Immersive Learning with VR

In collaboration with Inez Moutarde of Luchs Technology Group

VRfree® System Description

The Sensoryx VRfree® system uses a fusion of different sensor types, the data from which is processed using our proprietary software and algorithms to provide highly accurate and precise hand and finger tracking with multiple training use cases in VR/AR applications.  VRfree® consists of Gloves, Wrist modules and a Head Module (see Figure 1.) that can be easily mounted on almost all VR HMDs and also has the potential to be attached to AR headsets or, with additional development, to be integrated completely into the headset form factor.  Check out videos here!

Figure 1. – VRfree® System

System Components


The VRfree® gloves can be produced to multiple fabric and material specifications, in accordance with customer requirements. 

Each glove is fitted with thirteen (13) Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs); two (2) for each finger, three (3) for the thumb, one (1) for the center-back of the hand and (1) inside the Wrist Module.  The IMUs allow for the precise measurement of finger movements, including bending, spreading and rotation.  The IMUs are connected to the center of the hand and then to the Wrist Module, from where the data is communicated to the Head Module. 

Wrist Module

Each glove has a removable Wrist Module attached. The Wrist Module contains a rechargeable, commercially available, Li-On battery with a running time of approximately six (6) hours per charge.  Each Wrist Module contains an LED in the IR frequency band and an ultrasonic transmitter.  It also contains an RF transmitter that currently operates in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band to communicate data back to the Head Module.

Head Module

The VRfree® Head Module is the brain of the system.  As well as containing a camera (to detect the IR LEDs), receivers (for the ultrasound) and an RF receiver (to receive IMU data from the gloves), it is also a computation device that contains the required electronic hardware and software/firmware  to enable processing of the wrist, hand and finger data using our proprietary software and algorithms.     

Tracking Solution

IR and Ultrasound

The fusion of optical data with ultrasonic range measurements allows for submillimeter accurate positioning of the Wrist Module relative to the Head Module. The field of view of more than 190 degrees of the fused position reconstruction removes any constraints on the interactions of a VR/AR user, i.e. with VRfree® users can enjoy realistic and intuitive AR and VR interactions.


Positioned in the fingers, thumbs, hands and Wrist Modules, the IMUs allow very accurate tracking of finger, hand and wrist movements.  Due to the measurement principle applied, hand configuration can be measured even when the glove is outside the field of view of the Head Module or even completely covered by real world objects. For setups not requiring accurate positioning the system can be modified to transmit data reliably to 20 meters.  VRfree® incorporates proprietary algorithms, which calculate the attitude (orientation in space) of the more than 25 IMUs. The algorithms also compensate for environmental influences due to metallic objects, so that interacting with real-world ferromagnetic objects is feasible without deterioration of the attitude estimation.

Software and Algorithms

VRfree® is a complex system, as it relies on low-latency communication between Trackers (e.g. Wrist Modules etc.) and the Head Module, features a high number of IMUs to be processed and filtered in real time and needs to be robust against external influences, e.g. changing light conditions and external electro-magnetic fields.  A unique hardware design combined with proprietary algorithms unleash the full potential of the system. The Head Module is an autonomous unit not requiring external infrastructure.  It will calculate the measurements and communicate a stream of position and orientation entities to an attached display device, e.g. computer, VR system etc.  The API on the back-end side is intentionally very lightweight as we focus on limiting the computational load on any attached device to a minimum.

System Features

  • Up to 120Hz sampling rate.
  • High refresh rate (~10ms) ensures low latency and real-time tracking.
  • Beyond Field of View (FOV) tracking.  Current FOV is 190°, but the IMUs ensure we can continue to track position and movement outside the FOV.  Measuring the configuration of the hand is independent of the positional tracking.  Thus, outside the field of view the positional tracking of the hand position has to fall back to inverse kinematic approaches. Since the system does not measure the hand/finger configuration optically, occlusions do not impact the reconstruction of hand poses at all.
  • Full degrees of freedom of hands and fingers.
  • Multi-user capability currently allows seven (7) users to train simultaneously in the same physical space.  This number can be increased if required. 
  • Small size and lightweight design ensure the system is unobtrusive and comfortable to wear.

Tracking Unit (Object Tracker & 3D Stylus)

Using the same baseline tracking technology, Sensoryx is now conducting prototype testing of a small, lightweight, accurate and cost-effective Tracking Unit that can be easily integrated into the VRfree® ecosystem.  The Tracking Unit can be used to accurately and precisely track real-world objects (including weapons, other equipment and body parts) and represent them in VR/AR applications.  The Tracking Unit design is fully modular, meaning that if specific sensor types are not required for certain use cases, they can be easily removed to further reduce the size of the Tracking Unit. 

Figure 2. – Object Tracker and 3D Stylus Advanced Prototypes

The data from the Tracking Unit is communicated to the Head Module of the individual interacting with the tracked object/body part and processed in the same way as the hand and finger data.  Each Head Module can communicate with multiple Tracking Units, in addition to the hands of the individual trainee.  As with the hands, the position of the Tracking Unit can be accurately reconstructed within the field of view of the Head Module.  Outside that or beyond the maximal distance and up to 30 meters, only orientation data of the Tracking Unit will be reported back to the Head Module. Therefore, a simulation environment should take measures to update the position of a Tracking Unit whilst it is in the range of a Head Module and it should fall back on relative positioning to a mobile headset while outside the field of view.

