Jul 29, 2006

Virtual Reality & Convergence with Game Technology

Virtual Reality is sometimes used to treat a variety of disorders. In the future, VR applications may be affordable for wider use in education. VR and computer/video game technologies are converging- expect amazing applications within the next 3-5 years for health, education, training, and more.

Dr. Skip Rizzo, a psychologist from USC 's Institute for Creative Technologies, specializes in VR. Dr. Rizzo presented "Gaming for Health: Virtual Reality Game-Based Applications for Mental Disorders and Rehabilitation." at the University of Southern California Games Summit in October 2005. A zipped version of his PowerPoint presentation is available.
According to information from the Integrated Media Systems Center website,
"Prof. Rizzo is continuing his collaboration with IMSC investigators and described projects that integrate game technology in the areas of attention process assessment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, pain distraction for children undergoing painful medical procedures and chemotherapy,exposure therapy for returning Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and motor rehabilitation for persons with central nervous system dysfunction (i.e., stroke, brain injury). According to Rizzo, "the integration of game technology and experiences with virtual reality based approaches for clinical assessment, treatment and rehabilitation offers powerful options that could revolutionize standard practices in these fields."
Dr. Rizzo has been involved in The Virtual Classroom, A VR environment that assesses ADHD in children. For more information regarding the Virtual Classroom, see the full article(pdf).

There is an interesting article for students about the Virtual Classroom,
"A Classroom of the Mind", by Emily Sohn, along with related activities, in Science News for Kids.

Virtually Better (from website):

"Founded in 1996, Virtually Better is known world wide as an innovator in the creation of virtual reality environments for use in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of public speaking as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)... Our on-site clinic is staffed by a team of licensed clinical psychologists devoted to using cognitive-behavioral techniques (including virtual reality exposure therapy) for the treatment of various disorders in both adults and children... Virtually Better grew from the collaborative research of Barbara O. Rothbaum, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Psychiatry, and Director of Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and Larry F. Hodges, Ph.D., formerly with the Georgia Institute of Technology, and now Professor and Chair, Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte."

Related Information:
"The Virtual Reality Lab (VRlab), at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has a collection of VR demonstrations, including the use of VR for social phobia.

A large selection of fairly recent, downloadable powerpoint presentations about the use of VR can be found on the Interactive Media Institute website.

Jul 27, 2006

Dropout Prevention: A Digital Production Teacher's Story

Here is a link to a post to the Spiral Notebook web log on the Edutopia website about a teacher's experience with two students who were at risk for dropping out of high school.The post was written by Ron Smith, a high school teacher and doctoral students in the L.A. schools.

More of Ron Smith's posts can be found on his blog.


Jul 26, 2006

Visual Literacy and Multimedia Literacy Quotes - PART TWO

There are effective, research-based solutions for meeting the needs of a wider range of learners, but more research is required.
David Rose and Anne Meyer, authors of Teaching Every Student In the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning and co-founders of the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), are advocates of the use of digital technologies to support the learning of all learners, including those with disabilities.
"In the years ahead, it is clear that text-only instruction will give way to a more deliberate application of multimedia. Instructional designers will use digital tools to tailor media to the task, to different kinds of learning, and to different kinds of students, reducing the barriers and inefficiencies inherent in one-size-fits-all printed textbooks. Rose & Anne Meyer (2002) Teaching Every Student In the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning ASCD.
CAST provides an on-line interactive version of Rose and Myer'’s book, along with materials that can be used for professional development:

Below are some quotes from some of the video clips from the website of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, at the Annenberg Foundation, located at the University of California. The institute supports the use of multimedia in education at all levels and provides workshops and training during the summer for faculty.
"“Let'’s start by recognizing that the way we communicate is changing. Learning to read and write is still fundamental. Now images, sounds, and interactive communication are everywhere." - Karen Voss, Communication Specialist
"We research innovations in these languages of new media, we’re developing our own multimedia curricula, and that is applicable across a great range of grades, ages, and disciplines, It offers new possibilities for scholarly research and new opportunities for publications. The Institute for Multimedia Literacy is focused on investigating and articulating what it means to be literate today" - Stepanie Barish, Former IML Director
"Students can use moving images, they can use graphics, they can use digital video to go interview someone and build it into their understanding of that discipline." -unknown
The Edutopia website of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, provides an abundance of information for educators who are interested in transforming teaching and learning. This website provides a variety of video clips of teachers and students engaged in project-based learning, multimedia technology, and a range of other meaningful learning activities.
In a video clip from the Institute for Multimedia Literacy, the famous director, George Lucas makes an important observation:
"The ability to communicate in ways other than using words is an area that has not been promoted I think heavily enough in the educational system. The world of graphics and music and cinema are all areas that are very powerful, and as we enter the 21st century, the needs to become literate in these other forms of communications are becoming increasingly important."

