The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: data (page 2 of 3)

7 Innovative #EdTech Practices You Can Implement at No Cost

The Americas Society and Council of the Americas invited me to discuss scalable innovative practices for education with experts and leaders dedicated to advancing and shaping the political, economic, social and cultural agendas of the Western Hemisphere. The purpose was to take what works in New York City and bring it to other education systems.

Here are some ideas I shared that global leaders can bring back to their countries.

1) Online Learning Communities for Education Resources

It is no longer okay for companies to provide teachers with just a product. Today we ask companies whose products we use, like Google, PBS, and Common Sense Media to develop online learning networks comprised of their staff and NYCDOE educators who use the product. Communities on sites like Google, Facebook, and Edmodo allow educators to connect with one another to share ideas, best practices, troubleshoot issues, and more.  A member from the NYCDOE and from the company participate in the group to provide appropriate support as needed.

Teachers love it.

Alone, exhausted, and unseen become connected, energized, and recognized.

2) Partnering with Companies to Develop Expertise within The System

Have you ever been to a classroom and seen a SMARTboard serving as a bulletin board or known that teachers were barely scratching the surface when it comes to using certain technologies? Technology without pedagogy is a waste of money.

Today companies must be held accountable to do more than just sell tools and resources to schools. They must come with an important additional component to grow capacity across the district. That component is a no-cost program that creates and connects teachers across the district who are power-users of the same resources so they can become area experts supporting others back in their school and districts.

Participants become experts and share their skills and knowledge by:

  • Supporting colleagues in their schools and districts
  • Modeling and speaking about best practices in effective technology integration
  • Providing professional learning
  • Offering feedback to companies that help to ensure resources meet student needs
  • Building the external profile of the DOE by contributing to blogs, websites, and other media
  • Developing innovative classrooms for inter-visitations
  • Presenting at conferences and workshops

Products are no longer stand alone. They come with training and support that helps ensure their successful use.  You can learn more about this program here.

3) Technology Single Point of Contacts (Tech SPOC)

Every school designates a single point of contact for technology who can participate in professional learning opportunities, receive information about technology (i.e. via a newsletter and website), and join an online community for anytime/anywhere support.

4) One Stop for Technology Professional Learning Opportunities

Sounds simple, but until recently we didn’t have a central place on our website where all learning opportunities were placed. Now there is one online place to find both internal and external opportunities such as workshops, institutes, conferences, meet ups, and webinars.

5) Incorporate Student, Educator and Parent Voice

One of the most important scalable practices that can be effectively implemented in any school system is to incorporate the voice of students, staff, and parents. Do this not only by speaking with all stakeholders, but also asking them to be a part of the rules, policies, guidelines, curriculum, and learning that takes place in your school or district. For example, our professional learning opportunities are created with and reviewed by a professional development team of educators who test the work and materials with their students then provide us with feedback.

Our Social Media Guidelines for students were created by interviewing more than one hundred students and numerous educators and parents. We then reached out to the stakeholders to help us create the guidelines in a format they choose.  In this case infographics. Once created, we go back to the stakeholders and get feedback then update. We created guides for parents and teachers and professional development. You can see them at schools.nyc.gov/socialmedia.

6) Partner with Students for Learning

While educators are expected to be experts in pedagogy, it is smart to tap into the intelligence of students when it comes to technology. Invite students to be creative with technology. Make a chart of favorite tech tools and indicate who your class experts are. If educators want to be in the know, there is a great free site from Common Sense Media called Graphite.org that rates and reviews digital resources.

7) Embrace Social Media for Students

If we want to run for office, run a business, or change how things are run where we work, live, or play we must be savvy in the use of social media. It is crucial for college, career, and life success. Stay tuned for my next post, to learn some ways to do this right.

So, what do you think? Could some of these practices be put into place where you work? Are there challenges or concerns that are in the way of you implementing these practices? What are some scalable practices that are successful where you work?

Original post available here

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What you missed at the Analytics 360 Symposium

By Ariel Garber

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies hosted the Analytics 360 Symposium on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at Brandeis University. The symposium took a look at using analytics to guide strategic, operational and tactical decisions specifically in the areas of education, healthcare and business.

