Blog Zac Woolfitt De Onderwijsdagen 2019

Blog Zac Woolfitt De Onderwijsdagen 2019

On Tuesday 5th November Zac Woolfitt attended the SURF Education Days in Den Bosch arranged by SURF. He spent the day trying out video technologies and talking to entrepreneurs running ed-tech start-ups. Here is what grabbed his attention.
Walking the plank in VR
I put on the VR glasses with 360 wrap around audio and stepped into the lift. Through the crack in the doors I could see my progress to the 50th floor. The doors opened. In front of me was a narrow plank. I walked towards the abyss…
Walking the plank 50 stories up. 

 Would you jump?

Walking the plank over into the abyss

Let's face it … there was absolutely no way in Hell I would ‘jump’. Even knowing in reality it was only 20 cm to the floor below.

On Tuesday 5th November I attended the SURF Education Days in Den Bosch arranged by SURF. See previous blogs here 20182017 & 2016. My focus is on teaching with, and through, video. I spent the day trying out video technologies and talking to entrepreneurs running ed-tech start-ups. Here is what grabbed my attention:
Robert Wendrich of the University of Twente has developed a wonderfully intuitive and simple creative device using video. An overhead camera looks down on a sheet of white paper on a table. The screen in front of you displays the work space. With transparent tweezers you hold an object under the camera (on the paper or somewhere in the space between the camera and table). Using your foot, you press a pedal and 'take a picture' of the object. This frees up both your hands. Your active stance is more like being at a potter's wheel than working behind a computer. 
The object is captured and frozen on the screen on. The really cool thing is that you can then take multiple pictures of the same, or different, objects. They accumulate into a collage. Very simple to use, quick and with a learning curve of zero. I tried it out and could not stop. The girl in the picture below was fully engaged for 10 minutes with no instruction and fully creative. She is carefully colouring in the sun in the top left hand corner.
Position the object. under the camera. Use the foot pedal on the floor to take a picture. 'Click!'
I can imagine many uses for this approach in education. Especially in creative and design courses where three dimensional spaces and objects can be translated into two dimensional images, or stop-motion movies. Insipring!
Using HoloLens and AR, the Centre4Innovation have set up some really great material for medical lessons. In VR (jumping off a building) your eyes are completely covered and you have no sense of your surroundings. With AR, you look throught the HoloLens glasses and the 3d object is projected into a space, augmenting the real world. What is so fascinating with the AR format is that as a teacher, you and your students can all see each other. The teacher can point out a specific element in the 3d model. You you can hear the other students. And have eye contact with them as you discuss a particular point. Using a hearing device, I could walk around a 3d holographic rib cage and listen to healthy and unhealthy lungs. Other lessons include adding sensors to your ankle and then 'controlling' a hologram of an ankle in mid-air. This format has huge potential for medical lessons, or demonstrating and walking through complicated 3d spaces. 
My colleague Estella likes my 'AR' ribs! I've not got my HoloLens on yet.
Again, the active stance of standing, walking, discussing is the opposite of passive video consumption.
AR helps medical students learn complex anatomy
Facial Recognition
AI confronted me on the screen with my own scanned and data-pointed image. I was digitalised and reduced to a series of blue dots. It was frightening to see how effortlessly the system captured and presented the data. And the many people in the crowd behind me were also clearly represented. This type of video technology can be used to teach athletes or professionals about how they move through 3d spaces.
AI scans my body movement and 'recognises' my face
I talked to Thomas Dieste about Amber Script. It automatically transforms video or audio to text. Their core business is in the Dutch language, and focusing on very specific areas and domains of language to automatically generate text with a high level of accuracy. Transcription is an area of huge importance for the future accessibility and searchability of video and audio.
Alex Blattmann took me through MaxBrain's platform for education managers to digitze further education. They focus on providing digital learning experiences across the learning process. Their goal is to simplify the interaction between students, education and technology. 
Tom Eberle showed me the Campus App Provider they've developed. This adds an extra dimension to University communication channels. Students can communicate about Books, Rooms and Furniture in the university communication channel. Bringing informal communication into the formal environment. Innovative and simple to use.
