5 Ways AR/VR Can Be Used To Enhance Learning/Working

I know how Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are going to change the world, and so do you.

Can a doctor learn anatomy using the Microsoft Hololens or a similar AR device? Not only is it possible, but at least one university is already implementing that very idea in their training.

During the initial presentation of the Microsoft Hololens the company produced two short videos (clipped together here) discussing the product. In one video, some of the team members talked about how excited they were to see what ways people would use the device that they hadn’t thought of. In the other, they showed quick demos of ways it could be used.

One of those appeared to be a father helping his daughter with a plumbing problem by writing on a tablet that connected with her Hololens to display what she needed to do over the pipe in question.

What other ways can Augmented and Virtual reality be used?

1. Virtual Field Trips

Imagine taking a virtual field trip where Virtual Reality goggles allow you to experience a the Louvre. Your haptic gloves allow you to hold paintings that haven’t been moved in years. You then walk outside to a street vendor and, after touching the same glove to your tongue, taste and smell everything he has to offer. This seems insane, but it’s one very real possibility in the near future. No location is truly off limits. No experience, at least to a certain level, is closed off from anyone in society.

2. Blue Collar Labor Jobs

Speaking of plumbing, how does this affect both training and real time interventions? Where does it fit in the realm of construction, carpentry, welding, and similar jobs. Imagine a contractor being able to have AR displays for you from each competing bidder for part of your home construction. Think about a world where the reality of home improvement projects involves a step-by-step guide that overlays the real product while you use the real tool to perform the action needed to get the job done. What does it look like when an apprentice can learn from the best plumber in the area even if the master plumber is ill, injured, or out of town? Both the professional field and DIY may look markedly different in just a few short years.

3. Wait Staff Training

Shonda just got her first real job, waiting tables at Applebee’s. She was given an ebook manual to study and a couple of VR simulations to participate in to help her decide if she really wanted to try the job. After convincing her prospective manager, the teenager was invited to come to the restaurant for a morning AR training session. Upon her arrival, Shonda was given an official uniform to change into and then outfitted with a Hololens. Her trainer loaded the simulation and suddenly the bar was full of patrons. Shonda had to correctly identify her tables, follow protocol on engaging the guests, properly place orders at the workstation, and deliver food and drinks to the tables. While she wasn’t perfect at it, Shonda remarked afterwards about how real it all felt and how she noticed she was stepping aside to let virtual customers walk by when needed.

4. Delivery Drivers (UPS, FedEx, etc)

What if the delivery person has an AR overlay of your house with the preferred location for leaving your order already highlighted? With most houses, that’s the end of the option, but smart homes might bring another layer of specification to this process. Imagine the AR device highlighting the scanner to your garage, or just the gate to your back yard, and then the bar code on your delivery being scanned to allow access to the delivery driver. While it may not be perfect, it seems like a reasonable option for the time being. Of course, drones may replace all of this. Even more likely is a self driving vehicle making the trip, a robot handling the package, and your smart home allowing the robot entry to drop off the package and then leave.

5. Online Education

My M.Ed. and PhD (in progress) both focus heavily on online learning. One of the great barriers is the lack of a sense of place. Students routinely struggle with a lack of belonging and camaraderie that happen much more regularly in traditional settings. Until now, one of the few ways to handle this was to devise well crafted discussion forums. AR and VR have the opportunity, especially with the haptic gloves that simulate the other three senses, to break down that major barrier and reshape how online classes are constructed from the ground up. A virtual classroom where all five senses are engaged should help with some of the struggle.

What are you going to do about it?

There are five ideas of how this new technology could be integrated into life as we know it. What about your field? What ideas do you have, what do you think is possible, and what do you want to see most?

The 3 A’s of Life Long Learning

This post contains affiliate links for the two books at the bottom.

Information is no longer scarce, knowing what you actually need to retain is key.

My high school GPA was almost nonexistent. My college GPA was 0.3 after my first semester. I finally finished my BS in Religion 14 years after I started undergrad, with a laughable 2.35.

A few years later I easily knocked out an M.Ed. in 18 months and finished with a 3.97. I’m currently in the comprehensive exam and proposal stage of a PhD with a 3.84 and I took two additional classes beyond the requirements, just because they interested me.

How did I get from there to here? I stumbled into some key ideas about learning that school never taught me. In fact, until I got to the graduate level school actively opposed the kind of knowledge exploration that I routinely do.

To  begin moving from education to learning, I suggest the following three ideas as a simple framework with accompanying questions to guide you in each area.


