Happy New Year everyone. I hope that 2020 proves to be a hugely positive and successful year for you all – especially when it comes to AR and VR in classrooms!
Here, slightly delayed due to my Christmas/New Year’s travels, I’m going to share my ten professional highlights of 2019. Last year I did this in video format on my YouTube channel but this year I’m going for a good, old-fashioned blog post. 2019 was a great year for me professionally and it was a pleasure to reflect on the highlights.
So, in no particular order:
Interviewing Tom Furness
Being able to interview “The Grandfather of VR” Tom Furness inside VR as a part of my #CPDinVR events was a truly remarkable experience. It’s crazy to think that whilst Tom has worked with immersive technologies since the 60’s, this was his first ever interview inside VR. To say it was amazing would be an understatement – in fact as soon as I turned things over to the audience for Q+A, someone refers to the event as life-changing! You can watch the recording below but if you want to experience it for yourself, click here to access the spatial recordings from Engage and you can actually sit in the session yourself.
Hosting the VR Stage at GESS 2019
The GESS Conference, which takes place in Dubai each year, is the biggest education event in The Middle East. I have presented at GESS since 2013, won their awards twice and now I even judge the awards. 2019 saw my collaboration with the event go to a whole new level though as I was asked to coordinate and host a dedicated VR stage for the whole 3 day event. With the help of the local HTC Vive team, who provided the hardware, I hosted a range of speakers, live TilT Brush demos from students and delivered a range of different presentations myself (at one point having to run to the main stage, speak, then run back to deliver a presentation on the VR stage minutes later!)
I am delighted to confirm that not only am I coordinating the stage again form the 2020 event but it has expanded to include even more speakers, covering botb AR and VR in education. It should be awesome. Find out more here.
Speaking at the G20 event
I spoke at a lot of conferences in 2019 but as the year came to a close, I was invited to fly to Saudi Arabia and deliver the closing keynote to a group of G20 delegates visiting King Faisal School in Riyadh. Now I am conscious of the elephant in the room here – Saudi Arabia is quite the contentious place right now – but if things are going to change, overhauling the education system and the way that students view learning is fundamental. If I can play a small part in that, I am happy to do it.
Whilst at the school I got to work with three students who are brothers on a VR video clip to share as a part of the closing keynote. This was recorded inside Engage and edited together to give a vision of where these three incredibly bright, well-mannered and impressive young men could end up. Take a look –
The launch of Digital Inception
Another obvious highlight for me in 2019 was leaving JESS Dubai after 11 years to set up my own education consultancy. This was an incredibly daunting prospect and involved a huge amount of work but I am delighted to say that things are going incredibly well. So well in fact that I have yet to actually advertise my services (or even set up the company website) as word of mouth and my reputation across the region has kept me very busy throughout the first school term.
If you are interested in bringing me into your school, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the Contact form here on the site or via DM on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Curating 1000 360s on YouTube
When 2019 began, I decided that for a new challenge I would launch a YouTube channel. After an initial flurry of videos I soon found myself unable to maintain a consistent stream of content and still work my job, spend time with my family, run VirtualiTeach and host #CPDinVR. Though my own content is now back to being video clips to embed on posts here on the site, one project I coordinated proved incredibly popular. I curated 500 unique 360° videos into subject-specific playlists. When I shared this, the response was so good, I kept going and soon hit 800. At this point someone challenged me on Twitter to go for 1000. So I did. You can find them all here:
Contributing to other AR/VR projects
In 2019 I had the genuine honour of contributing to various AR/VR-related projects including podcasts, guest articles, white papers and research projects. Since I can never find the time to actually write my own book, I especially cherished the opportunity to help proof-read Amanda Fox’s excellent TeachingLand and provide a short case study for the upcoming Reality Bytes from Christine Lion-Bailey, Jesse Lubinsky and Micah Shippee. Amazon links to both are below –
Chris Long’s Virtual Memorial
Without a doubt one of the lowest points of 2019 for me was the passing of my dear friend Chris Long who died suddenly in April. Chris was such a wonderful guy and was with me from the very first #CPDinVR event. When myself, Chris Madsen and Mike Armstrong decided to host a memorial event for Chris inside virtual reality, we had no idea that this was the first time something like this had taken place and I was quoted on VR Scout at the time that it was a milestone I took no pleasure in claiming. That being said, I know Chris would have absolutely loved the idea himself and I his spirit infused the entire event. You can watch an edited recording of the memorial below.
Rest in peace my friend.
World VR Day #CPDinVR event
After Chris’s passing, I fell apart both emotionally and professionally for a long time and one casualty of this was #CPDinVR as I stopped hosting events for several months (even missing a huge 2 year anniversary event we had begun planning.) #CPDinVR returned in October and then in November for World VR Day we made up for the missed anniversary show by putting something special together. We went for four hours straight with a host of special guests from across the globe across eight different sessions. It was exhausting but heaps of fun (especially with all the costume changes). It was also the first time we had livestreamed a #CPDinVR event and not only was it live on YouTube but it was streamed live into the core World VR Day room inside AltSpace too! Very cool.
I had planned to share the full recording as a separate post here on the site but totally forgot so here it is for the first time -
Another thing that fell to the wayside for part of 2019 was this site itself. I covered the reasons behind this already (you can read that here) but it would be remiss of me not to highlight the relaunch as one of my highlights of the year. Being able to refine and redesign the original piece of content I produced for the site - my Model for the Depths of VR - was also a realy highlight for me and an apt piece of content to relaunch with,
Now in it’s third year, VirtualiTeach is one of the oldest and most content rich sites dedicated to immersive technology in education and I am proud to keep sharing fresh new content with you all in 2020 and beyond.