Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Learning In The Youth Zone

Pop Up Thinglab 12 Childrens DIY VR Workshop
“Technology is anything invented after you were born.” ~ Alan Kay

Technology is everything that doesn’t work yet."Danny Hillis

Although virtual reality has been around for a long time (even before I was born) it is only now starting to enter the mainstream. Most people would consider virtual reality as technology - it's new new and doesn't work that well. 

NASA is an organisation tightly connected with technology and they have been using virtual reality for a long time - here is how they explain it:

 "Virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence.”  

Did you understand that?

This is what Albert Einstein has to say about explanations

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself" 

I like to flip Einstein's idea so that

"if you want to understand it yourself have a six year old explain it to you"

This is how Croydon Library code club children explained virtual reality to me 
 "In virtual reality you can look around as if you are there"

I know which explanation I prefer. 

Children carry less baggage than adults - things are simpler, and more exciting all at the same time. Children rather than adults are better suited to accommodate new technology.

In How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet’ Douglas Adams wrote  ... 

"you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really."

As young people we are amazing - curiosity bootstraps our learning through play, exploration and experimentation. We learn how to walk and talk before we can read an instruction manual - babies learn to walk through curiosity and trial and error exploration and experimentation. 

One of our greatest ever scientists knew all about the power of curiosity, play and experimentation.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious” ~ Albert Einstein

“Play is the highest form of research”  ~ Albert Einstein

The marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle once said 

"The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask question and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity."

Children Play Like Scientists Work - they try things out, experiment, test things, break things and inquire - just as if they are doing scientific research. Failure is not an option .... literally ...  "that didn't work ... lets try this instead" its not thought about in the adult way -its just something that happens - its all part of the fun - its an essential ingredient of play and learning.

I'm Rowing a boat .... inside the Google HQ

"Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play" ~ Seb Paquet

We hear the stories about the workplaces and cultures of those creative and innovative companies with their beanbags, toys colourful surroundings and "move fast and break things" cultures. The relationship between playfulness and innovation is no co-incidence - try your own experiment - have a meeting in the standard corporate boardroom and then in a nursery. The corporate boardroom is designed for authority and formality ... the environment suppresses imagination .. the nursery is designed for play - it stimulates the imagination. 

When people ask me about ways to promote creativity and innovation ... I always say "start with a nursery" and its no coincidence that innovative companies have workplaces that resemble nurseries.

In "Profiles of the Future" Arthur C. Clarke warned about the the failure of imagination and set out his three Laws of prediction:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The only thing we can't predict is the future - its unwritten ... its uncertain.

"Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill. We don’t have maps for the territory of tomorrow. As a result, all citizens must become explorers of this emerging world. The best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful." ~ Tina Barseghian (The Power of Play in Learning)
A Curious Mind Knows No Limits - to learn just start playing  .. its only natural - we just have to create the conditions.

“Our greatest national resource is the minds of our children.” ~ Walt Disney

The best way to learn is to teach.

Children are our future - let them teach us

Remember ...

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” ~ George Bernard Shaw

inspireNshare are passionate about peer learning and specialise in facilitating mutual co-created peer learning projects through sharing. Our projects focus on "Citizen Tech" using cost effective, free, open, easy technologies and social media. With our projects everyone is both a learner and a teacher.

inspireNshare are in the Youth Zone at Mozfest 

Sunday October 30th - Ravensbourne College, London
MAKE:VR ... Libraries: 21st century literacies and citizen tech
See yourself in virtual reality, learn how to make your own virtual reality viewer and to make and share your own virtual reality content. 

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare projects in education visit

Monday, October 17, 2016

Citizen Tech

Image "Mud Kitchens: A Recipe for Fun" ~

Technology is "the science of craft". The word combines the greek roots "Techne" (art, skill, ingenuity) and logia (techniques, skills, methods and processes).  Jacobe Bigelow first coined the word in in "Elements of Technology" a textbook from  a series of lectures on the application of the sciences to the useful arts" in 1829.

