In June 2017 I decided to try something new, something that hadn’t been done before in education – to host a professional development session inside virtual reality. I chose the Engage platform from Immersive VR Education as it was the best tool for this job and with the help of Immersive’s founder and CEO David Whelan and Engage’s lead developer Mike Armstrong, I set about coordinating what would be the very first #CPDinVR event. The image you can see below is actually one I've never shared before; it was taken 10 minutes before that first ever session began, on June 28th 2017.
The session was a success and a great experience so I decided to keep the ball rolling. Over the following months I hosted dozens of #CPDinVR sessions, completely not-for-profit and coordinated in my spare time. I also broadened the format to include panel discussions with special guests from across the VR/AR education ecosystem, including the likes of Jaime Donally, Alex Johnson, Mercedes Bent and many more.
So as the first anniversary approached, I wanted to do something special. I was already in luck as Engage was set to go through it’s biggest update ever around this time, an update that would include better avatars, more locations and even better controls for the session hosts. Still – I wanted to make this event the biggest and best ever. I began throwing ideas together with Mike as well as Chris Long (who’s been with me on the #CPDinVR journey since the start) and Chris Madsen (the one and only Deep Rifter.) What began to evolve was a plan for a six-hour marathon, practically a whole conference, with each of us taking stints as host to avoid burn-out. Now we just needed speakers and fortunately for me many wonderful people from the world of VR and education were willing to give up some time to be part of the event.
What I’d like to share with you now is a full breakdown of the lineup, complete with video footage recorded in each session.
OPENING KEYNOTE: Vive in Education
Alvin Wang Graylin (China President, HTC Vive)
The HTC Vive was integral to my shift into the VR education space after exploring mobile VR for a couple of years so I really wanted Vive to be well-represented at the event.It’s hard for me to put into words how elated I was when HTC Vive President Alvin Wang Graylin agreed to be my opening keynote speaker (I described this to my wife as like having Mark Zuckerberg agree to speak at a conference on social meida.) Alvin joined us live from Shenzhen, China to deliver an absolutely fantastic presentation about VR in education and Vive's role within the ecosystem. He also shared some fascinating data from research projects Vive have conducted in China - some of the most relevant and eye-opening stats I've yet seen relating to VR and it's potential in the classroom.
It was a genuine honour to share the stage with Alvin and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to do this for me. Enjoy:
I followed Alvin’s keynote with a panel discussion featuring some of the best in the business. Anyone working within the VR/AR education space knows (or should know) Jaime Donally as she has pioneered so many different initiatives and even recently published her first book via ISTE. Jaime had also been on my very first panel discussion session in July 2017 so I was delighted to welcome her back! Chad Lewis had also been in several #CPDinVR sessions before and is an award-winning educator from Tampa, Florida doing some amazing things with VR and Unity in particular. Rounding out the panel was Bobby Carlton from VR Scout – a real champion of the VR education space. We discussed various aspects of creation with VR including the guest’s own projects.
FIRESIDE CHAT: The history of social VR Mike Armstong and Chris Madsen (both Immersive VR Education)
Mike and Chris are long-time friends who now find themselves both working under the IVRE banner. I suggested to them that it’d be a cool little session if they just sat down and chatted about their history working in VR, in particular the development of social VR and the early Riftmax platform that Mike developed several years ago. Hosted in the new winter house space in Engage, this one felt cosy and was a genuinely fascinating listen (trust me – I was supposed to be on a break at this point and these guys made it very hard to put the HMD down!)
CASE STUDY: The #VRclassroom experiment
Chris Long (Immersive VR Education)
This was an obvious but important addition to the lineup – having the wonderful Chris Long deliver a case study of the #VRclassroom experiment he coordinated with Immersive (before they offered him a job) and HTC Vive in the UK. For those that didn’t hear about this (or Chris’ writeup of it here on the site), this was a great chance to hear about the logistics and theory behind one of the most ambitious VR education initiatives ever delivered. Where else could student join me on the Moon before sitting in a lecture on quantum physics with the co-founder of Pixar? Seriously. 😉
PANEL DISCUSSION: VR and Diversity
Nina Salomons (VR Focus), Dinah Lammiman (BBC VR Hub), Caitlin Krause (Mindwise)
Nina from VR Focus is also the lead for the VR Diversity Initiative in the UK so I was delighted that Chris Long managed to secure her to host this special panel. She was joined by Dinah who works for the BBC VR Hub and lectures at UCL in immersive storytelling as well as Caitlin Krause from Mindwise who is a real thought-leader in terms of the intersection of VR and mindfulness. Sadly fourth guest Dr Sana Farid was unable to connect to the session due to internet issues. The ladies provided a huge amount of insight into the subject matter and I highly recommend watching their session.
KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: The Next Cyber Warfare Wave – AR and VR Worlds
Bob Fine (The VR Voice Podcast/Cool Blue Media)
A leading voice in the world of VR and the creator of the VR Voice podcast, Bob Fine was the first of a pair of closing keynote speakers and presented from a custom-built set in the Avebury space in Engage (thanks Deep Rifter!) Bob delivered an incredibly insightful presentation about the potential for cybercrime within virtual worlds. This is probably something many educators have yet to consider but it will soon become something that schools will need to be incredibly mindful of. It was a real honour to have Bob join us and his session was a real eye-opener for attendees!
KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: AR is white hot, VR is not…yet
Charlie Fink (Forbes)
Stepping into the custom Avebury set after Bob Fine was the incomparable Charlie Fink. Recognised globally as one of the leading influencers and trendsetters in immersive media, Charlie delivered a keynote presentation that brought some of the ideas from his recent book, Charlie Fink’s Metaverse, to life. He discussed the key differences between AR and VR and why AR has seen greater uptake at present, with the world becoming increasingly “painted with data.” A terrific presentation and one that received a huge amount of positive feedback from those that were there live. Thank you so much for joining us Charlie!
WRAP-UP SESSION: The Virtual Reality Podcast crew
Alex Chaucer, Steven Sato, James McCrary
From the very start of planning the event, I had this final session in mind with the awesome team from The Virtual Reality Podcast so I was delighted when they accepted. Alex, Steven and James hosted a great final discussion about VR at ISTE 2018 and more before taking questions from the audience. My #CPDinVR events have traditionally ended with a little fun with the IFX (the “after party” as a I call it) but I had a plan for the finale of this one which you can see towards the end of the video. The new version of Engage allows the host to give IFX privileges to anyone… so we ended the session by giving them to the entire audience and letting them go crazy with it. The resulting chaos felt a little like the apocalypse but Engage held up admirably and it was a really fun way to round off the whole six hour event.
I want to say one last HUGE thank you to everyone who was involved with this, be it as a speaker or an attendee. I also need to give MASSIVE thanks to Chris Long, Mike Armstrong and Chris Madsen who helped pull the event together, lead orientation sessions with the guests and generally went above and beyond every step of the way. These events take a lot of time for me to organize and this one as you can imagine was a particularly huge affair. It was totally worth it though.
Until next time,
To find out more about the #CPDinVR events, please visit the #CPDinVR section of the site. Previous attendees and those that subscribe to VirtualiTeach always get early access to register for the events. If you would like to speak at an event, just get in touch via the site’s Contact page.