Stereoscopes: the first VR Devices?

I’ve been particularly interested in the rise of VR tech over the past few years because for a long time, I’ve been a fan and collector of perhaps the first widely popular VR device used for educational purposes: the stereoscope.


(None of my stereoscopes are this fancy.)

The stereoscope is a device from the 19th century which operates on the simple concept that our eyes create depth by comparing our left-eye image and our right-eye image. If you view two images that have been taken about 5-10 cm apart (the distance between your eyes), one in your left eye and one in your right eye, then your brain will fuse them into a single, 3D image. The stereoscope enhances this effect by adding in lenses which make the image seem larger in your field of vision.

Educational designers always love to take new technology intended for entertainment and use it in an educational capacity. Apparently, that was even true before educational technology existed. As well as saucy pin-ups, stereoscopes were sold to factories to educate people about work practice and schools for geography and economics lessons. Before the aeroplane, the stereoscope made the world available to the middle classes by placing absorbing 3D images of exotic locals in homes.


Devices like the Oculus Rift and the Gear VR use the same basic concept as the stereoscope, but with screens taking the place of photographs. Perhaps one day they’ll be just as ubiquitous as the stereoscope once was.

Proof that what goes around comes around!


Fun with QR Codes: Augmenting your Library

QR Codes have always excited me, a handy way to create a link between digital and analogue (“dead tree”) information sources that doesn’t require any specialist software to create. All you need is a tablet or phone with a QR code reader installed, a website you want to link to and access to one of the many free websites that will whip up a QR code for you.

The big problem is knowing where to go from there. Technically your imagination is the limit, but I think it can be tricky to come up with uses for QR codes which doesn’t feel like a superficial gimick.

Here’s an attempt. A very nerdy attempt. Here’s a copy of Beowulf, an Old English poem, featuring the ability to scan a code and hear the poem in its original language. I feel like this is a genuine addition to the experience, as reading Old English doesn’t give you the same, authentic experience that listening to it does.

(Note, the jump in the video isn’t me “cheating”, I promise! I just live in a rural area with very slow internet. I thought I’d spare you having to wait for 20 seconds while things load.)

Do Learning Styles Exist?

When I was 12, my school made me fill out a form purporting to be able to tell me my learning styles. Apparently, I was either an auditory, visual or kinaesthetic learner. My teacher said that how you learn and revise should be different, depending on the form’s conclusions. An auditory learner might create a revision song while a kinaesthetic learner might count on their fingers.

My sensible classmates ploughed through the test and got on with their lives, but I was feeling cantankerous. I didn’t want some stupid label. It seemed silly. I could see myself learning in all three ways. In protest, I spent most of the lesson creating an information sheet on a new style of learning which I called oditory learning. An oditory learner, I decided, learned by smelling things.

I know, I know. I was a bit of a smartypants.

As an instructional designer, I still run into the concept of learning styles. But here’s a secret which shouldn’t be a secret: 12 year old me was right. The evidence behind learning styles is shaky at best, and could be a barrier to the creation of great learning.

Click here to read more over at GLAD Solutions.

Time to Draw, Version 2!

Earlier in the week I used Javascript to create this random drawing prompt generator!

I shared it around social media and it took off more than I expected it to. I got a lot of feedback suggesting that it would be good to have the facility to draw in the web browser.

The only way I could think to do that was by embedding a Flash object, and since I’m no expert I decided to use the code and assets from this really comprehensive tutorial.

Here is the new version:


But you don’t want to look at my art!

Not when I’m about to share the great pieces that have been made based on Time to Draw prompts!
I’ve tried to put links to artist’s websites where I could find them. Click on the image to see more of the artist’s work.



A giggling dragon with a tiny birthday cake



A short ghost with a beautiful hat


A blue teacher holding a limp pet cat

Fun, fun, fun! If anyone has any more to add, let me know!