The sessions covered a wide range perspectives within the analytics field, from The Open Data Analytics Initiative, to 10 Steps to Tracking Engagement and Influence Online, to A Holistic Approach to Being Data Science Driven.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Carver, award-winning Professor of Business Administration at Stonehill College as well as Adjunct Professor at the International
Business School at Brandeis University.Dr. Rob CarverOther sessions included The Application of Analytics in the Student’s Academic Lifecycle session led by Leanne Bateman, Faculty Chair for Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University and Principal Consultant for Beacon Strategy Group, a Boston-based management firm specializing in project management services.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.25.35 PMOther speakers, including professors, leading executives, and researchers, focused on topics such as publicity, e-learning, and big data. Alan Girelli spoke on The Open Data Analytics Initiative, with a comparative discussion of Learning Analytics (a link to his presentation is available here). Girelli is the Director of the Center for Innovation and Excellence in eLearning (CIEE) and has taught online, on-ground, and blended writing and instructional design courses at the graduate and undergraduate level for UMass Boston, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and ITT Technologies.

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We want to extend a big thank you to our panelists, Rob Carver, Leanne Bateman, David Dietrich, Shlomi Dinoor, Alan Girelli, Haijing Hao, and John McDougall. The event was sponsored by Basho, Soft10, Brandeis International Business School, EMC and E-Learning Innovation.

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Brandeis expands online course offerings with Learning Analytics graduate certificate

New fall program combines data analysis with the expanding field of online learning

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Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) will launch a fully-online graduate certificate program in Learning Analytics in September 2015, the university announced today.

Designed to be completed in 1.5 years or less, the program is for professionals with strong backgrounds in education, instructional design, or institutional research. Cross-disciplinary in nature, the certificate will provide students with the foundational tool sets and theory of business intelligence and data analysis. These skillsets are necessary for evaluating the effectiveness of courses, programs and instruction, and prepare students to fill a highly in-demand skills gap in a burgeoning job market.

“As the learning analytics field continues to evolve, it is more important than ever before to use the technology and data we have available to us to understand and, ultimately, enhance the learning experience,” said Brian Salerno, director of Online Learning and Instructional Design at Brandeis GPS.

The five-course, 15-credit certificate program draws heavily from two existing Brandeis GPS master’s degrees: Instructional Design and Technology and Strategic Analytics. Applicants are expected to possess a post-graduate degree in a related field as well as three years of relevant work experience.

In addition to the new Learning Analytics certificate, Brandeis GPS offers eight fully online part-time master’s degrees, including Strategic Analytics, Bioinformatics, Health and Medical Informatics, Instructional Design & Technology, and Software Engineering. All Brandeis GPS programs are asynchronous, providing students with a flexible and convenient approach to completing their degree.

Students interested in applying to the Learning Analytics certificate program should complete their application by Aug. 11, 2015. Students also have the opportunity to take a course prior to applying for admission. Registration for the summer 2015 term opened on April 14, with courses beginning May 20. For more information about Brandeis GPS, please visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

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Analytics: Not Just For Data Experts

By Ariel Garber

Analytics is useful in any profession, with the potential to increase efficiency, profitability and accuracy. From healthcare, to marketing, to even sports, analytics is becoming an essential tool in all fields. Here’s a sneak peak into how data affects more industries that you expect.

Technology is shaping a new health care economy, evident in the advances of Stethoscopemobile devices, cloud computing and analytics. “‘We need to empower consumers with the in-the-moment guidance they need,’” said Dennis Schmuland, MD, Microsoft’s chief health strategy officer, “adding that a key technological component of that on both sides of the patient-provider equation is health analytics, thus the need to ‘make analytics easy for everyone.’”

Social media Picture1and marketing analytics tools are also important as social media becomes essential in all fields. Research has shown that “the conversations your customers have among themselves drive about 13 percent of business decisions and can amplify your advertising by 15 percent.