Mary Burns, in her article, "Thousand Words: Promoting Teachers' Visual Literacy Skills" ( Multimedia and  Internet@Schools), provides information for teacher training, recognizing that training teachers to use visual and multimedia technology must first focus on enhancing teacher’s visual literacy skills. (This is important, since many teachers shine in the verbal area and may have under-developed visual literacy skills.)
"In contrast to the society in which they operate, schools continue to be very text-focused places. In almost all content areas, students are consumers and producers of text-based products. Granted, the presence of multimedia technology has caused some shift from text-based to visually based learning within the classroom, but this has spawned a new set of instructional challenges for teachers. Many teachers are more comfortable with text-based instruction and communication and may feel ill-equipped to harness the learning potential of visually based learning. Although advocating "visual literacy," state standards may offer little guidance in terms of instructional specifics. Yet, text-based proficiency —reading and writing is still the standard by which academic success is measured. The result is that schools often do not help students make meaning of and critically reflect upon the powerful images that so influence their lives.
To succeed in the academic and vocational world, students must be proficient in both reading and writing—they must be literate. But to navigate the real world, they must also be visually literate—able to decode, comprehend, and analyze the elements, messages, and values communicated by images."

Michael Lambert and Margaret Carpenter, in their article, Visual Learning: Using Images to Focus Attention, Evoke Emotions, and Enrich Learning, make this observation regarding visual learning:
"We are compelled by discoveries in the field of brain-based learning to teach differently than we used to. With the tools that the 21st century offers, we're harnessing the power of images in our teaching."
"Say it with words and you're lucky if they hear it or bother to read it. Tell your story with imagery, and it grabs attention, evokes emotion, and is more instantly processed. Sixty thousand times faster, say some researchers." -Michael Lambert and Margaret Carpenter
Another article from Multimedia and Internet@School, by Johanna Riddle, Bookbinders: Fusing Technology, Images, and Literature, Johanna Riddle, a media specialist in the Volusia County Schools in Florida, states that
"As any 10-year-old can tell you, it's not just about the book anymore… For educators, this means recognizing all forms of literacy, embracing them as relevant, and, finally, creating meaningful classroom experiences that integrate printed, visual, and technological literacies within disciplines and subjects."
"Johanna Riddle is the media specialist at SamsulaElementary School, Volusia County Schools, Florida. She is nationally certified in K-12 media education and has been the recipient of a number of awards andrecognitions, including the Smithsonian's Learning Innovation and Florida's Art Educator of the Year Awards"
I think I mentioned in a previous post that anyone who is interested in learning more about multimedia, technology, and “digital kids should pick up the December-January 2005-06 issue of Educational Leadership, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. This issue is devoted to current topics related to technology integration, 21st century learning, and includes Mark Prensky’s article: Listen to the Natives: Learning in the Digital Age.
Educational Leadership December 2005/January 2006 | Volume 63 | Number 4
Learning in the Digital Age Pages 8-13
"West predicts that computer visualization technology will radically change the way we all work and think. For thousands of years the technology of writing and reading has tended to promote the dominance of the left hemisphere of the brain, with its linear processing of words and numbers. Now the spread of graphical computer technologies is permitting a return to our visual roots with a new balance between hemispheres and ways of thinking - presenting new opportunities for problem solving and big picture thinking. Thus, he argues that the newest technologies will help us to reaffirm some of our oldest capabilities, allowing us to see previously unseen patterns and to restore a balance in thought and action"
In closing, I'd like to share a quote from a book by Dan Pink that an educational technology consultant recently recommended. Pink’s latest book might be of interest to the futurists among you:
A Whole New Mind : Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, by Daniel Pink :
"The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind, creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people, artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys."
Are we doing what all that we can to nurture and encourage these minds?

Visual Literacy and Multimedia Literacy Quotes - Odds and Ends PART ONE

While gathering resources and reviewing literature over the past few years, I've come across a wide range of people who have an interest in visual and multimedia literacy. I thought I'd share some odds and ends that I found helpful to me as I went along my journey.

