Explosive Learning: Week 2 at Burke

Our time thus far at the Burke has been special and we have learned so much about the role Dreamporte can play in a classroom. Ms. Rodny has taken over for Carly and has brought her experience and expertise to our lessons. She has done great work and given valuable feedback that we are using to shape Dreamporte.

 

On Monday we ran our lesson on volcanoes and earthquakes, making some alterations to better use our resources in the art room. After an opening discussion and watching videos of volcanos and earthquakes, which lead to great questions about why natural disasters happen, the students made their own volcanoes out of cardboard. The kids were all involved and making their own modifications. In fact, they were so enthusiastic that they decided to keep working on the lesson on Tuesday as well.

 

While have learned how valuable of a tool this is in the hands of curious kids, we have also learned a lot about how to make Dreamporte better from its shortcomings. The first issue with our summer program thus far has been technical. The phones, while they have been useful and work well enough, do not fit perfectly in the goggles. Thankfully, this is fixable. We can adjust the headsets for now and get different phones for the next classroom.

 

The second thing we can strive to improve is making the material immediately relevant for the students. The way we connect large, global concepts have to directly relate to them if we expect them to become invested. Alisa did a good job explaining what this clear relevance would look like and helped us reshape a final chapter on pollution that connects litter in Dorchester to melting glaciers in China and global warming. It should be a fun couple of lessons next week.

 

We’ve learned so much from working with these amazing educators and students at Burke. This pilot has inspired us to learn more from as many educators as we can to make Dreamporte an even more effective and accessible tool. If you are an educator, we would love to talk to you about what your think about the program, how you plan lessons, etc.. Contact Caleb Johnson at calebjohnson@college.harvard.edu if you would like to contribute to the conversation on how we could work better.

One Week Down

Midway through July, our first week of sessions at Burke has come to a close. It has been a blast going to Burke and seeing how well Carly (a substitute teacher who often works at Burke) worked with the students using our program. The kids have already shown us in surveys and in reactions that virtual reality has a place in the classroom.

On Monday we started our time at Burke with a lesson on land biomes. The kids loved using the VR sets and the lesson as a whole. One student in particular, who Carly said was usually quiet, was very involved in the discussion and activities. That was great to see.

Our second course of the week, which ran on Thursday, was about marine biomes. We ran multiple stations where students watched videos and considered questions about their VR experience and hypothesized possible answers. And while surveys are a good way to know the VR is effective which we are doing for each lesson, we found that hearing kids gasp at a quickly approaching great white shark is equally effective.

The kids weren’t the only ones learning. Our team here at Dreamporte has learned plenty about how to plant our program at new schools. We have been around to help with any technical difficulties there were and observe Dreamporte in motion, but Carly has been running the show. After reading through our curriculum with her, we made a few minor changes that she thought would make the material more conveyable to the students. For example, we made sure to implement more moving and drawing for our lesson on Thursday. We are learning the importance of flexibility in our curriculum and have found that what we have written is already fairly flexible.

This week we expect the return of the full-time teacher, Alisa, but are expecting to still see Carly in the classroom helping out as well. It should be another good week with plenty to learn from. Stay tuned.

Summer Begins!

Summer is upon us. The weather is beautiful, the days are long, and we are as busy as ever here at Dreamporte. While school may be out for summer (cue Alice Cooper), educators and students across Boston are still out there learning in all sorts of summer classes and camps. In the midst of the summer school whirlwind, we have managed to land a perfect spot in Burke High School’s PULSE program

Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester is an exceptional place and a perfect spot to launch our newly written curriculum. Burke was the first school in the state to pull itself out of “Turnaround status”. It has a 98% minority enrollment and 80% of the students are given federal aid for lunches. It should be perfect for us. We have the opportunity to provide the experience of being anywhere in the world to motivated students who have not gone these places.

The PULSE program, which we are working with specifically, works with rising 10th graders who did not meet the MCAS standard. Our summer curriculum – which is based on environmental awareness – will be taught by Ms. Rodney. While Ms. Rodney’s specialization is in art, we have been told she is a great teacher in all areas and especially enjoys the sciences.