Sports analytics are valuable to both consumers and professionals, for the way we consume sports industry through sports data is dependent upon analytics. “Sports analytics is not just a catch phrase, but an influential part of the future of sports,” said Bloomberg Sports, the leading global provider in data and analytics, “We believe sports analytics plays an integral role in the future of sport, both at a fan engagement and elite sport performance level.” Bloomberg Sports offers a variety of resources to both consumers and professionals. For professional purposes, they provide analytic tools for scouting, video analysis and “player-centric applications to assess performances and aid the preparation of upcoming games.” They also have created a predictive analytics program and use their own broadcast and TV stations to “translate analytics-rich content into broadcast tools used on-air to inform and educate viewers.” They also host their own website, StatsInsights.com, featuring analytics-rich sports articles.

Big data is becoming incorporated into all aspects of sports, from devices that can track pitches during the game, to wearable technology. Adidas’ miCoach system collects data from a device attached to the player’s jersey that shows the top performers and who is tired, as well as “real-time stats on each player, such as speed, heart rate and acceleration.” The data from these devices assists trainers, coaches, and physicians in planning better training and conditioning.

There is also a demand for data analytics specialists to translate the data from these devices in a coherent manner for the players and coaches. Moneyball, a 2003 book and 2011 movie featured the Oakland Athletics competitive baseball that utilized analytics in their data-driven strategies. This highlights a shift in sports from gut instincts to a reliance upon science. Analytics is “gaining recognition as a tried and true instrument for competitive advantage in countless industries.”

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies offers a Strategic Analytics program that produces professionals who understand the strategic potential of big-data analytics and who can translate analysis into effective organizational decision-making, poised to lead today’s organizations to new standards of efficiency and competitiveness.

Brandeis GPS is hosting an Analytics 360 Symposium on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 from 9am-4:30pm at Hassenfeld Conference Center of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

360LogoALT2The day-long symposium will focus on promoting a discussion of the growing field of analytics and how organizations can leverage big data to make more strategic decisions. Panelists will engage in a conversation that places analytics in the context of big data, education, health, marketing and business.

Register here for the Analytics 360 Symposium on April 8, 2015 at Brandeis University. The cost for NERCOMP members is $135 and the cost for non-members is $265. Submit this form to learn more about special pricing available to members of the Brandeis community. For more information, email analytics360@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-8786. You can also find us on Twitter using #GPSAnalytics.

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The Emerging Field of Learning Analytics

by Ariel Garber

The development of learning analytics will help shape a new model for teaching and learning, creating a system that provides insight and information to support student success. The field of learning analytics, defined by EDUCAUSE, is “deciphering trends and patterns from educational big data, or huge sets of student-related data, to further the advancement of a personalized, supportive system of higher education.”  Learning analytics evaluates student behavior in order to determine learning efficiency, creating conversations with students about learning strategies and how well they feel learning has occurred. Technology allows us to study learning experiences through the capture and analysis of learning and performance data.

“Analytics provides a new model for college and university leaders to improve teaching, learning, organizational efficiency, and decision making and, as a consequence, serve as a foundation for systemic change,” said George Siemens and Phil Long in their article about learning analytics.

program-hero-strategic-analyticsA key feature of learning analytics is its learning-centric focus, analyzing student performance outside of the classroom in order to gain a new understanding of the efficiency of students, teachers and the curriculum. Beyond basic retention and completion, learning analytics produces students with both inquiry and analysis focus and critical and creative thinking skills.

The implementation of learning analytics requires restructuring academic institutions, to include re-evaluating the flow of data between departments, increasing personal student support, reshaping course design, delivery and more. These changes will be felt by the faculty, students and the institution as a whole. Collaborative and creative leadership is essential in fostering an academic environment that can support and utilize learning analytics.

The Online Instructional Design & Technology program at Brandeis GPS offers foundational skills through the study of instructional design principles, educational technology, and adult learning theories. Students gain the experience needed to solve a variety of instructional challenges and, ultimately, create and deliver high-quality online programs and interactive courseware.