    Where do your find it?

Where do you find the information you’re looking for? Obviously, Google is a great place to start regardless of the topic you’re exploring. There are even options like Google Scholar or Google News if you want to narrow your focus.

Another option that is derided and lampooned far too much is Wikipedia. As someone who has taught at the undergraduate level, I will reaffirm that it is not a good enough primary source, but it is a great jumping off point for potential references when doing research for papers.

If you’re in the legal profession, you know about LexisNexis. If you want information about legal and public records documents, it’s probably your starting point. It has every federal and state case in the US in its archive.

University libraries, especially their online offerings, have multiple databases of academic journals in every field as well as access to items such as dissertations. This has been key when developing my dissertation topic as well as doing preliminary papers and a literature review.

There are likely experts in any field that you can forge relationships with. If you want to get better at golf, buddying up to golf pro at the local course is probably a good idea. Reading the blog of a successful author will likely key you in on things that might help you get your own work published.

The key to all of these things is knowing where to look. As I said at the beginning, information used to be scarce. Now it’s scattered and instead of memorizing all the details we can simply hone our skills of finding the pieces of information most pertinent to us.


    How do you determine if it’s good?

We are bombarded with ads. There seems to be an infinite number of websites, often with conflicting information. How do you wade through the muck, especially in an area you aren’t well versed in, to get to the truth?

People talk about how unreliable Wikipedia is, but some studies have shown that it’s at least a bit more accurate than hardcover encyclopedias were. Other studies have suggested it’s nearly on par with experts in certain fields. Still others say that the difference is Wikipedia’s left leaning bias.

That’s why, as a lecturer I did the same thing my professors did. Use Wikipedia as a means to find more definitive, high quality sources. Go to the first level options instead of the overview site.

A problem still remains though. How do you determine when the other sources are high quality? As an example, how do you sift through the muck of conflicting food and diet information available today?

Let’s start with determining who actually is qualified to speak on the field. Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a well know writer and professor. He is extremely well versed in mathematics, engineering, and finance. He’s completely unqualified in the realm of food and often directly contradicts research and experts.

If I want information about food safety, dietary recommendations, and anything else related to healthy eating, Taleb is not someone I’ll listen to.

Additionally, you have to make sure that people who seem like experts have real credentials. One of the crazes right now is the Whole30 movement. The problems with the diet are many, as explained here, but the starting point is that neither person involved has any background in food science.

How do you avoid the latest scare induced craze? You have to do the research to determine what you’re looking for. If I’m researching what food to eat, I want a registered dietician and nothing else. If I’m researching GMO crops, I want legitimate peer reviewed research and nothing else.

As best you can, determine what the best sources of information are and then learn from those.


    How do you put it into use?

Great, I know something now, but how do I put it to use? Hopefully you had a gameplan, or at least an outline, before getting to this step. I’ve spent the last month or two deciding that my job search was frustrating me and that I should try and make some money blogging while I wait to get hired.

How can I do that? First, I looked up successful bloggers who had different styles and topics, but similar setups. Darren Rowse has a blog all about how to make money on a blog. He found a way to make money as a blogger when he was blogging about whether or not you could make money as a blogger.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner decided to blog about her financial situation and observations. She ran a blog for years and then realized that there were ways to monetize it. Not only has she been successful, but she’s now making six figures monthly and living her dream life.

Jeff Goins is a well established writer who blogged for years without making any money off of it, before he finally studied what successful bloggers were doing and put it into practice. I identified most closely with him and took one of his courses to get on the path of launching this blog.

Each one clearly has their own style and personality, but even a cursory look will reveal similar structure to each one. They all have key posts they highlight, they all want to add you to their email list, and they all offer reasonably priced courses and discounts to get you started blogging if you want to.

How did I come across them? First I used Google to access blogs on various topics of interest to me. I also looked at page ranking tools and even asked a few people what blogs interested them.

Then I assessed which blogs resonated with me the most, and which ones I thought provided the most valuable information. Each has elements of their success prominently displayed. They also all had various courses offered and I took the one that I thought would most quickly get to my goal.

Finally, I applied what I have learned. While there are still elements to implement with this blog, most of the primary pieces are in place. I have a schedule, I have worked on the financial plan, and I have added most of the potential money generating aspects.

I came. I saw. I implemented.

What is it that you want to learn? What thing seems too difficult to understand? What skill are you looking to add? The three simple steps above give you a great starting point for finding out what you need to know and how to make it happen.


