Q&A: Early Adopter Discusses K-12 Education in the Upcoming Year

As summer comes to an end, many parents are focused on the transition for back-to-school. While it is easier for universities to make the transition online, remote learning for K-12 has proven to be a tougher challenge. Unlike college students, K-12 students have yet to build the habit of working independently offline. This type of work requires the oversight of a dedicated learning coach. Additionally, K-12 students accustomed to the traditional school setting may have to adjust to a new environment, where they do not have a teacher standing in front of them to provide immediate feedback. 

Fortunately, Glimpse Group subsidiary Early Adopter has been continuously pursuing creative solutions, such as its recent Augmented Reality (AR) product targeting for elementary students. Drawlight is an AR drawing app that is currently in beta. This collaborative app allows users to utilize the space around them as a blank canvas for art and design, all while being able to share this augmented space with friends and family. As a strong advocate for immersive technology-based education, Early Adopter’s long-term goal is to encourage schools to use Drawlight as a remote teaching tool.

Jay Van Buren is the founder and CEO of Glimpse Group subsidiary, Early Adopter. Originally a web design agency, Early Adopter has transformed into an Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) agency. As the General Manager of EA, he runs both client projects and the development of new products in Education and Children’s Health. Learning Success Systems spoke to Jay about his thoughts on changes to K-12 education in the following year and how parents can prepare for these changes. The following is a transcription of his interview, watch the full video below.


Q1: What do you think elementary and middle school education will look like in the coming year?
Jay Van Buren: I definitely think that a lot of schools that I’m hearing about are trying to find ways of doing both: having part of the education be remote and expecting the other part to be in person. Basically finding ways for there to be flexibility between the two, because everyone’s basically worried right now. Is there going to be another lockdown or not? Nobody knows.

I think that one of the things that’s going to be a lasting impact is that people have realized that the traditional means of communicating at a distance, like video conferences and phone calls, aren’t that helpful for a lot of kids, especially younger kids. And there are some newer ways of doing it, including augmented reality and virtual reality, that I think are going to be playing a larger and larger role.

So I would expect, especially AR right now, simply because in the case of VR, people just don’t have the equipment. Most families don’t have a VR headset at home, even the Oculus quest which has been selling at higher rates than any previous headset. They basically can’t make them fast enough. They’re always sold out.

So what that means is that the number of people who have a smartphone in their hand is just vastly, vastly larger than the people who have a headset. But one of the things that we’re finding is that augmented reality can be really engaging and really immersive even when it’s just on the phone. And the reason for that is I’m using a phone to look at something in AR even though I’m only seeing it through this tiny window. It’s just human nature that the mind sort of goes there. You can look at something and look at all the parts of it and your mind fills in the parts that you’re not seeing from moment to moment. What we’re finding is that an AR experience can be extremely immersive and extremely powerful for a number of different educational use cases. 

Q2: What changes are possible that could make elementary and middle school education ideal?                  JVB: One of the things that I think could really be helpful would be more ways for teachers, especially for younger kids, to engage with kids asynchronously. So one of the things that Early Adopter has created is an app called Drawlight, which is a way for kids to draw in space. And I can be drawing in my room and you can be drawing in your room, and I can see what you have drawn and you can see what I’ve drawn. And so, if you think about that, in the case of a teacher and a student, a teacher could give a student an assignment like draw a picture of the water cycle. That would be for an older kid.

For a younger kid, it would be to draw a picture of a castle. It’s really hard for them to stay put and watch a video conference. They constantly want to get up and run around. That’s the nature of little kids. And also having something just in this little screen is hard to really keep their attention. But I think if it’s something in AR for example, where it can be using the whole room as your canvas, so to speak, that’s a way for them to really be engaged and to be using their whole bodies. And I think that can be really fun. Plus, AR is just kind of fun and exciting anyway, because it’s new. With the older kids, I think AR presents a really great way of showing their work to others. 

Q3: What should we strive for in elementary education?                                                                                        JVB: Just watching what educators are doing right now, I feel like there’s a big shift, even for the younger grades, towards project-based learning and student-directed learning, so inquiry-based learning. I do think that’s the future, I think that’s going to be happening more and more. We’ve gotten into a world now where almost any kind of information is available to anybody that wants it. So memorizing facts is not a really productive way for people to spend our time anymore.

What they need to be learning is how to ask the right questions. And how to break the problem down into smaller problems and start thinking about it. Starting with empathy, starting to understand what’s the problem, trying to understand whatever the problem is from the point of view of the person who you’re trying to design for. And then trying to create a solution based on an understanding of what is needed from first principles, and building out from there, and then going into a process of iterating, seeing what happens, making changes going back and forth, all that kind of thing. That’s really the skills of the future, right? It’s like being able to create innovative products and think about the world in a new way. That’s what everybody needs to be learning how to do.

People also need to know how to work with other people on a team. The workplace is almost always collaborative now. If you get a student really interested in a topic, and they are driving themselves towards learning about that topic, what they learn actually goes way beyond that particular subject matter. In some sense, what they’re learning is they’re learning how to learn.

Student-directed learning requires an amazing teacher. You have to have a teacher that’s able to listen to what a kid is interested in, and then think about how can they can help the kid learn the topic. The teachers have a curriculum that the students need to get. They need the kid to learn these certain things. How do they get those learning outcomes out of a pursuit of this one thing that the kid happens to be interested in?  The best teachers can do it. I’ve seen them do it and it’s amazing. It’s amazing to watch.

Q4: How should parents be planning for the coming school year?                                                                        JVB: I’ve been talking to other parents who have their kids at home and are trying to do their jobs and there’s just not enough hours in the day. There’s no way. It’s completely impossible. I think what’s required is the larger society needs to recognize that fact. And somehow, we need to make allowances for people who do have small children at home. The only thing I can think of that would really work, and maybe this could work for younger kids, is if you had a very reduced school day if they’re remote. If the kids are at home, and you say, “Okay, we’re going to pack all of school into a time period between eight and 10 in the morning.”

And maybe you do use something like Drawlight where a lot of kids could be engaged in something with a teacher present through Augmented Reality. You can have lessons that are being learned with the teacher present through technology. You can get the kids engaged in some things, have some intensive kind of learning experiences. 

Q5: How can parents look at education for their children?                                                                                      JVB: The main thing is getting your kid excited about something or letting them follow their passions for whatever they’re interested in. I think those are the biggest things. Just help them stay curious.


Jay Van Buren is the General Manager for Glimpse Group subsidiary Early Adopter.

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