Our Windows Mixed Reality Headset and Controllers arrived safely today from ISC Digital and System Active and we are really looking forward to starting the project to investigate how the new technology can be put to good use at G&L. Our box contained a brand new HP computer with fast graphics card and processor to manage the 360 images, an HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset and two very futuristic looking controllers. This site will be used to keep you updated on our progress and the different projects we are trialling with the new hardware and software.
A few days in, the first impressions of the set up were that the connecting wires, instructions and hardware set up were all very straight-forward. However, we quickly encountered problems with the set up of the associated laptop. Using a brand new computer required some logistical and technical help from the ICT support team to ensure that it connected correctly with our network and systems. We also had issues making sure that the necessary updates for Windows 10 and the Steam Software were installed and set up in the correct order. This eventually required additional assistance from the SystemActive Team as the technology is so new that various "developer" functions need to be activated within the software to ensure that it functions correctly. Hopefully, with time and increasing use of the software this will become more "teacher" friendly and operate as a 'plug-in and go' set up.
A week in, now all the initial teething problems have been overcome, the hardware and software are working well and we are ready to start the next phase of testing. We have enjoyed "decorating" our access room and getting used to the controller and commands. We are trialling a variety of apps to see which would be most beneficial for our students and discussing ideas in the staff-room for how the technology might be utilised in different subjects. There seems to be lots of potential and lots of interesting apps to try. We feel there is perhaps a slight delay in the creation of educational resources that match our syllabuses specifically and which address the deeper learning we would like to see our students accessing. However, we are confident that these will come with time.
Interestingly, one of the main problems we have found is in connecting the laptop to the projector a little challenging as either using Apple TV or an HDMI cable produces the "split" image projected through the headset. We have resolved this with the use of an old-fashioned VGA connector, but are finding that this connector is not widely available in all our classrooms as many have been upgraded! This is definitely worth the effort, however, as the increased functionality of having the whole class experience what the student using the virtual reality is seeing means that there is greater opportunity for participation and collaboration. The laptop screen (despite it's size) is too small to use in this way. For many schools this might mean it is more effective to have a single virtual reality suite but for us we still like the flexibility of moving between classrooms.