2 Excellent Resources For Understanding Learning Today:


Why School? is a short e-book written by Will Richardson for TED. Mr. Richardson has an MA in Teaching and has been writing about education for years.


The Global Achievement Gap is an excellent look into what skills are actually valued by companies today, and how the US education system is failing to prepare students for the workplace. Dr. Wagner has served in many positions in education and currently is Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab.

How I crapped my pants and finished a marathon in just 3 years

I was 37 and standing on the corner of 4th & H NW in Washington DC, right outside a great little wine bar and my legs were covered in my own feces. It was the first time I had tried to go to church in weeks and I was frantically texting/calling friends while graciously accepting the bar manager’s invitation to clean up as much as I could in one of their bathrooms. Just over 3 years later I struggled my way through an 8 hour ordeal and finished the Honolulu marathon.

It starts something like this: I injured my back playing lacrosse during my senior year in high school. My doctor misdiagnosed the injury for two years and our HMO didn’t allow seeing other primary care physicians unless ours was unavailable. The first time I saw a different one I was in surgery the next day getting disc and vertebrae repair done.

As the years went by I got increasingly out of shape. During the late summer of 2012 I had tipped the scales at over 260 pounds despite being 5’9″. My body fat was at least 40%. One night, at my parents house in the suburbs, I went to get something out of the refrigerator and my back locked up to the point that my entire right side couldn’t move. In the ER they tried everything until they finally gave me Dilaudid to get the muscles to relax. I don’t even remember going home.

After 6-8 weeks of recovery time I finally decided to drive back up to DC and resume my life as normally as possible. I underestimated just how weak my core muscles still were and after parking hustled as quickly as I could towards that wine bar. I made it to the side door before everything let loose. The best part for me was that it wasn’t particularly humiliating. I was so comfortable that I texted the guys from church who were bringing me a clean pair of pants to “hurry up, I can’t take this crap any longer.” My sense of humor never wavered.

Fast forward to the late fall of 2014 in Honolulu. I had completed a 5k and was running about 20 miles per week. My weight fluctuated between 195-205 most of the time. One week before the 2014 marathon I decided I was going to run the 2015 version and began training. I stumbled across ideas like Jason Fitzgerald’s awesome Strength Running website and implemented many of the tried and true training techniques.

When the 2015 marathon finally came around I was fairly confident. Even though I had just moved, had a housemate who kept me up until all hours despite my constant protest, and the 12 pounds I gained during the 2 weeks my parents were visiting, my long runs were going well. Everything was pointing towards a time around 6.5 hours for my first marathon. Not bad for a 40 year old with lingering spinal issues.

The day of the marathon came and it was the most hot and humid day in Honolulu in at least 6 weeks. I started out well, my pace being slow and easy so I wouldn’t burn myself out and not finish. At mile 8 I had my first stomach issue due to the heat. At mile 13 I had to start walking intermittently. At mile 17 I was already contemplating stopping. During that last 9.2 miles I was experiencing mood swings like nothing I’ve ever had. I was in tears several times due to the pain.

After 8:41:47 I finally walked slowly across the finish line. It took laying on my back for 30 minutes before I could even think about finding my car and going home. Some great friends showed up and brought the car to me. By the middle of the next day I felt fine. 4 months later I ran a half marathon. I’m still running fairly consistently today and have a goal of doing at least one ultramarathon (50 kilometers or more) before I turn 50.

If a guy with a serious lower back injury who had gotten so out of shape that getting something out of a refrigerator can finish a marathon in terrible conditions, then what else is possible?

What was, what is, and what could be.

I will probably never be a player, coach, GM, or water boy for the Washington Capitals, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get my picture taken at the podium in their press room at the Verizon Center before the last game I went to. This moment exemplifies what much of my approach to life has been for the past 10 years.

I want to see what’s possible. After years as a terrible student, including barely making it out of high school and taking 14 years to squeak out a BS in Religion, I have since completed a M.Ed. and am closing in on completing my PhD.

I’ve lived in Hawaii, twice, despite never making much money and being a pasty white guy from the Washington DC suburbs. My advanced degrees will both be in education despite my earlier struggles and I am a Mensan as well.

This blog will be dedicated to the possibilities that are available now and in the near future. While there will be recurring themes such as education, technology, and maybe even sports, the overarching point is to inspire people to look at each situation in life in an increasingly creative and possibility filled manner.

To learn a little more of who I am, and what this place is intended to be, check out my About page.