One book that has reinforced my thinking is "In the Mind's Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People with Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties, Computer Images, and the Ironies of Creativity", by Thomas G. West. The following quote is from a book review:

"Dr. West argues that major advances in computer information visualization technologies promise to transform education and the workplace— and to increase greatly the value in that transformed world of “visual thinkers with verbal and memory problems who have had to develop methods to sift, sample, and select” in order to understand patterns in complex systems in business, the sciences and other fields." - James Cullin

The following quote is from an article written by Gary Bertoline, the director of Purdue's Envision Center for Data Perceptualization:

“Communicating visually is becoming the norm rather than the exception in technological societies… This renaissance in graphics is coupled with the emerging re-thinking of the role of visualization in basic human intelligence. Converging technologies, a renaissance in graphics, and better understanding of the role of visualization in human cognition are the catalyst for an emerging discipline called visual science.” -Gary R. Bertoline, 1998. Visual Science: An Emerging Discipline Journal for Geometry and Graphics, V 2. 181-187 Purdue University

David Staley, the author of Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past, also argues about the importance of visual communication, particularly in his field of history, which has traditionally been taught through reading and discussion:

“…the best visualizations are images that allow one to see, think about and understand multidimensional levels of information that would not have been apparent had it not been so spatially organized.” –Stayley, D. (2002) "Visualization-ism: An art history" Interface: The journal for education, community and values.

Robert E. Mayer
is a psychologist who has spent over the past decade studying multimedia learning. This is a quote from his book, “Multimedia Learning”, written in 2001:

“For hundreds of years, verbal messages – such as lectures and printed lessons – have been the primarily means of explaining ideas to learners….Recent advances in graphics technology have prompted new efforts to understand the potential of multimedia as a means of promoting human understanding – a potential that I call the promise of multimedia learning. “ -Mayer, R.E. 2001. Multimedia Learning New York: Cambridge University Press

As educators, how do we encourage all kinds of learners, especially those who have minds that aren’t considered to be within the mainstream in our mostly word dominant, traditional schools?

Temple Grandin, with much support and personal effort, overcame many barriers related to her symptoms of autism to earn a Ph.D. in animal science. She is known for her books and presentations related to her field of study as well as to autism. In her book, "Thinking in Picture and Other Reports from my Life with Autism", written in 1995, Grandin wrote,

“I think in pictures. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head” She discussed how difficult it was for other people to understand her way of thinking"

Grandin, T. 1995. Thinking in pictures and other reports from my life with autism. New York, Doubleday p. 19


In the decade or so since Grandin wrote this book, there has been a significant increase in the number of students diagnosed as autism spectrum disorders. These young people often require a variety of specialized instructional strategies and support for skill development in areas such as communication and social skills.

We know that the majority of people with autism spectrum disorders are visual learners. We also know that many people who struggle in school are likely to be visual learners/thinkers. Because they learn differently, they are often viewed as having a potential learning disability or attention disorder. The emphasis on "reading to learn" in many classrooms often means that many students are not provided the opportunity to learn subject matter content through other means while they are at school.

Mel Levine, a physician who works with young people with learning and attention difficulties, addresses this issue in his book, written 2002, , "A Mind at a Time" , with a companion website:

“Too many kids struggle and fail needlessly simply because the way in which they learn is incompatible with the way they’re being taught. Schools are filled with kids who give up on themselves, are convinced they’re "losers," and conclude they’re just dumb. It’s painful—for the student, teacher, and parent who may be unaware that the "wiring" of that child’s brain simply is not in synch with the demands and expectations of the situations at hand.” -Mel Levine

“What takes place when a teacher’s ways of teaching clash with a learner’s way of learning? Chaos, discord, accusation, and anger often ensue…In facing these conflicts, should we be trying to rewire the child or instead should we modify the environment and alter our expectations? Or should we do both?” -Levine, M. 2002. A mind at a time. Simon & Schuster, pp.260

If you are a parent of a student who is considered "difficult to teach", you probably have a good understanding of what this post is about.

Some of the content of this post is from a transcript of a podcast that I started for one of my class assignments. A few of the following quotes and comments are from my notes for a paper I wrote in 2004 - "Thinking, Learning, and Communicating through Multimedia: Views from a School Psychologist", which can be found in A sense of place: The global and the local in mobile communication Nyiri, K. (ed.) (2005). Vienna: Passagen Verlag. If you look at the book's table of contents, you'll note that the various authors come from fields ranging from physics to philosophy. Technology has impacted many fields of study in significant ways!


Jul 25, 2006

NECC: Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments

For those of you interested in games and learning:

This is a link to a post by Josh Thomas (Topics Education) about Mark Wagner's presentation at NECC on the topic of video games and constructivist learning environments. More information about Mark Wagner can be found at EdTechLife.

