In the February issue, Tech & Learning named the top finalists in their refreshed Awards of Excellence program. To select these finalists, T&L’s advisors spent countless hours reviewing nominations, researching, and applying their expertise to select 10 finalists in each of three categories: best use of edtech in the classroom, school, and district. At a special reception at TCEA, Christine Weiser, Content Director for Tech & Learning, announced the top winners of the following categories: classroom, school, or district. Congratulations to these companies!
WINNER: CLASSROOM MERGE CUBE
“MERGE Cube is the best-kept secret for education on the planet,” say T&L judges. MERGE Cube is an award-winning AR tool that allows students to hold and interact with virtual objects. The soft and durable foam cube provides a touch-based sensory AR experience that goes beyond the limits of a device screen. Students can hold a galaxy, examine fossils, explore physics, and create 3D objects.
“The MERGE Cube solves a number of problems because it provides affordable access to enhancing lesson plans by AR and VR for less than $15.00 per cube. It’s easy to use and deploy—even for teachers who are reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. There are 30+ Cube apps available and more are being added, including collections of AR objects to support a variety of STEM and Common Core requirements. The MERGE Cube works with Android and iOS mobile devices that have a camera, to bring curriculum to life in the classroom instantly,” say T&L judges. “The MERGE Cube also allows students to create their own content in Tinkercad or CoSpaces Edu and then physically hold and examine it in AR. This brings the makerspace experience into any classroom or learning environment and also engages students and stimulates interest in subjects such as STEM through touch-based AR learning experiences. The Object Viewer app allows students to upload a variety of object files (.FBX, .OBJ, .STL, .DAE. BLEND. GLTF) to view fossils, artifacts, museum objects, or scanned objects in full AR. When used with a mobile scanning app such as Qlone, it literally turns a student’s physical world into a STEM lab, whereby anything they can scan can be turned into an AR object they can hold.”
The MERGE Cube can be used in a variety of classroom environments—from 1:1 classrooms to classrooms with only a few devices, where teachers are creating learning stations so small groups can interact with AR objects and record their observations and experiences. In classrooms with only a single device, teachers are projecting AR objects onto whiteboards so the entire class can interact. Students and teachers simply download and launch their desired app from www.MINIVERSE.io, point their device at the MERGE Cube, and watch it transform into an AR object.
WINNER: SCHOOL ZSPACE AR/VR LAPTOP
The zSpace Laptop is the world’s first AR/VR laptop. It encourages collaboration and creativity and allowing learners to gain a deeper understanding of STEM concepts by physically manipulating virtual simulations with a stylus.
“zSpace has hit another homerun!” say T&L judges. “Five years ago, zSpace released their first AR/VR curriculum work stations. They brought virtual frog dissections and Newton’s physics experiments into the palms of your hands, minus the smell and potential for hazards. Although these systems were nothing short of amazing, they were expensive and took up a lot of classroom space. Those obstacles have been eliminated with this new laptop, which makes learning in an AR/VR environment personal and mobile. Schools should be filling classrooms or laptop carts with these amazing tools.” Judges also praised the laptop’s form factor and computing horse-power. Programs load quickly and easily, and the new interfaces are easy to manipulate and very intuitive.
The zSpace Laptop includes tracking eyewear, an interactive stylus, and a wide variety of K–12 STEM software that aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and individual state standards. Unlike other VR solutions, such as head-mounted displays that can be isolating, zSpace is display-based. While students can work independently, the environment and content encourage a high level of collaboration. The tool empowers students to “learn by doing” in an environment where it’s easy to take risks, make mistakes, and manipulate variables. Research using zSpace with middle- and high-school students is showing learning gains and steady progression to higher-level questioning and knowledge.
Learn how Clark County (NV) School District is leveraging zSpace technology as they implement a modern and cost-effective Career and Technical Education program here: http://tinyurl.com/CCSDzSpace
WINNER: DISTRICT HOVERCAM PILOT 3
The HoverCam Pilot 3 is the world’s first fully integrated wireless digital teaching station. Featuring a Windows PC, 13MP document camera, and 21-inch touchscreen with wireless HD mirroring functionality in a mobile podium, it eliminates the outdated AV cart and liberates teachers from stationary desks or lecterns. The mobile, sturdy wireless transceiver instantly beams the podium’s screen and touch annotations to any interactive flat panel, projector, or TV in resolutions up to 4K. The document camera’s built-in microphone captures audio for every lesson, and HoverCam’s ClassFusion software enables interaction on whiteboards, annotation, and desktop marking for lesson recording and sharing. ClassFusion reinvents notetaking, capturing video and audio of lessons in real-time for students to access anywhere, anytime on any device.
With the Pilot 3, educators have all the tools they need—and because they all work together, they’re easy and intuitive to use. Smart devices are a way of life for students. They’re power users, which presents security problems when teachers cannot control the content. HoverCam enables educators to moderate what’s happening on the screens and prevents unwanted content from being beamed from students’ mobile devices to classroom displays.
In Val Verde (CA) USD, for example, the Pilot 3 brought the district’s new STEM labs to life and introduced the capabilities for state-of-the-art instruction in a district of more than 20,000 students. Students can also interact with the screen through their Chromebooks, with the Pilot acting as the teacher’s command and control station for what goes on every screen.
“The Pilot 3 is a very innovative solution for teaching,” say T&L judges. “It combines the old style of a podium with the high-tech multimedia needs of today’s classroom. Its units can be replaced without a lot of trouble, and it’s flexible so peripherals like other computers, tablets, and projector can be added easily. Also, the image quality is excellent.”