Specifically for weapons, trigger pulls could also be detected and reported, if some additional development work was completed.  This could be achieved using small pressure sensors, either located on the trigger finger of the VRfree® gloves or on the trigger itself, whichever might best meet the requirements.

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Whatever It Takes by Barbara Bray

Guest post by Barbara Bray, @bbray27 prior post on her site.

Whatever It Takes to Build Relationships by Barbara Bray

image from pexels

The world continues to live with the pandemic. Health professionals are saying it may evolve into an endemic similar to the flu and colds, yet there are still questions. Schools have opened thinking that things can go back to somewhat of a “normal” by wearing masks. It’s difficult to consider what will be our “normal.” I’m sure teachers and parents are wondering how safe are our schools? There is talk about “learning loss” but, really, there are deeper issues since the whole world is impacted. Teachers have reached out to me and each other asking for help. They need support, flexible time, and strategies on how to meet each learner who might have experienced trauma or mental health issues. Teachers need help to manage their own stress. With everything on their plates, teachers are overwhelmed and burning out. Families are confused and are concerned about their children and if they will be going to school the next day. 

When kids are struggling, families are probably struggling also. What if we pause and take time to focus on “relationships” first? 

Let’s do the HEART work before the HARD work. ~Dr. Basil Marin

All learners including teachers are unique and have stories and experiences to share. Let’s learn about each other and how resilient we have become through the pandemic. Let’s do the HEART work and “whatever it takes” for our kids. Here are several ways to begin:

Morning Meetings

A compassionate classroom builds a responsive community. A morning meeting is an engaging way to start each day and foster a sense of belonging and caring. 

  • The teacher can start off the year by defining empathy and modeling how to do active listening
  • Invite learners to volunteer to lead a mindfulness activity on different mornings to calm thoughts. One idea is to breathe deeply while tracing the fingers on one hand.
  • Each morning learners can sit or stand in a circle and greet each other. 
  • The teacher can invite learners to pair with another especially any they haven’t shared with before. 
    • Have pairs listen deeply to each other for two minutes each about something that happened to them recently. 
    • Ask the learners to be kind when the other person is talking and listen without judgment. 
    • The teacher then brings everyone back and asks if someone would like to share the story of their partner if they have permission to share their story.
  • After the morning meeting, consider asking a question for learners to think about during the day. One question could be…
    • “How will you reflect on your learning today?”
About You Prompts

Ask learners to choose a prompt to write about themselves and then to share it with another learner. Invite them to listen to each other and then give feedback using “I notice, I wonder” to each other. Here are a few prompts to possibly use:

  • What makes you feel like you have a sense of belonging here? 
  • What’s one thing you wish people knew about you?
  • What’s your biggest dream in life?
  • What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Why did you like it?
  • Describe something that you learned when times were difficult.
  • What makes you feel happy? 
All About Me

All of us have stories. Each story is unique. Younger children can tell their stories through pictures. 

  • Ask learners to draw pictures of themselves, their names, their families, what they are interested in if they have siblings and pets, favorite food, colors, how they play, and anything else they would love to share. 
  • Invite them to pair with another child and share their stories by explaining why they chose the pictures they drew.
  • Save what they drew to come back to later and update. 
  • When they are ready, invite them to post their stories with pictures to the sharing wall which could be in the classroom or on a website.

All learners can tell their stories by capturing moments of their lives through pictures, videos, reflections, examples, and evidence of learning. 

  • Encourage them to start a page as an overview of their background, journey, and story. 
  • Empower them to believe that any picture, video, or media they create is part of their story and to add to a folder.
  • Model how a portfolio can represent who you are and how you are learning by creating your own portfolio as an example. 
  • Demonstrate how learners can create a website or page on your website to share their portfolios.
  • Have learners create a passion project and share the process and evidence in the portfolio with others. 

Check out what Michael Mohammad shared about portfolios with his students in Podcast Episode #25.


Reflecting on the purpose of the lesson/activity with learners builds ownership of the learning. Encourage reflections throughout the learning process.

  • Ask learners to notice the learning as they learn by reflecting on these questions:
  • Did I understand what I was asked to do?
  • How did I figure out what to do to learn?
  • What emotions did I feel during learning?
  • What questions do I still have about this lesson/activity?
  • Invite learners to reflect on the learning process with another student on what worked, what didn’t work for them, and why.
  • Reflect with the class to share their reflections with the class using any of these prompts.
  • How did you take a risk in your learning today?
  • Were there any new skills that you learned today?
  • What did you learn that you want to do differently next lesson/activity?


Above are just a few ideas to get to know your learners while building relationships. Consider how the pandemic has impacted learners? Think about yourself and how the pandemic has impacted you. We have to talk authentically with our kids, parents, and colleagues. The pandemic is still here so there continues to be anxiety, increasing levels of self-doubt, and with many of us, a lack of self-confidence. 

Now is the time to do “whatever it takes” to get to know your kids, who they really are, what concerns they might have, and how they are coping with adversity. We need to be there for our kids and each other. We need to model what it means to be kind, positive, caring, and a collaborative team player. We are better together. 


Barbara writes more about “whatever it takes” in her book, Define Your WHY. Check what is in each chapter on this page or click on the image of the book for resources, questions, and links.