Jul 12, 2006

Revised Post 8/1/06 Interactive multimedia for social skills, understanding feelings, relaxation and coping strategies, etc.

Link to Pragmatic Language/Social Skills Objectives (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction)

Link to a post about interactive technology (whiteboards, interactive websites, touch screen technologies, tabletop computing, etc.) in my work as a school psychologist in 2010:

UPDATE: 1/17/08

(Additional information about multimedia and social skills applications, tips, and strategies can be found on the CITEd website. See my post on the TechPsych blog for links to CITEd resources.)

Here are some interactive applications and games that focus on social skills, coping skills, feelings, stress management, relaxation, communication, attention, or study skills. Multimedia applications present students with experiences that address a variety of modes of learning, communication, and thinking. This can be helpful with students who have more difficulty with traditional word-based counseling techniques.

The links with an asterisk (*) have online demos or offer the content on-line. Click on the links to view on-line activities and information.

is an interactive website for middle-school students. It has video clips, games and related activities on topics such as bullying, dealing with emotions, dealing with crushes, gossip and rumors, divorce, death, time management, test stress, fighting, and more. Streaming video clips on a range of topics are available on this site. Resources are provided on-line for teachers and parents. The activities on this website are appropriate for classroom guidance, small group counseling/ intervention, and for "homework". The website also includes several interactive games. The activities are engaging when presented via an interactive white board. Good potential for social-emotional intervention/prevention research.
(I used activities at the It's My Life website for group and individual counseling with middle school students who had social-emotional and behavioral difficulties.)

MOODGYM *is "a free Internet-based cognitive behavior therapy intervention designed to treat and prevent depression in young people, available to all Internet users, and targeted to those who may have no formal contact with professional help services.” This online intervention was developed and researched in Australia . It can be used effectively with older teens in a school setting. Some of the activities are appropriate for a group through presentation on an interactive whiteboard. Some of the activities can be completed during the week outside of school. Good research potential. Click here to download a 2.6 mg. PowerPoint presentation about MoodGym.
(I used MOODGYM with high school students with anxiety disorders, Asperger Syndrome, bipolar disorder, and depression. The students did some of the activities at home and we discussed their "homework" during counseling sessions. Although MoodGym was designed for young people to use independently, I found that it was useful- and informative- to guide the students I worked with through the first sessions. MoodGym has several self-tests that provide results that show the student where they stand relative to others within their age group in areas of anxiety, depression, and "warpy thoughts"(mistaken beliefs).
Cloud is a relaxing, nonviolent game, created by graduate students at USC. The character, a child, flies around, collecting clouds and putting them into puzzles in the sky. The music is very soothing. The game is free and can be downloaded through the website. This game could be used to help relax students with anxiety disorders, Asperger syndrome, etc., develop coping strategies. Here is the link to the Cloud video trailer.
(I use the Cloud Game as a form of crisis intervention with students undergoing high level of agitation and stress at the middle and high school level.)

Facial Expression Game
Feelings Game
Resources for students, parents, and teachers. Focuses on activities suitable for students with Asperger-Autism spectrum disorders, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effect, and related disorders. Offers free online activities as well as affordable interactive applications. Many activities are useful for younger students in regular education settings and would work for small group support as well as in classrooms using an interactive whiteboard. A good site to use when consulting with new teachers about intervention strategies. Do2Learn links to information regarding various disabilities. Do2Learn's early work with Virtual Reality helped young children with autism learn street crossing. These games are available on the internet for free.
(I use the Facial Expression Game and the Feelings Game during assessment of students with Autism spectrum disorders and students with other disorders or disabilities. The students enjoy the games. I have also used it during counseling activities that focused on understanding and identifying feelings.)
Ripple Effects programs have been researched in the schools, with positive results. The programs would integrate well with positive behavior support programs, including those that offer small group counseling interventions. Some activities work well on an interactive whiteboard and could be incorporated in school-wide efforts for character education, bullying prevention, and so forth.

