EdTech Hero: Barbara Soots paves the way for OER adoption in Washington
October 20, 2017
Soots “listens, advises and gently nudges” districts to understand and embrace open educational resources.
The virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D platform works on HTC Vive, and it provides STEM and other content.
Corinne Lestch is a staff reporter covering education for EdScoop and its affiliate public sector technology news websites, FedScoop and StateScoop...
Students can get to places previously inaccessible — for example, inside of a whale — thanks to a virtual reality and augmented reality platform called Lifeliqe.
The platform, developed by a San Francisco-based company, has been lauded by teachers from Alta Vista School, a progressive, independent school in the Bay area. Last summer, the company announced a strategic partnership with HTC to provide virtual educational reality content for Vive, a VR system. That's on top of its partnerships with iOS and Windows 10.
Then, in September, Lifeliqe (pronounced "life-like") launched its VR Museum, its first comprehensive VR experience — allowing students to discover outer space, hang out with dinosaurs and explore the internal organs of a giant marine mammal.
EdScoop spoke with Vojtěch Šprdlík, Lifeliqe's media relations specialist, to explain how students and teachers can benefit from the VR experience. Below is an edited and condensed Q&A.
EdScoop: What is Lifeliqe and what is it supposed to accomplish in the classroom?
Vojtěch Šprdlík: Lifeliqe is a platform for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and interactive 3D. Lifeliqe sparks student excitement and curiosity. It empowers deep learning in K-12 STEM through curriculum-aligned lesson plans enhanced with over 1,000 interactive, beautiful 3D models. Educators, students and homeschooling parents can use our 3D lesson plans, customize them to fit their needs or create brand new ones. Lifeliqe also delivers premium, immersive content in augmented reality or virtual reality for the HTC Vive, who selected Lifeliqe as its strategic partner in education.
Currently, Lifeliqe has its interactive content deployed on iOS and Windows 10 as Lifeliqe app and also in VR on HTC Vive as Lifeliqe VR Museum.
What makes Lifeliqe different from other virtual reality education providers, like Google VR?
Šprdlík: We really understand the everyday experience of a teacher, which is why we have had a really excited community of users even before we started playing with VR. Thanks to teachers’ feedback, we understand the importance of lesson plans and other supporting materials that facilitate integration of high-end technology in classroom.
We try not to compare ourselves with others too much. We are focusing really hard on our work and on making our products as good as possible. That’s why we are constantly in touch with educators all over the world and why we piloted the content before it was even live. Lifeliqe VR Museum is offering 1000-plus interactive 3D models and 20-plus virtual experiences and from what we see, there’s no other educational VR app with content of that volume and quality.
Why the focus on STEM subjects? What are some models, software or materials that accompany the VR?
Šprdlík: STEM subjects are full of difficult concepts, mechanisms and processes that are hard to imagine, visualize. But also, you need to get kids really excited to be able to focus on such a difficult subject matter. Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of the world’s population prefer visual stimulus for learning. So choosing STEM really seems like the obvious choice where the immersive media can have the biggest impact and be the most helpful.
Lifeliqe VR Museum offers interactive 3D models from 10 different STEM subjects: Animal Biology, Human Anatomy, Plant Biology, Geology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Physics, Geometry, Chemistry and Culture. These models can be examined from all angles, highlighting different parts and scaling. Virtual experiences then take the students into an immersive underwater world, a walk with dinosaurs or into space to see International Space Station.
ES: How does Lifeliqe work? How do teachers use or incorporate it into their classrooms?
Šprdlík: Lifeliqe VR Museum is running on HTC Vive device, so at least one of these is needed for the classroom. What we tried and what worked extremely well is the concept of 'station' – when the students rotate using HTC Vive as an extension of their routine classroom experience, one of the students being in VR and the rest watching what he sees on a screen. Studying, for example, the somatic cell, one student in VR is controlling the environment [while] the rest is trying to complete a webquest that the teacher prepared prior to the class, taking notes, filling out the worksheets and answering questions asked by the teacher. The students then take turns in VR. This scenario perfectly fits into the usual classroom environment and doesn’t flip the teachers’ previous preparations upside down.
Lifeliqe VR Museum works great in cooperation with standard Lifeliqe app, where the students can open the same models on iOS or Windows devices in 1:1 classroom setups and examine them while their classmate is in VR. A great complement for this: more than 200 lesson plans available on Lifeliqe, which currently cover entire middle school Life Sciences curriculum.
In which schools or districts is Lifeliqe currently being used across the country and (if applicable) more broadly?
Šprdlík: We currently have VR pilots running in multiple U.S. K-12 schools, for example in Marin County, California and Kingston, Massachusetts. We have also very warm relations with Alta Vista School in San Francisco, which was actually the first in the U.S. who started piloting our VR experience. Apart from the U.S., Lifeliqe VR Museum pilots are running in the United Arab Emirates and Great Britain, and many more are on their way. There is a huge interest among hundreds of teachers worldwide, who unfortunately don’t have the device. Before we even launched Lifeliqe VR Museum, our mobile has been used worldwide in over 120 countries and 5 continents.
What has been the feedback you've received from teachers, students, parents, etc?
Šprdlík: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers find multiple benefits of using VR, mostly because it greatly increases attention and it serves to explain difficult concepts. Students love it. They usually get so immersed they don’t even want to get out. As for the parents, we had the chance to pilot the LIfeliqe VR Museum with children with special needs, and their parents were just so excited to see their kids having such good time.
There has been a huge gap between technology that is available today and learning content used in schools. We try to bridge this gap by empowering teachers with up-to-date edtech that students love to use. Those of us who work with teachers know what kind of a joy it is for them to see their students curious, passionate and happy about learning.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.