About the author

Barbara Bray

Barbara Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist and owner/founder of Computer Strategies, LLC with its divisions, Rethinking Learning and My eCoach ( where she shares her resources, stories, and more about learning and life. Barbara is the host of the Rethinking Learning Podcast where she has conversations on learning and reflections with inspirational educators, thought leaders, and influencers! She is the co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. Barbara is the author is Define Your WHY that is all about owning your story so you live and learn on purpose.

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Black History Month: Learning with Buncee and PebbleGo

Black History Month: Learning with Buncee and PebbleGo!

Since 1976, we have recognized and celebrated Black History Month in February. For the past forty-six years, February has been the month that celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a historian along with Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) to promote the inclusion of Black Americans in discussions and in society.

Initially celebrated as Black History week during the second week of February, it was later changed by President Gerald Ford in 1976 to be recognized as Black History month.

Each year there is a theme chosen and for 2022, the theme is “Black Health and Wellness.” The focus is on learning about practices, initiatives and methods that Black communities have used for staying well and recognizing the impact of the leaders and changemakers in fields such as education and science.

As educators, it is important that we find resources that will help students to understand its importance, along with the importance of Black history and culture. Once students have time to explore and learn, they need opportunities to create and share that learning. Buncee and PebbleGo Create make this a more meaningful and engaging learning experience for students.

Ideas for Black History Month

With Buncee, there are so many templates available and lessons to choose from in the Ideas Lab to get started. When it comes to tech, having resources like this that enable educators to create and share materials with students makes it easier to get started and is also a fun learning experience with students.

Depending on the grade level or specific content area, there are a lot of options to choose from. Perhaps with older students, implementing something like inquiry or project-based learning (PBL) will foster the development of higher order thinking skills and the power of choice in what to research and learn more about. By giving them the chance to explore a topic of interest, it not only builds their content knowledge, but promotes the development of essential SEL skills too. As they work through the process, they can either choose from the templates available for Black History Month or start from a blank template and create something more authentic and personalized to their specific interests and needs.

Guide students as they begin their research:

Identify their topic of interest

Conduct research

Decide on and begin creating a Buncee

Leverage the multimedia options in Buncee to share their learning

Publish and share their Buncee with classmates

Younger students using PebbleGo can explore the resources to read biographies about African American history makers and then create a Buncee to share their learning. PebbleGo provides all of the materials that teachers need to get started using their lesson plans.

When it comes to creating, students can select from the templates available and create a Buncee representing a person or event and share to a class Buncee Board, which takes learning to a new level. Being able to share your creations and see what classmates are creating builds social awareness and understanding of different perspectives. Using the Buncee Board promotes collaboration in a digital space, helping students to develop many of the essential skills for the future and also to feel connected, especially if we are in virtual learning environments. Here is a sample Buncee Board with a few ideas!

Ideas to bring to your classroom

Some ideas are to focus on specific events or people who have played an important role in history. Choose individuals that represent different areas of interest for students such as activists, artists, musicians, politicians, scientists, writers or have them select key events in history. For example, students can choose the template for the Underground Railroad where students can learn about what it was, who traveled on it, and important people like Harriet Tubman who were involved.

Another idea is to have students select a famous African American based on their personal interests and create a Buncee to highlight key facts about their life and impact. Students can then reflect on what they have learned and share their thoughts using audio or a video right within their Buncee.

For promoting the development of writing and critical thinking skills, using a template such as the Harlem Renaissance one will provide students with guidance to learn about it in their own way, to reflect on what they learned while building communication and literacy skills in more authentic ways through Buncee. Students can then select a writer that they learn about and continue to explore. An added idea is to push their thinking by adding another component to the lesson such as changing the time period, or asking what they think the writer would choose as a topic today. There are a lot of possibilities for sparking curiosity and engaging students in truly meaningful and purposeful learning.

There are many more options. Students can create a timeline and provide details, images, audio or even video to recreate the events that happened. Designing an About Me and portraying a person they choose to study. Another idea is to study the work and accomplishments of famous historical figures and design a digital`portfolio to represent this person’s contributions to society.

To best prepare our students, it is important to provide them with opportunities to share their ideas, engage in inquiry based learning, and explore different resources as they build their self- and social-awareness. By sharing their work with others, they focus on building social awareness and relationship skills during the learning process and develop a greater cultural understanding of others and their experiences. With Buncee, we have more choices available that will engage students in meaningful learning during Black History Month.

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Scena 360 – The metaverse for education

Scena 360 – The metaverse for education

Sponsored post in collaboration with Danilo Joksimovic, Co-founder & CEO of Scena 360

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Learn more about Scena 360 for Education:

view from within Scena 360

Just about when the pandemic hit, Scena 360 founders Danilo Joksimovic and Anshuman Banka realised that meeting up online is nowhere as immersive and natural as it could be. Because of their love for engineering, they decided to get their hands dirty and go on a mission to make meeting up online truly delightful for everyone.

Scena 360 is an online platform that intends to create more immersive online gatherings in 3D spaces, particularly focusing efforts on easy onboarding, realistic & professional avatars, and spatial audio. Scena 360 initially tested out their product with friends and coworkers in various settings, both professional and casual and eventually found a very appealing use case in online education. Right after their beta launch, they were approached by several professors and teachers from different grade levels around the world who wished to make online learning more engaging and productive. Danilo and Anshuman learned from these educators through dozens of interviews and collected their feedback to make Scena 360 what it is today.