In large part because of the continuous growth in online programs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data demonstrates that jobs in instructional design and technology have grown 20.8% since 2004, and project above average growth as high as 20% for instructional design jobs between 2010 and 2020. In the next four years alone, the bureau projects over 36,000 new jobs will become available in instructional design and technology.

This reveals the growing forum for learning analytics and Strategic Analytics, also offered at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. Brandeis GPS is hosting an Analytics 360 Symposium on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 from 9am-4:30pm at Hassenfeld Conference Center of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

360LogoALT2The day-long symposium will focus on promoting a discussion of the growing field of analytics and how organizations can leverage big data to make more strategic decisions. Panelists will engage in a conversation that places analytics in the context of big data, education, health, marketing and business.

Register here for the Analytics 360 Symposium on April 8, 2015 at Brandeis University. The cost for NERCOMP members is $135 and the cost for non-members is $265. Submit this form to learn more about special pricing available to members of the Brandeis community. For more information, email analytics360@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-8786. You can also find us on Twitter using #GPSAnalytics.

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Creating an Environment of Leadership

by: Johanna Rothman

Find the original post here.

I bet you have some problems that have been problems for a while. Or, you want to influence other people to change. You need an environment of leadership, because you can’t do it alone.

Here are three tips to creating an environment where everyone can lead:

Tip #1: Share the problem.

When I work with technical and managerial leaders, I find that they have this idea that they are not supposed to share problems. They may have a boss who believes that once he or she delegates the problem, that unique individual must solve it alone. Or, they might coachingfeel as if it’s not fair to share the problem–that somehow people will take time from their work to help with “my” problem. Or, they have never considered that much transparency.

You can’t ask for help on all problems. Sometimes, when you are a manager, you need to keep HR-type problems private. Maybe you have a fiduciary responsibility to the company, and you can’t share that data.

But, here’s an idea: if you have this problem, chances are quite good other people know about the effects of the problem. You are not the only one living with this problem.

Kim, a program manager, could not understand how to help her teams. They could not discover their interdependencies in time to know when to develop which features. She wrestled with this problem for a couple of weeks.

At our coaching appointment, I suggested she raise the issue to the team leads. She could say, “I see this problem, and here is the effect it’s having on me. Can we solve this together?”

She did. The team leads also felt the pain. They decided to reduce their planning scope, planning for no longer than a month at a time. They used stickies on the wall to see their interdependencies and create interim milestones. As a side benefit, they had to reduce their story size to meet their milestones.

Tip #2: Ask for multiple solutions.

Notice that the team leads helped solve the problem in several ways:

  • They took responsibility for part of the problem.
  • They decided to reduce their planning scope. That helped, but alone it wasn’t enough.
  • They decided to work together, to create a sticky-based planning session.
  • They reduced story size because they realized that having large stories prevented them from working together.

If they had implemented just one of these solutions, they might not have solved the problem.

Tip #3: Ask for help assessing solutions.

Some of the leads wanted to implement their solutions right away. Adam, one of the leads said, “Hold on. I want to see if this is going to work with my team. I’m not sure we can reduce our story size. Let’s involve more people.”

When he shared the proposals with his team, sure enough they were concerned about story size. One of the team members said, “We need to work with our product owner to 0x600-636x310understand how to split our stories better. We can’t do this alone.”

It took them several iterations to learn how to split stories small enough that they could commit to their interdependencies. The team might have resented the solution if Adam had not checked with the team first.

Share your leadership. You will create an environment where everyone leads.

More Learning With Johanna

If you liked these leadership tips, learn more at The Influential Agile Leader. Gil Broza and I create a safe learning environment where you can experiment. We teach experientially, so you have a chance to practice and reflect on what you learn. Please join us at The Influential Agile Leader. The early bird price expires Feb 15.

I’ll be at the Booster Conference March 9-13. I have several workshops and talks:

See my calendar page for all my workshops and speaking dates.

