Podcast #71

Andrea Stevenson Won is an assistant professor in the Cornell Communication Department where she directs the Virtual Embodiment Lab. She studies how people communicate in virtual environments and how this differs from other forms of communication. She spends her days working with the latest virtual reality gear and conducting experiments in virtual worlds. She’s also collaborating with physicists to create new ways of teaching using VR. In this episode Andrea talks with us about how virtual reality affects her teaching today and how it could affect all our teaching tomorrow.

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Show Notes

0:00 Intro

0:35 Introducing Andrea Stephenson Won. Helping students understand physics through moon phases with Natasha Holmes (Cornell Physics), Jack Madden (Cornell Astronomy) and Jonathan Schuldt (Cornell Communication). Combining hands-on demonstrations and computer visualizations.

5:21 Virtual reality (VR) briefly explained. Describing the VR experience of floating in space wearing the Oculus Rift. A very immersive experience. Why not just hold up oranges?

11:00 The tantalizing possibility of adding a social dimension to the VR experience. Getting past marveling at VR. Studying VR from a communications perspective. Limitations: you can’t take notes yet.

17:10 Other physics problems VR might be able to teach. How do you represent the user’s body and identity in virtual reality.

23:37 Andrea’s teaching on VR and visual communication. Andrea’s students’ projects: A Memory Palace and a Trolley Problem.

29:47 Thinking about visual communication in the classroom and for the student. Trying to add more words to largely visual Powerpoint slides.

32:31 Getting back to VR. Emerging opportunities in VR and education: experiencing chemical bonds through augmented reality.

36:28 Edward plays devil’s advocate. A plea for imagination, empathy, and teaching students to author VR.

40:02 Andrea’s teaching adventures. Trying to remember students’ names.

42:49 Thanking Andrea. Thanking Oculus Education for supplying hardware in exchange for scientific data–even if it turns out VR does NOT support learning in some cases.