How does it work?

To use Scena 360, you start by creating a private 3D space, which can be as simple as selecting one of the provided scene designs and optionally a custom name for your space. This generates a link that you can then send to invite attendees who can join your space from their desktop or mobile device.

While joining the space, attendees can either join with their video turned on or optionally create a realistic 3D avatar to appear as in the space. They can then interact with students or with other educators, somewhat similar to how they would in real-life gatherings – this includes walking around, making eye contact, forming huddles, and much more.

Solving online learning challenges with Scena 360

Through the course of the pandemic, educators have been forced to adopt various virtual meeting apps, often running into issues that have made online learning a rather dull experience; the most important issues being the following:

  • Lack of natural interactions, engagement, and co-presence
  • Forcing students into awkward breakout rooms, often making moderation and monitoring of said breakout sessions much more difficult
  • Difficulty tracking student engagement and attentiveness due to cameras being turned off

Scena 360 decidedly focuses its efforts to solve these key issues through their platform. For instance, students and teachers can face each other in 3D space, and walk in and out of different conversations by moving around the space – just as they would in real life. Educators can see everyone in the space, which allows them to monitor which students are participating in group activities/discussions – without having to jump between different breakout rooms.

Unlike most alternatives, Scena 360 provides a suite of built-in integrations available directly within spaces to help make online classes more engaging and effective, such as:

  • A more collaborative and powerful whiteboard that lets you write and draw on a whiteboard.
  • A guessing and drawing game that stimulates the imagination and agility of the brain
  • A shared instrument that lets students and educators make and play music together in real-time
  • And many more are underway!

Try Scena 360 Premium for $0 for 4 months using promo code: TEACHMETAVERSE at checkout:

(no credit-card required, cancel at any time, offer expires in April, 2022).

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Engaging Families Through Bloomz

Sponsored post, Opinions are my own

Since March of 2020, educators around the world have been working to improve their practices when it comes to staying connected with families. A big concern during school closures was effectively and consistently communicating with students and families and finding the right tools without overwhelming everyone.

So why does consistent communication matter? When it comes to family engagement, research shows that it is the most accurate predictor of student success. During the past school year, as we experienced transitioning learning environments, fostering a home-to-school connection was essential. With students shifting between virtual, hybrid, and in-person instruction, having a consistent way to communicate and provide support for our learners was critical. As a result of these learning environment transitions, students experienced varying degrees of what has been referred to as “learning loss.” Finding ways to address learning loss or gaps in learning have become highly popular topics in education. In a study released by Mackenzie, it was estimated that an average student lost nine months of math instruction, with other content areas also seeing an impact on students’ overall academic achievement. While student learning was adversely impacted in some ways, we need to focus on the positives that we experienced as a result. What did we gain?

Importance of family engagement

Because of heightened awareness of the need for consistent communication and having a consistent and reliable space to obtain information and resources, educators and families connected and supported one another during this challenging time. Educators found a variety of tools to facilitate communications, provide information, and share class resources with families. As a way to prevent learning loss / support the learning process, educators can select the right tools to engage families in learning and help them to support their students at home, and to strengthen the home to school community. Research shared talked about learning gaps as a result of school closures and the changes in instructional space and time. So the question is “how can teachers help students with areas where they need extra support? Using a tool that can help foster the home to school connection is essential so that teachers can share learning as it’s happening, provide families with information about student progress, identify students that may need some additional support, and focus on promoting student wellness and setting students up for success.

Choosing the right tool

To connect home to school, there were many apps being used by teachers and the use of so many technology tools is amplified with multiple school-aged children in the family. Apps that helped to support students as they learned while at home, to exchange information with families, to complete clerical tasks such as attendance, grading, and more. In some cases, educators were using a different app for each task. Some schools use an attendance tool, an online gradebook, a messaging app, various assessment tools, and perhaps even an LMS or class website. In addition to these school-wide uses, there are many other ways that teachers are using technology. With so much information being exchanged, it’s important to have a reliable, consistent, and centralized space for families and educators to connect. An all-in-one space that enables many of these different tasks to be done helps to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed that can happen with the use of so much technology.

When used with schools, Bloomz facilitates district and schoolwide communication. Bloomz is an easy-to-use, modern, social-like, unified School-to-Home communication system to reach all stakeholders in one place providing the control, security, oversight and configurability you need! It enables schools to streamline a lot of the other apps and tools they might be using. Research from Project Tomorrow reported that 88% of administrators saw a positive impact from communicating with families via social media, while 66% of parents preferred emails or phone messages as communication. With Bloomz, schools and families can communicate in ways that meet their preferences. Bloomz is focused on individual parent needs and provides a choice for how they get their information (SMS text, email, and voice) in an easy-to-navigate platform that is fully available on any device.

What makes Bloomz different

Bloomz is a parent communication app that provides multiple school apps in an all-in-one centralized platform which helps to improve communication, engage parents and families, and save time by using less to achieve more. With features such as messaging, student assignments and portfolios, behavior management, a calendar, parent-teacher conference sign-ups and volunteer signups, families can be fully engaged in the learning experience of their child. To further engage families in daily learning, teachers can send photos and videos of activities and school events as they are happening which keeps parents informed in real-time. Bloomz also offers language translation in more than 100 languages. Teachers can use the calendar to quickly create an event that includes permission slips, sign-up sheets, and have the ability to track RSVPs or force smart reminders.