Devin Hillenius and Youri Voet developed a system to simply grading code. Their one solution is for the complete grading workflow: increasing efficiency for teachers and providing (they claim) 5 x more feedback for students. It is specifically designed for coding education and includes automated testing. 
Sqill (Pronounced Skill) is a curriculum development tool that tracks and connects all elements of the development process. Casper van Schuppen explained how the process takes the educational vision, learning goals and integrates the curriculum in an easy to track and modify system.
Neil Solman is a history teacher that believes children in their last few years of primary school can do much more than they are given credit for. He is reverse engineering elements of secondary education into the primary programme to encourage and motivate talented students. 
Provide a programme for giving feedback to algebra equations. Their system accumulates correct answers and combines these with AI. The enables feedback to be given automatically on the student approach to solving equations. 
Beware the Platformisation of Education
Key note speaker Christine Bok of SURF took us through the phenomenon of ‘Platformisation’. How platforms collect our personal data. I am very pleased to see this as the subject for the opening key note.
Commercial platforms connect consumer demand to product offerings (e.g., or Airbnb). And they dominate the market. The winner (biggest platform) takes it all. ‘Free’ Platforms have huge influence. But we are often unaware about how much information is being collected. Apps and cookies hoover-up our personal data for the big businesses to sell. Christine showed the 1 minute film Every App has a price (in Dutch) that made the point clearly. We download ‘free’ apps and give them complete access to our smartphones; photos, contacts, location. Yet we won’t do this for a ‘free’ coffee. We are paying with our data. ‘The Big 5’ companies influence our behaviour. We are dependent on private companies who hold all the cards. They set their own terms and conditions, which when visible, are impenetrable. We have woken up in what Shoshana Zuboff calls the Age of Surveillance Capitalism.
And this power translates to big profits. The Dutch home food delivery service (Thuisbezorgd) increased its margins while forcing restaurants to lower prices. Their CEO was confirmed this week as one of the richest people in the Netherlands. As users and suppliers we don’t have a choice.
Christine asked how we can safeguard the values of education? What shared values do we have regarding education? How can we defend our privacy, safety, reliability, transparency, fairness and maintain democrat control?
In the Netherlands there is already a good degree of alignment and collaboration within higher education (national associations for Universities, Hogescholen, Colleges and SURF as a linking force). If the Netherlands can’t protect our education, who can? We must do this together.
Each year there is a constant stream of new students into education. They generate vast quantities of behavioural data. This is valuable to commercial companies. But who knows what happens to this data after it is collected?. Where is it stored? With what purpose?
Many commercial educational platforms offer interesting services and collect data in exchange. How can education work transparently with our commercial partners while maintain student privacy and protecting data? We must do this through a concerted collaborative effort at international level (within the EU, and beyond).
A first step is for education to establish open standards, on our terms. Standards that are owned and managed by education. Coordinating this will be a challenge. The big companies may well prefer us not to. An example was the introduction of standardised sea-containers that allowed for improved shipping processes worldwide. Standardisation in Education with micro credentials and badges could have similar effects. Allowing for flexibilistion.
I spoke to Christine after the keynote. I asked her what the next steps were in addressing these challenges? It is not clear . Who and how can this be organized? The number of recent books and programmes on this subject show it is an important issue. There are discussions at a local level such as this meeting in Amsterdam on Democratizing Technology 
Eric Slaats, associate lector of Fontys Hogeschool, showcased his unique approach to education. Three of his students explained how they were given 100% free range to develop, run, assess and complete their own courses. An inspiring approach which requires innovative guts and complete trust. We are educating students for unknown future challenges. We should not let tools hack our education but start with an educational vision.
Fontys Students tell their story watched on by Eric Slaats

I only attended the first day of the conference. So I missed my colleagues from SURF presenting their session on supporting educators to use video in their teaching.