Time To Draw! – Random Word Generator (E-Learning Challenge #174)

This week’s elearning challenge was to create a random word generator. I decided to combat that horrible feeling of wanting to draw but feeling uninspired by developing something that would generate odd or funny drawing prompts.


Click here to try it out!

This challenge was perfect timing for me, since I’ve been trying to learn some Javascript basics over the past month. A few weeks ago I was messing around with random numbers, so a random word generator is a great next step!

Most of them make sense (even if they are a bit silly!) but if you get a nonsense phrase, you can click to have another go.

If anyone feels inspired to draw any of these weird creations, do let me know.

Stuff I’ve Learned, Stuff I’m Thinking About.


I put in a timer function so that you can set yourself a challenge by completing your drawing in either two, ten or thirty minutes. This works, although at the moment there is no indication of how far through your allotted time you are. You just get a message when your time is up. I was planning on creating an animated timer, but I found out that Storyline isn’t fond of animations which last for 30 minutes!

I’m putting finding a workaround for that one on pause for now.


Have you reached the point when learning a (regular, non-programming) language where you’re thrilled because you understood a sentence perfectly, but then you realise you don’t have the skills to actually respond yet?

That was my feeling when encountering the Javascript I used in this piece, which was from a guide by Matthew Bibby.

It was great to be able to look at the Javascript and understand what it was doing and how, but I’m not at a point where I could have created it from scratch.

I’m hoping to update this post with other challenge entries which catch my eye, so stay tuned!

Animated Timer Farm Quiz- Elearning Challenge #150

Here’s a quiz with a twist – can you answer the questions before the tractor makes its way across the screen and drops all of its hay bales?

The farm game

Try the demo here.

This piece was inspired by Ridvan Saglam’s creative timers, and I made it in Storyline 2 in response to Elearning Heroes Animated Countdown challenge!

The quiz questions are sourced from Letham Shank Farm, which has a fantastically comprehensive website with a passion for agriculture which is infectious!

Favourite Education Technology Examples – 7/7/17

It’s been a hectic week for me. My company moved into a new office which has a grand total of TWO microwaves, and I have lots more desk real estate. As I’ve been sorting my desk tidy and working out what postcards to display, I’ve also been exploring what’s new in the world of elearning and hunting down some classics.

My Life with a Pre-Existing Condition – Nomi Cani


Terrifying political webtoon which highlights the issues in the US healthcare system through a personal story.

I found the visualisation of how many people in the US population would considered to have a “pre-existing condition,” requiring them to pay a crippling premium for health insurance, particularly impactful.

River Crossing by Maija Perfiljeva


Interactive version of the old river crossing puzzle, where you have to transport three animals (or in this case two animals and a cabbage) to the other side of a river. Leaving predator and prey together alone will result in one of the three being eaten, so you must think carefully.

I love the clean graphics and how a bit of subtle movement makes the scenes seem very animated, however my favourite thing about this course is that it doesn’t over-instruct the user. You are free to experiment and see what’s possible (Can you put more than one animal on the boat? Can you take animals back again? Etc)

Eurostar – By cursim


This environmentally friendly-elearning has a fun graphical style and lots of interesting types of interaction, including a literal carbon footprint… footprint! I appreciated that the transition between elements felt like moving within a single scene, appropriate for a trainline. It’s also nice to see elearning which adjusts to fill the user’s screen rather than being boxed in.

My one critique with cursim in general is a lack of hover states on interactive elements to let users know what can be interacted with. I feel they’re a must for mouse/cursor based learning.

How does my Memory Measure up? BBCiWonder


It’s typical of BBCiWonder’s usual fair (which is always very interesting!), but this particular example stood out to me for the variety of interactive elements. A simple colour scheme combines with interactive diagrams which are fun to explore.

Healthcare Template – Tracy Carroll

This is striking retro template with a healthcare setting. The most prominent feature are the characters, created by using a font. That’s right… a font! Tracy coloured the font characters in PowerPoint.

I was so inspired that I had a go myself. Presenting… Wingding Island!


More again soon…