So why should schools choose Bloomz?

Bloomz is a teacher tool that integrates features such as a messaging app, calendar, event planner, and more into one safe and user-friendly platform. Bloomz enables educators and parents to communicate through messaging instantly, privately, and as often as needed. It can be used at the classroom level and by administrators at the school or district level to facilitate communication with teachers, staff, and parents, whether individually, in groups or to the entire school/district. The Bloomz administrator dashboard centralizes essential information such as contactability, deliverability, attendance, and behavior with reports to focus on what matters most.

At the school and district level, being able to provide everything that students and families need through a comprehensive program and in a manner that parents and families choose is important. The entire school community benefits by having a consistent and efficient program in place that meets the needs and preferences of each of its members. Check out Bloomz to build your home-to-school community.

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AI Continued Growth in many sectors

As researchers around the world work to find answers to so many questions about the Coronavirus, two things have been happening that I have noticed. One, there has been an increase in the use of artificial intelligence in the medical field, in particular with tracking the onset of Coronavirus and using AI to explore trends and devise solutions to some of the challenges that we are facing as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, AI has also become a more common topic of discussion in the world of education, with resources shared for how to learn more about AI and many online course providers seeing an increase in enrollment in their AI programs. Why do we need to pay more attention to AI now?

Planning for the Future

There are statistics predicting that artificial intelligence in U.S. education will grow by 47.5% from 2017-2021. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, there will be 58 million jobs available in artificial intelligence and machine learning, however there are only 300,000 people who are currently qualified to fill those positions. In a recent article about how artificial intelligence will impact remote learning, it stated that four billion dollars will be spent on artificial intelligence in education by the year 2024. AI is estimated to create an additional $13 trillion annually by 2030. For the next ten years, AI will be on the rise, and as educators, these statistics matter because we have to create experiences for our students that help them to understand these technologies and become the creators of those that we will need in the future.

Some questions that we need to prepare to answer are:

Why is there such a demand for AI?

What is it exactly that artificial intelligence does and as educators?

What do we need to know about the future of AI so we can prepare our students?

Recently in the CoSN AI report for Spring 2020, a background of artificial intelligence with an overview of uses and considerations was provided for educators. Beyond the basic information, we also need to be aware of real-world examples of how AI is being used, who is creating the new apps and how can we connect our students with opportunities to learn more? We can leverage our current global crisis by asking students to explore on their own to find out how AI is being used, what are the benefits and concerns, and what can we learn from these uses?

Recent Developments with AI

At this critical time in the world, the benefit of artificial intelligence and machine learning is that we can take enormous amounts of data and process it much faster so that we can act upon it when time is of the essence. Another key component is that AI analyzes the data to make predictions about the future. When dealing with a pandemic, this is critical to be able to determine what the progression of this disease might be like throughout the world, the number of people, and the countries that are impacted and use the data to make predictions as to why this might be. Of course, it’s important to remember that even though artificial intelligence is highly powerful and can improve or replace some human performance tasks, we still need human components to analyze the data and make ethical decisions when it comes to artificial intelligence. We must be mindful of considerations about safety and privacy and of course accuracy/reliability when it comes to transferring information.

These are some of the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence use in the world.  Some of the developments were related to COVID and others are breakthroughs in research and treatments related to long-standing diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s and for mental health treatment for example.

Teaching AI for K-12. On May 13, UNESCO and Ericsson launched a “Teaching AI for K-12 Portal” which will provide a space for curating resources available to educators around the world. The benefit of this new resource is that it will create a space for anyone looking to develop a greater understanding of what AI actually is, how it works, and the way that AI can be used for good. Because this resource is focused on K-12, educators and students can benefit from the materials for developing a curriculum and getting started with AI activities in their classrooms. The first release of the platform highlights learning resources on the topic of “Exploring AI at Home.” Through this space, teachers and parents can support students as they learn about AI by exploring the documents, videos, links, lesson plans, online courses and more provided in this space. The materials are currently available in five languages.

Clearview AI. A facial recognition app that has 3 billion images in its database which have been taken from social media sites and that it uses for identification. While some argue that this is a violation of privacy, the app has been used to solve many serious crimes. Facial recognition software is not new, having been around for 20 years and mostly used by law enforcement. However, in recent years it has been used increasingly and with much greater accuracy. Clearview AI is interested in using its app to track people by analyzing them based on their likelihood of contagion and tracing their contacts that might be infected with Coronavirus. In China, facial recognition software is also being used to find people who are violating quarantine orders.

Live Hint Carnegie Learning has launched Live Hint, a chatbot assistant created in response to the COVID-19 school closures. Using the app Live Hint, middle and high school students working on problems from their Carnegie Learning textbook can receive hints to help them as they work, in the absence of being in the classroom with teacher support. Through the app, students can interact with Live Hint through video, emojis, chat, and audio, and then data is available to teachers for tracking student progress and engagement. The app will integrate with Alexa and Google Home.

