Often, learning by doing is best.
Just ask Professor Charles Palmer, who heads Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s Interactive Media Department. When Palmer set out to write his second book, “Virtual Reality Blueprints,” a recently published how-to guide for incorporating virtual reality tools into the classroom, he knew little more than the next guy about virtual reality.
But he had an interest in introducing virtual reality programs to the classroom. So, he became the student when he set out to write the 250-page book.
“The best way of learning something is to do it,” Palmer said. “The book was the impetus of learning the virtual reality development process. I think (virtual reality) is a growing field. Virtual reality as a service could be used much more in education. Giving teachers the tools to build their own applications is very important to me.”
We recently caught up with Professor Palmer to discuss his new book, the use of VR in the classroom and whether he has any other books in mind.
Q: Virtual Reality Blueprints is your second book. Tell us about your first one?
A: The first one, “Gamification for Performance,” was about using gamification techniques to increase performance of employees and students. The goal was to teach the reader to see how games were being used for skill-based training and behavior change. That came out in 2015. It was published by Taylor & Francis.
Q: How did the first book come about and how did you get it published?
A: Andy Petroski (HU New Product Consultant) and I had the idea, and we wrote about a chapter and pitched it. Although our initial publisher turned it down, we were encouraged to keep trying. A few months later, it got picked up and we started writing in earnest. You can still buy that book today.
Q: Did the first book naturally lead to the next one?
A: After that book came out and there was some marketing centered around that book, Packt Publishing contacted me and asked me to be a technical reviewer on one of their other titles. It was also about gamification. A year later they contacted me, asking if I had any ideas for a book myself. I wrote “Virtual Reality Blueprints” throughout most of 2017.
Q: What will one learn from the new book?
A: The primary audiences are trainers and teachers who want to use VR in the classroom. It’s geared for the naive user who knows nothing about VR. The book will take them from knowing nothing about VR to the final delivery of a VR product. It does this by walking you through the development ofsssssssds four different projects.
Q: What is the most fascinating aspect of introducing VR into the classroom?
A: I can use VR to teach skills, I can change people’s understanding. There is a lot that we can do with VR. It’s why I focus on the training side. For example, let’s say someone is afraid of giving speeches in front of large crowds. Using VR, we can put you on a stage in front of hundreds of people where you can practice again and again. This will help you overcome the fear of speaking in front of an audience. Or, suppose you are teaching in a school in suburban Philadelphia, Chicago, or in another large urban area and some of the kids are not paying attention. VR can be used to create a classroom setting and teach you how to deal with disruptive students. With first responders, let’s say there was a catastrophic accident at an oil well. I can use VR to prepare someone to respond to that situation. But let’s say it wasn’t an accident. Maybe you are just interested in being an EMT. We can create a system where every time you put on that VR headset you are presented with a new scenario with varying difficulties.
Q: What intrigued you the most about creating this book?
A: The new audience and focusing more on the naïve user and getting them to a place where they could make something. That’s what I do in my day job as well. Getting a student from being unfamiliar with a technology or concept to a position of intermediate or master producer.
Q: Is there another book on the horizon for you?
A: The next book will be on augmented reality. Microsoft has a product called the HoloLens. It is a software/hardware solution that allows you to put a lens over reality. That book will probably be published by Packt also.