ISTE | Q & A

Leslie Fisher Thinks Augmented Reality First, Then VR in the Classroom

An interview with the former Apple K–12 systems engineer, who will participate in multiple sessions during ISTE.

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Leslie Fisher. Photo by Nick Didlick.

She's a big fan of Twitter, and encourages everyone to have fun with Flippity.

Leslie Fisher has turned her name and talents into her own successful ed tech consulting company. The director of Fisher Technologies, Inc., and the creator and operator of lesliefisher.com, the former K–12 systems engineer for Apple now consults, trains and presents to K–12 educators for a living.

Fisher, who lives in San Dimas, CA, will present at seven different sessions during the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference, June 25-28, in San Antonio, TX. Her presentations include “Dive into Google Classroom,” “G is for Gadgets,” “Google Cardboard AKA Virtual Reality,” and “Apps, Tools, Methods and Practices for Leading With Technology.”

THE Journal caught up with Fisher, who keeps a busy schedule flying to and from ed tech conferences and sharing her passion for education technology, cool gadgets and fun, engaging things teachers can do with tech in their classrooms.

THE Journal: What are your thoughts on education technology today, and what do you talk about when you go to ed tech conferences?

Leslie Fisher: We’ve always been surrounded by technology. If you look back, people were looking at what early technology could do in the classroom. We’ve always had it. It’s always going to change.

In one hour, I can talk about the tools you can use tomorrow. The tools teachers could deploy in their classrooms that enhance student engagement, and even teacher engagement.

I’ll talk about something that I think could make a good, quick, positive impact. I just talked to a conference today in Ohio. And I recently talked to another group — they need virtual reality. I got to smaller conferences and do consulting, even professional development.

THE Journal: How would you describe ISTE to someone who’s not that familiar with the conference?

Fisher: What I would say is, ISTE is the closest thing you can get to an education technology rock concert. You’re not going to get any more choices than ISTE. There are tons of presenters, educators and vendors. It’s a big deal. And for the attendee, you are not drinking through a fire hose, you’re drinking through a fire hydrant. It’s a great chance to hang out with other educators and learn what they’re doing. It’s a wonderful opportunity for varied learning.

THE Journal: Chromebooks have been steadily gaining popularity in the K–12 classroom. Which do you prefer — the iPad or the Chromebook?

Fisher: If I had a dollar every time people asked me that. It’s a tough one for me. I prefer a keyboard, and I prefer something affordable. It’s true that younger hands work best with the iPad. But it gets down to the individual learner. With the Chromebook, be prepared to put something on there that makes it more dynamic. On the creativity side, it’s a little lacking with the Chromebook. But Adobe recently made some of their apps available to the Chromebook, so those are definitely worth checking out.

THE Journal: What do you think about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the classroom? Is the cost point for VR prohibitive?

Fisher: For book creators, they’re game changers. For me, I think augmented reality first, and then virtual reality. I know technology can really help kids learn.  I’m a little dyslexic, so augmented reality allows me to be a visual learner. You can design lessons with a couple of augmented reality glasses and really enhance things.

In virtual reality, one of my favorite apps is CoSpaces. It allows anyone to design a 3D space, and then interact with it in virtual reality.

Virtual reality can be quite affordable with Google Cardboard. We can get into basic interaction in VR with Cardboard. There are 40 or 50 VR apps where you can simply use Cardboard and explore. Google Street View allows you to do virtual viewing of many different locations. That technology augments what the teacher is doing.

Most kids can’t afford to buy their own Oculus headset. That price point is quite a bit higher. But we don’t need to have 30 kids using Oculus all of the time. Two or three might work. So we can sit there and have that moment of “Ah, cool!” without breaking the bank.

THE Journal: There are new ed tech products and gadgets coming out all the time. How do you decide what’s good and useful for the classroom and what’s not?

Fisher: I look at what’s having a good impact in the classroom. It’s a matter of balance — we need to create a balanced student. Tech is part of that balance.

We’re looking at the first fully mobile generation. We may be over-technology-ing it. You’re talking to a former music major. I don’t want to know what I’d be like if I didn’t have music.

My ah-ha moment came when I started using mobile technology. Knowing the technology and putting it in my backpack in the real world. But we also need to teach social skills, communication skills, and prepare the students for the real world.

THE Journal: Is there a session that you are looking forward to at ISTE?

Fisher: Well you know what? I very rarely have a chance to hang out in a session. If [attendees] didn’t get to see me in a conference, I’ll be hanging out in the vendor hall. I’ll go to one of my favorite vendor booths and sit there and go, “Guys, I’m here for the next two to three hours.” I’ll also interface with them.

I will tend to be getting my education interacting with the attendees. One of the things I love to do is hear some of the questions people have to ask. And there will always be a couple of people sitting off to the side who don’t say anything. When I ask, they say, “I’m just waiting to hear what questions people are asking.” I love hearing the questions that [presenters] get. It helps me be a better presenter. I love to hear some really good stories from educators.

THE Journal: What do you think about Twitter? Do you use it?

Fisher: Oh God, yeah. I beg everyone to get on the Twitter soapbox. If you search Twitter effectively, there are not only great resources but great people to help you teach differently and keep the classroom more entertaining. You can grow your own personal learning network.

THE Journal: What are some other educational apps or tools you recommend?

Fisher: One is Flippity — flippity.net. You can take Google spreadsheets, customize them and turn them into interactive objects. You can play Hangman or make a crossword puzzle or bingo board. Especially if you’re in a Google Classroom — the student can also create them as assignments. You can make a word search game, or make a crossword puzzle based on your homework.

There’s also Versal. If you are flipping a classroom, or do online learning, Versal is so far-reaching, it boggles my mind. I can create this online courseware, from Quizlet to 3D docs. People can create 3D modulating widgets — I would go straight to Versal.

I want to point out that none of the vendors pay for anything that I use or promote.

THE Journal will be exhibiting at ISTE, June 25-28, in booth 754.

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