NOVID. In Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, Professor Po-Shen Loh along with a team he gathered that includes computer scientists, designers, physicists, began working on a contact tracing app for COVID-19 a few months ago. Recently, the NOVID app was approved and is now available for public use. NOVID is the first of its kind to use ultrasound technology, whereas other apps use Bluetooth. NOVID is used to follow people’s exposure and does so anonymously. The app can be accessed for use now through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

MATHia is adaptive learning software, a program designed by Carnegie Learning at CMU. It focuses on using AI to provide independent learning experiences for students. MATHia recently won an award for being the best artificial intelligence solution in edtech awards. Through the program, each student has a personal math coach, which is quite beneficial for personalized learning, especially during this time, when students do not have access to their teacher in the classroom. Teachers and students have free MATHia during school closures due to COVID-19. A startup from Pittsburgh has been using AI to better understand lung health by analyzing voices. The technology used by could also benefit the public in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The way AI works is that it would analyze the signals it receives and seek a condition to match it with. Once the data is received, medical professionals can then review the data and determine the next steps for the patient. The work is being done by a group of graduate students and researchers from the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science and Language Technology Institute.

It is interesting to see the variety of developments in artificial intelligence, in particular, the new apps and other resources that are being created by students in college as well as in high school. Whether students are using AI as part of a more personalized learning experience, or they are beginning to create their own apps, AI will continue to be a part of our lives now and in the future. To best prepare, we need to stay informed of the emerging trends and prepare our students with the skills and knowledge they need in relation to artificial intelligence.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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Six Ideas to Get Started with Genially

Sponsored by Genially, Opinions are my own

Last year I had the chance to check out Genially with my Spanish classes and was amazed at what they created! There are so many digital tools available for educators to use in the classroom that knowing where to start can be difficult. When it comes to tools like Genially, we just need to provide enough to get our students started and then take it as an opportunity to learn with, and more importantly, from them.

Giving students choices in how to share their learning is important. With presentation tools that offer a variety of media options and choices in templates, we can get started right away in our classrooms without losing much time at all. As a language teacher, I’m always looking for more authentic and meaningful ways for my students to build their language skills in a way that meets their interests and needs while also fostering the development of essential SEL skills that will best prepare them for the future.

Bringing in technology and providing time for students to explore the options and create on their own helps to spark curiosity for learning and boosts student engagement. An added bonus is that we can learn more about our students from the personalized and unique choices they make as they create. I learned a lot from my students’ presentations and they gave me some new ideas to try using Genially!

What is Genially?

Genially is a versatile and interactive platform that can be used to create so many different projects and multimedia presentations. For just a few ideas, use it for creating a class website, making choice boards, school flyers, interactive images, digital portfolios, class and school newsletters, multimedia presentations, storybooks and more! You can even upload one of your PowerPoints and turn it into an interactive Genially presentation with sound, hyperlinks, and social media buttons. Want to boost student engagement? Try some of the templates for bringing gamification to your classroom through digital breakouts and escape rooms! Whether you start from scratch or choose from a ready-made template, Genially has something for everyone! And it’s free to use and has premium options to choose from too.

Creating is fun!

Last year, I first made my own presentation by choosing from the many Genially templates available, all of which are visually engaging and of course, make it easy to get started right away. In Spanish III, students were learning about narrating in the past tense, which can be difficult. I had used some fairy tales and fables they were familiar with to help them to understand the differences. Then I wrote a quick story and used Genially to bring it to life.

Rather than show students exactly how to use Genially, I shared my project with them and let them explore on their own. Genially is easy to use and it gives students the chance to build their digital skills and create a more authentic and meaningful project. Once they wrote their own stories, they had fun bringing their characters and stories to life through animations, audio, colorful backgrounds, different characters, GIFS, and more!

Here is one of their creations using many of the Genially features. Being able to share it with classmates and use audio boosted their engagement and definitely enhanced their learning experiences with using the past tense for narration!

Create a more interactive lesson for students by adding icons to each page or even hot spots, which are similar to some other tools out there like or even Thinglink.

What I noticed right away is how Genially really enables you to bring your presentation to life. You can spend as much or as little time as you want on it, adding a variety of visual effects with transitions between the pages of your presentation. You can add videos, social media links, or even 3D images. I love that students and educators can find exactly what they need to create something amazing with Genially.

For anywhere learning

Want to promote collaboration? No problem. You can collaborate with other educators or give students the space to work together on a project. When students collaborate, it promotes the development of essential SEL skills such as self- awareness, social awareness and relationships building. Especially as we’re working in transitioning learning environments, having a space for students to collaborate and create together makes a difference. Choose from more than 1200 templates in 12 different categories, with hundreds of additional resources available including figures, icons, illustrations, figures, and so much more. The fun part is learning from your students as they create!

The possibilities

There are so many ways to use a tool like Genially. When I think about the possibilities for my classroom, my students create many types of content throughout the year. Whether they make infographics, introduce themselves in an About Me or design a resume, create a health poster, make a family scrapbook or create a brochure for a school club, these are just a few of the ideas we can bring into our classrooms.

Explore the Jumanlly game!

Here are six more ideas to start with:

  • Digital Portfolios – great for students for building SEL!
  • Gamification – choose from templates for digital breakouts, or try Jumanlly!
  • Infographics – newsletters and brochures
  • Interactive Lessons – boost student engagement! Check out this example
  • Quizzes – interactive quizzes! Check out this one on Salvador Dalí
  • Timelines – interactive timelines to narrate events, a student’s life experiences, retell a story or correctly sequence events. Here is a great example
Check out this great Breakout!
Interactive Lessons – so many possibilities!