Johanna Rothman

 

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Analytics 360 Symposium

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Written by: Ariel Garber

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies will host the Analytics 360 Symposium: Multi-Industry Insights into Data and Intelligence on April 8, 2015 from 8:30am to 4:00 pm at Hassenfeld Conference Center of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The all-day symposium will focus on promoting a discussion of the growing field of analytics and how organizations can leverage big data to make more strategic decisions.

Panelists will engage in a conversation that places analytics in the context of big data, education, health, marketing and business. Sessions cover a wide range perspectives within the analytics field, from  The Open Data Analytics Initiativeto 10 Steps to Tracking Engagement and Influence Online, to A Holistic Approach to Being Data Science Driven.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Carver, is an award-winning Professor of Business Administration at Stonehill College as well as Adjunct Professor at the International Business School at Brandeis University. Dr. Carver specializes in applied quantitative methods, big data, statistics education and business analytics. He will speak on the ethical dilemmas of big data in analytics.

marketing-sales-presentationsOther sessions include The Application of Analytics in the Student’s Academic Lifecycle session led by Leanne Bateman, Faculty Chair for Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University and Principal Consultant for Beacon Strategy Group, a Boston-based management firm specializing in project management services. Other speakers, including professors, leading executives, and researchers, will focus on topics such as publicity, e-learning, and big data.

Register here for the Analytics 360 Symposium on April 8, 2015 at Brandeis University. The cost for NERCOMP members is $135 and the cost for non-members is $265. Submit this form to learn more about special pricing available to members of the Brandeis community. For more information, email analytics360@brandeis.edu or call 781-736-8786. You can also find us on Twitter using #GPSAnalytics.

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How Companies Can Use Big Data to Make Better Decisions

By:  – Associate Editor, BostInno

Big Data has swiftly earned a lasting place in our lexicon, because its potential is real and impact undeniable. Companies can collectively scoff and brush big data off as just another trend, but that decision could lead to worse decisions down the road.

how-predictive-analytics-can-make-money-for-social-networks-46ce73d0c0“Every era has a bold new innovation that emerges as a defining advantage for those who get out ahead of the curve,” said Ali Riaz, CEO of enterprise software company Attivio, referencing the industrial revolution and, later, the information age. Giants of industry who took advantage of new machinery or market leaders who learned to leverage relational databases have historically had the upperhand.

“Today’s advantage — the new currency, if you will — is big data,” Riaz added. “Companies that don’t get ahead of this tsunami by using big data to their advantage will be crushed by it.”

Yet, this deluge of data isn’t new, it’s just been given a catchy two-word title.

When asked to define big data, Ely Kahn, co-founder and VP of business development for big data start-up Sqrrl, described it as massive amounts — tera- and petabytes’ worth — of unstructured and semi-structured data “organizations have historically been unable to analyze because it was too expensive or difficult.” With technologies like Hadoop and NoSQL databases surfacing, however, Kahn claimed those same organizations can now make sense of this type of data “cost effectively.”

To Marilyn Matz, CEO of fellow big data startup Paradigm4, the revolution goes beyond just high volumes of information, though.

“It is about integrating and analyzing data collected from new sources,” Matz said. “A central capability this enables is hyper-personalization and micro-targeting — including recommendation engines, location-based services and offers, personalized pricing,
precision medicine
and predictive equipment maintenance schedules.”

No matter the industry, big data has a key role to play in moving the needle for companies,mobile-app whether large or small. And that goes for companies currently unable to determine what their “big data” is. The unrecognizable could be customer sentiment in social media, server logs or clickstream data.

“Once you have identified untapped sources of data,” Kahn said, “you can use tools like Hadoop and NoSQL to analyze it.”

Matz broke down, by industry, what that ability to analyze could mean.

In the Commercial Sphere

In the commercial sphere, if a company knows 10 or 100 things about you and your situational context, then that company can do a far better job offering you something relevant to exactly where you are and what you might be interested in, increasing their opportunity to capture your respect, attention and dollars.

In the Industrial World

In the industrial world, if a manufacturing company knows where equipment is operated (hot and harsh climates versus moderate climates), as well as how that equipment is being used (lots of hard-braking) and collects data across a large fleet, then it can predict maintenance before costly breakdowns, saving millions of dollars — and it can price warranties more accurately, as well as improve designs and manufacturing processes.

