate…how might you actually use that tool…what would you actually DO with it…what would your learners actually DO with it…and what do you think the result might be. I can tell you quite honestly that the extra effort will be fully worthwhile.

3. Thoughts about using technology to enhance learning.

One of my personal concerns, and therefore has not been a part of how I’ve graded anything this time, is the limits we educators put upon our personal vision for the potential of technology to enhance learning. When we talk about assessment, we usually limit ourselves to searching for technology that is “designed for” doing some form of assessment. As is normally the case, our first view of integrating technology into learning and training is to find tools we can “bring into” our existing activities, and hope they will do something new.

The result is that we usually end up with tools that just let us continuing doing what we’ve always done, just with a few new gadgets involved. While this is “ok”, it is a long way from exploring the true potential of technology for enhancing learning and training.

Honestly, one of the things I would like to change in this course is the approach of asking students to find technologies that “fit” into the various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The appearance is that those technologies are limited in their scope, and their potential is defined. I just don’t accept this approach.

In the last unit we were asked to focus on tools for assessment, and most all examples were tools that were clearly created to continue the traditional approaches to assessment; just with new tools. My preference would be to ask you to take a technology tool that seems to have absolutely no connection to assessment, and come up with a new way to allow your learners to demonstrate their level of mastery of the objectives. This means that it is not going to look or smell like a “traditional” assessment, and based on the research, is more likely to provide more authentic measurement of the learner’s actually level of mastery.

So my challenge to you is to be polite enough to read and review the things you are presented about mind-mapping, quizzing and survey tools, and all of the other pre-defined approaches to using technology. But then invest the brain cells to take the next step and see how  you might use technology to create something totally new and unique for your learners; something that might be so much more meaningful for them. From my personal perspective, that step is what is going to give you the edge, and give you the mindset that is going to set you apart and make the changes that need to be made.

Ok, that’s it…I’m done there. We have two more weeks in the course and they look to be busy ones. If you have questions about projects or anything else, please let me know and we’ll see what answers we can come up with.

Thanks for your hard work,

John

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