Dalï interactive quiz

Students can create a brochure, newsletter or a travel ad and use templates available to get started right away. My Spanish I students were creating menus and loved checking out the possibilities for adding in images of food and places to their projects. Students loved creating with Genially and being able to include so much in one beautiful and animated presentation. I love that I have these new resources to share with students and other educators.

Interactive timeline! So many possibilities to explore and have fun creating.

Explore this template here!

If you are looking for ideas, start with the templates on the Genially site. I have been planning to have students create announcements, timelines or anything that they choose to design as a way to share their learning.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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Guest post by @IleneWinokur

School experiences can have a long-lasting effect on how we perceive ourselves and our capabilities/lack of. 

Today’s post delves into self-concept or what I call self-belonging and how we can attain it and support others, like our students, to find themselves and their sense of self-belonging. 

Graduation speeches are usually upbeat and celebrate the time a student spends in the years leading up to their final year before adulthood. It was a bit different at my son’s high school graduation in 2005. Ahmed, my son’s friend, and the class salutatorian*gave a moving speech to his fellow classmates filled with this message:  We are so much more than our grades, our SAT scores, and the rank of the universities that accepted us. His speech was a response to the negative beliefs about his entire senior class, the largest in the school’s 40-year history; 132 students. From the time they were in the elementary grades at this K-12 school, the whole class was labeled troublemakers, even the well-behaved, achieving students, and all were regularly disciplined. Even in their final year, discipline meant the loss of privileges such as having their own space to get together between classes and being allowed to move around campus with less supervision than lower grade levels.   

Ahmed’s speech left me speechless and sad. I still have a copy of it to remind me of what schools shouldn’t do to students. Students shouldn’t be labeled, shamed, or punished for poor behavior without someone first trying to find the root cause of the problem. But that’s exactly what happened. In 7th grade, my son received a “D” grade on a literature response essay. My son is fluent in English, and an avid reader of books much higher than his reading level. However, when I began asking him questions about the book he used for his essay, his answers showed me that he only had a superficial understanding of the plot, characters, etc. I was shocked and made an appointment to see his teacher whose excuse for not exposing my son to a deeper analysis of the book was the poor level of reading comprehension by the majority of his classmates and a lack of English language support in middle school. 

My son and many of his classmates, including the salutatorian, walked into college with a deficit mindset due to low self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-worth based on hearing they “weren’t able to…”, “they lacked X skills,” throughout their school years. It’s difficult to continue doing your best when all that’s recognized is your worst. And while I tried to support him and do my best as a parent to minimize the effects of the constant negativity, my son, now in his mid-30s and working at a demanding job that appreciates his skills, has begun to believe in his capabilities and gain a sense of self-belonging. 

It’s tough growing up without a positive self-concept. I spent the first 35 years of my life doubting myself, second-guessing my decisions, and wondering if people liked me or were just saying they liked me. It wasn’t until I found my sense of self-belonging in my mid-30s that I finally stopped my negative self-talk and started to believe in myself. In elementary school, I remember having to suck on cinnamon candy to stop my stomach from feeling queasy because I was so anxious about failing or making a mistake. In high school, I couldn’t wait to graduate, so I enrolled in summer school to have enough credits to graduate a year early. There are two times I remember feeling like a failure.  In 7th grade, I received a “C” grade for an art project I worked on for many hours and was so proud of, and it convinced me I was not creative. The second memory I have is failing my first test in biology class in 10th grade. That reinforced my belief that I was unable to learn science. I was devastated and thought I’d have to repeat the subject. Since I already doubted my abilities, my self-efficacy in science and art, those grades reinforced my self-concept and negatively impacted my sense of self-belonging.. 

So, what is self-belonging? According to Healthline, “[y]our sense of self refers to your perception of the collection of characteristics that define you. Personality traits, abilities, likes and dislikes, your belief system or moral code, and the things that motivate you — these all contribute to self-image or your unique identity as a person.” ( This is what I refer to as “self-belonging”. It’s essential to our well-being because, without it, we doubt if people really like us for our authentic selves, we question each decision we make, and it negatively impacts our personal and professional relationships. So how can we develop self-belonging? Here are a few tips from my own experience:

  1. Be mindful and intentional about choosing to build your sense of self-belonging. Make a commitment to spending time and effort at it.
  2. Build time into your schedule for daily reflection and use that time to make mental or physical lists of your personal and professional accomplishments, your strengths, and what obstacles you’ve overcome. 
  3. Find someone you trust and who values you to talk about the list from #2.
  4. Celebrate your accomplishments (see #2) whenever you begin to doubt yourself. Make this a habit.
  5. Don’t feel shy about sharing your accomplishments with others, even strangers. Learn to feel good about “bragging” to others. This will eliminate any thoughts you might have of “impostor syndrome”. 
  6. Surround yourself with people who value you for your authentic self and don’t insist that you “fit in”. 
  7. Practice giving yourself grace; allowing yourself to make mistakes because you’re human and valuing those mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn and grow. 