In Pharma and Healthcare

In pharma and healthcare, evidence-based outcome studies that integrate genomic data, phenotypic data, clinical data, behavioral data, daily sensor data, et al., can lead to more targeted and effective treatment and outcomes for both wellness and illness.

Attivio has been using big data in one of the most vital ways by focusing on detecting military personnel who are at risk for suicide.

But, of course, big data still comes with challenges. Riaz acknowledged the reality, which is that every large organization is comprised of disconnected silos of information that come in all different formats; let alone the various business units, applications, protocols, information repositories, terminologies and schemas that doesn’t always mesh.

program-hero-strategic-analytics“Just dumping data into these unorganized but separate systems is anarchy and an egregious waste of time and money,” Riaz said. “Yet, this is how many technologies address the problem. It essentially just creates another big silo for the information to live in.”

Moving forward, additional ways to combine structured and unstructured data, as well as merge data from within an enterprise to data from outside of it, will need to emerge. And when it does, the impact will be glaringly obvious.

As Riaz posited:

The time to solve big problems with extreme information is upon us. Businesses, organizations and governments are putting a lot of faith – and money – into technology solutions to help them make sense of it all. As a technology industry, we owe it to these companies to deliver real products that deliver real results to real problems, not just create more work.

So, let’s start by making that first big decision: Understanding big data’s importance, no matter how big of a buzzword it’s become.

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The Luxury of Less

by: Katherine S Rowell author of “The Best Boring Book Ever of Select Healthcare Classification Systems and Databases” available now!

Originally posted here

I often find myself torn between wanting to get as much useful information as possible onto a single page of the reports and dashboards we design and build, and my love of white space, or “The Luxury of Less.” In a page lay-out, white space (also called “negative space”) is the portion of a page deliberately left unmarked. When well chosen and placed, it is a key contributor to attractive, effective design. Done poorly, it can make a page appear incomplete or even pretentiously minimal.

Consider the following example of the potential power of white space, illustrated by Edward Tufte’s redesign of a table of cancer survival statistics.

Original Table:

Source: Hermann Brenner, "Long-term survival rates of cancer patient[s] achieved by the end of the 20th century; a period analysis," The Lancet, 360 (October 12, 2002), 1131-1135.

Tufte First Iteration Table Redesign:

Source: Edward Tufte

Second Table-Graph Iteration:

Source: Edward Tufte

The original table, which is similar to the ones we are accustomed to seeing in scientific publications, is ordered by body system and is perfectly adequate for the look-up and comparison of values, including details about the Standard Error (SE) of each value-that is, it serves its purpose. But could it be improved?

Tufte’s first redesign highlights a particular (and newly featured) aspect of the data: five-year survival rates by type of cancer. Notice how each row in this re-done table has a bit more white space: heavy black lines framing the titles and column-headings, and parentheses around the standard errors, have been removed, giving some visual respite and making the figures more legible. The re-categorization of the data also makes a trend it illustrates somewhat easier to spot (take a minute to look at the information in the first column and follow it across; you’ll see it). The entire table looks and feels cleaner, and especially for research publications that require reporting and display of all relevant statistics, this table redesign works very well.

The third table-graphic-a hybrid of the two forms-provides yet another view, and a different data-visualization lesson. It presents the viewer with a clear picture of survival time gradients, illustrating the slope of survival rates for each type of cancer. In this last table-graphic, there is an even greater use of white space, and every visual element contributes directly to understanding-simply, elegantly, clearly. The use of space coupled with a line to show the slope of change leaves no doubt about the story in the data.

Although I see no compelling reason why a view like this couldn’t be used in a research publication (adding back in the standard errors), this is of course wishful thinking on my part: it simply won’t happen any time soon. What isn’t wishful thinking, however, is that we have immediate opportunities to use these techniques to build the tables and other displays we create for our clients, supervisors, and colleagues. We can most certainly use them to simplify and clarify information for patients and the general public, too.

