The (Virtual) Heart of the Matter

| By Gary Hartstein, Director, DigitalJLearning Network

Sometimes it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. Every now and then something comes along and reminds us of why we do what we do. This year ISTE 2015 gave me such a moment.

Let me first say how great it was to travel and learn together with an amazing group of educators from 15 different Jewish day schools. We all learned from the conference, and more importantly, from each other. I also got to see our awesome DJLN staff in action. From the planning to the last meal pick-up, Joyline, Tatyana and Yonah made sure everything went off without a hitch. As a result, I got to spend some time learning and exploring.

HeartOur work in DJLN focuses on blended learning. Much of what we share falls into categories such as data-driven instruction and resources to flip, rotate and otherwise create the right blend. I’m often so far into the weeds about what is and is not blended learning, that I often forget to look up at the innovation going on around me. This year, I’m glad I looked up.

I happened by the ZSpace booth in the ISTE expo. After watching a demo of their virtual reality (VR) product, I got to give it a try. I was able to pick up a (virtual) human heart, see it from all angles in 3-D, and even feel it beat! I felt like a kid in a candy store for the very first time. As I moved the lungs to the side to get a grip on the heart, I was reminded why I was so drawn to educational technology years ago. I believed that, with proper instructional design, technology resources in the right hands can transform the way learning happens. I thought about the students who never quite master subjects such as math or science, often because the learning environment is less than engaging, and mostly focused on facts and formulas. I pictured a blended learning classroom with a VR station as part of its rotational model. I envisioned students actively engaged in hands-on virtual exploration that reinforced the facts learned online the night before. I imagined a small group working with the teacher as s/he helped them connect the learning, using data from online content and the VR station to drive instruction. I saw a class of students transformed into a community of learners. And I remembered. I remembered why got into this work in the first place. And I remembered what it is about this work that I still love.


Check out zSpace in action below!