Self-belonging plays an important role in how students navigate school. Without a sense of belonging, learning becomes secondary to what happened at home, or how others are treating me. If I don’t have self-esteem or self-efficacy, I won’t try to move out of my comfort zone because I’ll be worried about failing in front of my peers and my teacher. According to a recent interview (Allen and Gray, 2021) of Emeritus Professors and authors of the groundbreaking 1995 paper about belonging and human motivation, Baumeister and Leary,   “There has been much discussion about whether self-esteem is important for education, and self-esteem is substantially (though probably not entirely) rooted in belongingness.” Baumeister notes, “belongingness remains an important driving force. If we can explore new ways to harness that motivation to strive for superior academic achievement, it would benefit plenty of individuals as well as society as a whole.” Leary emphasizes the point when he states, “belonging plays an important role in the degree to which students are motivated to go to school in the first place.” 

How can we help students cultivate a healthy self-concept and a sense of self-belonging? We can plan lessons that encourage independent thought and action, that give them choices to explore, be curious, and learn about the world around them. Students who need a bit more guidance along the way should be able to choose topics that interest them and books that represent them. We can build their self-confidence by recognizing their accomplishments and giving them focused feedback about the areas they are still developing while supporting them along the way. 

My life is so much happier and healthier because I found my sense of self-belonging and I wonder how much better my life would have been if I had found it before I was 35 years old. Think of how much better school and life would be if we could find our self-belonging when we’re younger. 

Coming this fall: Journeys to Belonging: Pathways to Well-Being 

A book about my journey to belonging in two very different parts of the world and how important a sense of self-belonging is for having healthy relationships with others, personal and professional. 

Find out more about self-belonging on my website: Be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter which will be filled with strategies and ideas for cultivating a sense of belonging in your classroom and your school. 

*graduating student with the second-highest grade point average

Related studies:


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App Smashing and More with Book Creator!

I love sharing ideas and resources when I learn about new features and how we can bring them into our classrooms and offer more to our students. There have been a lot of great updates to some of the digital tools available for use in education. When it comes to promoting creativity and collaboration, Book Creator has added awesome new features and joined forces with some other tools to further empower students and teachers in the classroom.

Recently, Canva integrated with Book Creator which means now students can leverage the power of both these tools to create anything they want! App smashing in the classroom is a great way to boost student engagement, spark creativity and amplify student voice.

Here are some ideas that can be used in any classroom!

Books! Have students create a book cover based on a book that they read and then use the different features and fun apps in Book Creator to really bring the book to life. Canva offers ready to use templates and when app smashed with Book Creator, it’s easy to create and publish visually engaging in no time at all. Teachers and students can quickly add animations, search from the thousands of images, different fonts, videos even to add into your book

Lessons! Book Creator is also a great tool for creating a lesson, adding in links and other visuals to boost student engagement in learning. Book Creator also offers different accessibility features such as the voice search as well as the interactive reader of Book Creator. Through the reader, means students can have the books read to them in any language. There’s also the option to have where it’s highlighted while the book is being read.

Writing prompts! Use Giphy to create a book full of GIFS and have students write about what they see, create a story, describe something in greater detail. There are many possibilities with using GIPHY to promote writing skills and creativity!

More choices for creating!

Now with the App store, you can create with Bitmoji (teachers only because of Snapchat), Giphy, Canva, a sticker pack, 3D models, Google maps, Google Drive and Sketchfab. All you need to do is go to the Teacher Dashboard to find the Apps tab and choose the app that you want to enable in your account.

My favorite: Sketchfab

Now that Book Creator is integrated with Sketchfab, students can access a library full of 3D models that they can place directly into Book Creator! For educators looking to teach students about augmented or virtual reality, using the Sketchfab app with Book Creator is definitely the way to go!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Sketchfab enables you to display 3D models on the web which can be viewed on any browser, or by using a virtual reality headset. Using WebXR technologies, creating in 3D and being able to interact with these objects helps to further engage students in learning, and spark curiosity and creativity in their designs. There are so many ways to use 3D models for any grade level or content area. Some ideas are to have students build a replica of a place they are learning about, or create a 3D model of an animal or object and place it right into their book. For classes where students benefit by being able to interact with the object such as in math with shapes, or with biology or learning about the heart for example, adding in these objects takes their learning to a whole new level.

When the book is ready, everyone can look at it by rotating it 360 degrees or, many of the models can be viewed in augmented reality on mobile devices or computers or even in virtual reality by using a headset!

There are so many ways to have students create using Book Creator and with these new apps, it better meets student interests and needs. When it comes to starting with new digital tools, it’s always a plus if you have templates available to choose from or resources that you can bring in to use as teachable materials in your classroom. Each of the new apps available through Book Creator provide even more ways for students to create and engage in authentic and meaningful learning fueled by choice. When we create learning experiences that will more meaningfully engage students with the content, while also aiming to move them from consumers to creators, it increases student engagement and amplifies student achievement.

To learn more, join in the webinars that the Book Creator team offers throughout the month. To learn more about using Book Creator with Canva, join on Saturday February 12th where you’ll get to see what this new integration looks like and how to combine these apps to make some amazing creations! Walk away with some ideas and some activities to try in your classroom!

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Check out my books available at or in bulk orders through the publisher or signed copies via

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Teach Better

Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Rachelle Dené Poth @Rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Mandy Froehlich

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Informed by research, refined by practice


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