Bottom line? Tufte reminds us yet again of the power of simplicity, and that showing less often reveals so much more.

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Standing At The Mean

Sam Halperin  is currently a Programming Instructor at Thinkful. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Science in Software Engineering. He is working on a doctorate in Computer Science, and also blogs at www.samhalperin.com

Experimentation enabled by advances in low-cost consumer virtual reality hardware and software.

A few months ago, after a long hacking session with a genetic algorithm (an algorithm that evolves a solution from “chromosomes” over time),Pic1 Unity Game Engine (a 3D video game engine) and an Oculus Rift immersive display, I had what I think is a unique experience:   Creating a data set with the GA, writing a renderer that transformed the data into geometry, hues and color values, and piping the output to a head mounted display, I was able to don the goggles and somewhat literally walk around and stand at the mean of the data set and look around.  For me, this view into the data was a transformative personal experience, if not a scientifically valid approach to understanding data.

Weeks later a second experiment emerged, this time using sensor data attached to a stationary bicycle to drive the view-camera in a virtual environment.   This apparatus had been part of a somewhat Quixotic quest for a virtual reality based active gaming Sampost2experience.  Once implemented, it represented the faintest surface scratch into the vast requirements of art, engineering, sound, theatre and animation that actually make up a production game, but a uniquely satisfying experiment.

The most recent experiment in this set leveraged design training and demonstrated the architectural visualization pipeline from consumer-grade modeller (SketchUp) to virtual reality experience.  This product, like the other two, was also the “first 20%” of effort, (see The Pareto Principle), but uniquely satisfying. The video from the work has been retweeted many times and had over 1800 views since it has been up, and I have received numerous requests for collaboration on similar projects. (http://youtu.be/mJLK_t0bTYA)

Clearly there is a growing mass movement representing a desire for this type of virtual reality technology.  The defining factor in my experience thougsampic3h, as differs from virtual reality experimentation in the past, was that this work didn’t require access to a university
lab, defense contractor or space agency. This access is possible due to a sea change in VR technology driven by the release of the Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display.

Beginning with the release of the Oculus Rift, and followed closely by other projects, VR technology is beginning to permeate as a consumer level technology.  My bike-vr project is actually one of a few similar experiments documented in the various online communities surrounding the technology.  There is a growing community of VR hackers (perhaps a better term is maker) throughout the world, and the level of experimentation has grown exponentially.

My involvement in this work is only beginning, but I am tremendously optimistic that the technology itself represents a positive force for our ability to visualize problems, to communicate with each other, and to be present in environments that we wouldn’t normally be able to experience — across history, geography, scale and any other limits.

Question: What is the value of “being present” and experiencing virtual environments in this way?  What is the value of “standing at the mean”, and how does it differ from viewing a place, a time or a dataset on a traditional computer monitor?  What are the drawbacks?

Answer: The experience of presence with this type of display is so powerful that it can actually make the viewer nauseous, experiencing a sort of simulator sickness approaching seasickness.   At the same time, intelligently engineered virtual environments, built with this in mind can fool the brain in a more positive direction, producing joy, fright, sadness, even the perception of temperature changes.  This is not an experience that is common to interaction with a smartphone or tablet.

Current VR work of interest is quite vibrant and diverse, spanning topics such as “redirected walking” techniques for navigating large virtual environments by walking around small laboratories[1], the study of “oculesics”, where eye movements are tracked and communicated across networks to enhance communication[2], and the exploration of very large datasets using large laboratory installations ringed by huge arrays of displays[3].

See Also

  • [1] Suma, E. A., Bruder, G., Steinicke, F., Krum, D. M., & Bolas, M. (2012). A taxonomy for deploying redirection techniques in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, 43–46. doi:10.1109/VR.2012.6180877
  • [2] Steptoe, W., Wolff, R., Murgia, A., Guimaraes, E., Rae, J., Sharkey, P., … & Steed, A. (2008, November). Eye-tracking for avatar eye-gaze and interactional analysis in immersive collaborative virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 197-200). ACM.
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