Our summer work at Burke is a huge step in the ultimate goal of Dreamporte: to be able to send our curriculum out to any school, ready to use. This is the first time we will be using an outside teacher and it is in the perfect school for us.

Blog Post 2: Where we are heading

With summer testing now in sight, the Dreamporte team hosted a focus group with teachers from Boston Public Schools. It went great! They had many constructive points to consider and use in order to create the most effective virtual-reality education plan out there!  After talking to them and weighing their suggestions, we have truly focused on what we will be targeting with our program. The suggestions were clear, and our action will be just as decisive.

Here are a few of their suggestions for what we can do to be a better.

 

Lesson Plans

Our lesson plans thus far have been painstakingly detailed, much to our advantage. The members of our team that are out testing our lesson plans are not experienced professionals. We are just a bunch of passionate, wide-eyed students. The detailed lesson plans are great at making sure we do not stray too far off the path to the eventual take-away point. With plans on putting the power of VR education in places where we aren’t, we are planning to change our lesson plans to be more flexible. In the hands of teachers, our lesson plans will be more flexible. Teachers can use whatever teaching strategy is most suitable to them and their students.

 

Phones

The most reasonably priced forms of VR, so far, rely on phones to play the videos and audios. It is the most realistic option for schools, but it leaves one glaring issue. Many schools don’t allow their kids to have their phones in class! Up until now, we have been relying on the phones of the Dreamporte team to use in classrooms, and this is not a sustainable option for even the summer. In order to combat the issue, we are starting a used phone drive across campus. We will be collecting people’s used smartphones to be used exclusively in our VR sets (like our brand new BoboVR set, check it out here).  If you want to donate a phone, let us know in this google form, and we will be in touch with you shortly.

 

Assessment

Assessment is an important step in measuring the effectiveness of any teaching tool, but is especially problematic when considering the long-term goals of what Dreamporte aims to do. As an organization, we want kids who are unlikely to travel before graduation to see the world in a different way via virtual reality. Assuming the main benefit of time abroad is heightened curiosity in the classroom, we will measure if VR actually increases excitement about learning. We will have a group using conventional video supplements and compare their enthusiasm to those who used our program.

 

These are a few of our main takeaways from the focus group. Do you think we need to consider anything else? Let us know in the comments!

 

-The Dreamporte Team

 

Blog Post 1: Who Are We?

 

Who Are We?

 

Founded by Harvard undergraduates, Dreamporte is a non-profit organization providing educational enrichment programs to expose students to various cultures, global issues, and the natural world. We use 360° virtual experiences, accompanied by hands-on activities, to create a more immersive environment that betters learning. Our programs aim to enhance students’ understanding of the world, surround them with role models, and inspire them to love the world and dream big.

 

After running both a successful pilot program with DCF kids and an after school enrichment at Rindge Upper School in Cambridge, we now set our eyes on broader targets. This summer we are on track to use our newly designed curriculum and teaching staff at summer schools in the Boston area. While teaching kids, we will be learning ourselves. We will better our understanding of the shortcomings and advantages of our material, and from there we will further sharpen this educational tool. Which brings us nicely to our next point.

 

Why Blog?

 

This blog is dual-purposed. The primary purpose of the blog is to create a dialogue between the Dreamporte team and all of you: the teachers, administrators, tech heads, parents, students, wanderers, ponderers, innovators, and everything in between. We started this company to empower you to provide experiences to your students, so we want to make it better for you and more widely accessible for people like you. We invite you to follow and direct our growth. If you have any comments or ideas or critiques, please either comment on the blog or email us directly at dreamporte@gmail.com  or fill out this quick survey. Your thoughts will make a better program, which we hope you yourself will one day use.

 

The secondary purpose is to spread the word of how we are using VR for t. We want everyone – especially those who can use it – to see how this product is affecting actual students. Our student reviews thus far have been outstanding, and it is exciting to see kids who are excited about learning. If you or someone you know wants Dreamporte in a classroom, after-school program, summer camp, or any other educational setting, let us know on this form. We are always ready for new places to start making an impact.

 

Keep Dreaming,

The Dreamporte Team