Ripple Effects for Teens (grades 6-10) addresses social, emotional and learning needs with individualized guidance in 390 areas.” “Ripple Effects For Kids (grades 3-5) prevents bullying, builds character, promotes healthy behavior and academic success with over 140 reading independent tutorials.” Ripple Effects also offers "Teaching Coach" for staff development. Download an 8 minute video clip overview of Ripple Effects software here.
(I use Ripple Effects in group and individual counseling. It works well for groups using a SmartBoard, as the touch screen on the SmartBoard allows the students to get up and physically interact with the various activities. I have also used Ripple Effects for crisis intervention, choosing topics related to the immediate problem and guiding the student through the activities. I find that Ripple Effects software is easy for the students to use and they can do the activities independently once they are familiar with the format.)
Free and low-cost on-line games: "Life Experience through Simulations" and "Online Negotiation games" Suitable for high school students for teaching social skills needed for the workplace, community, and relationships. Some of the applications are used for training attorneys, agrologists, and business workers. Simulations could be used in work/life planning classes, conflict resolution, and transition planning.
On this website, you will find short, interactive games designed to promote positive self-esteem and counteract negative thoughts and anxiety, based on research at University. Appropriate for students who have negative thought patterns and feelings of lower self-esteem. The on-line games may work well with a small social skills group and an interactive whiteboard. Games are based on over 15 years of social psychology research at McGill.
Eye Spy Wham! Grow your Chi
"Kar2ouche Composer is a highly creative and interactive multimedia authoring tool. It helps students develop contextual understanding, critical interpretation and individual expression through a wide range of creative activities, including interactive role-play, picture-making, storyboarding, animation, publishing and movie-making.”

"MediaStage provides students of all abilities with a creative simulation environment that has all the engagement of the best computer game but puts creative and collaborative learning at its core. MediaStage stimulates students into new ways of thinking about the interactions between characters and people through its use of 3D role-playing simulations. Students can express their own thoughts as if others were expressing them and then mediate these thoughts in empathic ways which are sensitive both to audience and performer. Students can also use MediaStage to design virtual performances that include subtleties of expression through the body language of characters, their proximity to each other and their juxtaposition, as well as their movements and interactions with props and stage settings.”

MediaStage and K ar2ouche allow users to develop narrative and dialogue, so both applications are good for role-play activities. The visual nature of the applications may appeal to students who are visual learners, such as those who have language delays/disorders, autism-spectrum disorders, and language-based learning disabilities. Both applications incorporate story-boarding activities. Story boarding is useful with students who benefit from visual schedules and "Social Stories".

"Immersive Education has substantial evidence which demonstrates how its software and support materials are leading to significant benefits in the traditional classroom environment. These include:
  • Better classroom performance and increased pupil motivation and attention
  • Inclusion for children of all abilities in understanding difficult texts and concepts
  • New ways for teachers to involve children in learning where software is used as an integrated part of an overall teaching solution extending teachers' creative computer skills leading to wider use of computing in the classroom."
Click here to view a short video clip about MediaStage. Click here for a free user's guide.
Vyro Games
Relax to Win is appropriate for students who have difficulty coping with stress or anxiety. The game is available as a PC game as well as for the smaller screen of a SmartPhone or newer cell phone. It comes with a bio-sensing feedback device. The more relaxed the user, the better the outcome of the game. Research regarding Relax to Win has shown that it is effective. It has not been researched in U.S. schools.
BreakAway Games

BreakAway Games
produced Free Dive, in collaboration with others. Free Dive a 3-D game found to reduce the need for pain medication among children undergoing painful medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. Click here for a short video about Free Dive.
BreakAway Games produced A Force More Powerful , a game that encourages non-violence. .
"The goal of this site is to catalog the growing number of video and computer games whose primary purpose is something other than to entertain. These are also known as "serious games." This site is updated regularly and has links to various categories of games. The site is supported by Games2Train.

A gamer's comments:
"On-line relaxation "game": I really feel like I'm flying around in this space and the notion of 'tranquility' and how it really is needed in order to master the game is something I find extremely cool." Tranquility is similar in principle to the "Cloud" game. This game could be included in interventions for students who have anxiety and related disorders.
From the information provided by the Play Attention Website: "Inspired by the same technology NASA uses to train their astronauts, Play Attention® builds skill sets that are vital to everyday activities- from staying organized, to filtering out distractions, to listening more attentively in class."
KIDS TOOLS AND KIDS SKILLS is “performance support software for children, ages 7-13, who have learning disabilities and/or emotional and behavioral problems.” K id Tools/Skills provides accompanying databases and tools/skills resources for teachers and parents. Information can be downloaded from the website that includes overviews, examples of completed tools, and tips for implementation. Although the graphics and interactive technology of K ids Tools doesn't have all of the "bells and whistles" of other programs, it provides a means for students to track and monitor their own progress. The programs are free and there are teacher resources. Funded by the Steppingstones Technology grant.