Citizenship is about the ability of the ordinary person to participate and play an active role in society - its about the ability of the ordinary person to do things and move from consuming to creating and sharing what they do.

"...the street finds its own uses for things" ~ William Gibson

Citizen tech is about the ability of the ordinary person to participate in technology as the science of craft. 

Citizen tech is simple, friendly accessible and cost effective - it encourages participation, play and production. 

Citizen tech is about creativity, re-mixing, invention, exploration and experimentation in the science of craft.

InspireNshare run, promote and contribute to projects in education and the community that promote the peer to peer, open and exploratory methods of citizen tech - come and see us and find out more at Make:Shift:Do and Mozfest.

Saturday October 29th - Croydon Central Library
Making the library of the future
An introduction to Virtual Reality and 3D printing with simple, friendly, accessible and cost effective "citizen tech”.

Sunday October 30th - Ravensbourne College, London
MAKE:VR ... Libraries: 21st century literacies and citizen tech
See yourself in virtual reality, learn how to make your own virtual reality viewer and to make and share your own virtual reality content. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 17: Adventures in Virtual reality

There you are ... in my virtual reality 

Pop Up Thinglab 17 was a virtual reality travel agency student welcome event at Westminster Kingsway college Soho centre.

We aimed to give students and staff a personal experience with immersive 360 degree virtual reality by putting them in the picture (literally) using our virtual reality camera. We started off talking 360 degree virtual reality selfies.

We are familiar with seeing ourselves in two dimensions on flat media such as photos and videos but seeing ourselves in virtual reality is something new - the VR selfie is the strangest selfie yet. In-situ virtual reality is strangely compelling and messes with our senses as we move from the familiar two dimensional passive voyeurism of flat media perspectives to the active immersive first person perspective of virtual reality.  The best lie is close to the truth - In-situ VR is close to reality and gets the closest I've seen yet to confusing people that what they are seeing is real - people seem spell-bound looking around, many start reaching out to touch things and many can't resist moving around.

Experiencing an in-situ VR selfie

With the virtual reality travel agency students and staff visited Borneo, Kenya and Mongolia, went ski jumping, walked a tightrope, went to the top of the spire at the world trade centre, rode roller coasters, went into outer space, went back in time to the Jurassic era, went forward in time to a cyber-punk future in Prague and New York and went on stage with the Cirque Du Soleil.

 Virtual reality can seem real

Using virtual reality with the smartphone speaker helps make it a shared social experience as the VR traveller can have conversations with people around them in the real world and involve them in what they are experiencing.

Now that I have your undivided attention

Many of the students wanted to get more immersed and used their headphones with the VR viewer - this had the effect of disconnecting them from the group around them and I noticed each part then acting and experiencing separately. The VR travellers with headphones all became quite isolated and introspective - quiet, absorbed and engrossed ... indeed they became immersed.

Seeing the absorbing effect of immersive virtual reality made wonder how it might be used in relation to attention - not just to help concentration and focus but also to help with attention shifting conditions such as ADHD and sensory overload conditions such as autism.

We had conversations with students and staff about the differences between 360 immersion and 3D viewing and immersion and used the experience of the VR selfie to understand these differences. We spoke about so called 4D of light field image capture with the Lytro Immerge "volumetric" light field virtual reality camera for example.

We had conversations about the future of virtual reality - the thought of Matrix style total immersion and the problems of VR addiction for some individuals and for wider society. 

We had conversations about practical uses of virtual reality in addition to entertainment and gaming. We talked about the use of virtual reality to provide simulations for training and education, for remote control of robots and equipment, medical uses such as the treatment of phobias. We spoke about the potential of virtual reality in design sectors such as architecture where people could get inside architects' 3D models and experience an environment before it is built - helping to shape a design and avoid the problems once a design gets into the build phase.

For more images and videos of Pop Up Thinglab 17 visit:
Thinglab 17 images (Flickr album)
Thinglab 17 videos (Youtube playlist)

To find out more about inspireNshare visit

To find out more about inspireNshare Thinglab visit