Google Cardboard: 3D for 3 bucks?

Hey, my Google Cardboard finally got here!

I’m not going to take my own photographs, both because I put my Cardboard together rather poorly and also because photographs don’t communicate much when we’re talking about 3D virtual reality.

The “device” (if you can call it that) looks like this:

Source: CNET
Source: CNET

You put your phone into it like this:

Source: CNET
Source: CNET

Apps designed to work with Google Cardboard display on your phone in split-screen. The left side is your left eye’s field of view and the right side is your right eye’s field of view.

Source: CNET
Source: CNET

The way Cardboard works is that it holds your phone steady and aligned in front of two specially calibrated magnifying lenses– one for each eye. When you hold your eyes up to the lenses, each eye only sees its respective half of the screen, and your brain is able to combine the two slightly different images into a coherent 3D image, just as it does in normal vision.

The potential educational value of 3D virtual reality is probably self-evident to readers of this blog, but to give one quick example, VR enables things like virtual field trips to faraway cities (Athens, Rome, Beijing, etc) or to natural wonders. VR games and simulations could also have educational merit in the right context, such as virtual operations in medical school.

My impressions of Cardboard, though, are slightly negative. Fundamentally, Google Cardboard is a very simple, cheekily-named toy designed to force your phone to be something it was never, ever meant to be: a 3D virtual reality visor. The fact that it works at all- however poor the final experience is- is incredible.

Let’s dig in a bit:

First of all, I got an ultra-cheap knockoff from a Chinese vendor which, at the time of writing, costs $2.99 shipped. The kit was confusing and didn’t quite have all the correct parts, but it did include the lenses, and I was able to fold the cardboard kit up securely enough to use it. For what I paid for it, it was worth every penny. However, I’m sure one of the more expensive kits out there would have given a better experience.

When I tried the popular Tuscan Drive demo, I was surprised at how terrible the graphics looked. Thanks to the magnifying lenses, everything had a “soupy” or distorted quality, and individual subpixels were highly visible. (Have you ever sat so closely to a TV that you could see the individual pinhead-sized red, blue, and green dots that make up the screen? That’s what I’m talking about.) In fact, the graphics were poor enough that although I was indeed seeing things in 3D, the “wow-factor” of the 3D graphics was overwhelmed by the “meh-factor” of how subpar the image was. Maybe the distance between the lenses and the screen wasn’t perfect or something, but there’s nothing I can alter in the calibration of the lens setup.

Plus, the headtracking that can be managed using cellphone-grade accelerometers just isn’t that great. On my Galaxy S3, there was noticeable lag between my real-life head movements and the corresponding in-game head movements, and the field of view often rattled oddly up and down or side to side based on messy data from the accelerometer.

I’m still excited by the technology, though, and rough as the experience is, I’m very glad to have gotten my own Cardboard to play with. Once the Oculus Rift is released, I’ll be sorely tempted to snap one up. If nothing else, the first mass-market VR goggles since the Virtual Boy will have some kitch value in the future, if not necessarily collector’s value.

Building and Sustaining Classroom Community Through Technology (“What I learned at TESOL” series)

In this video, Hillary Schepps presents work by Bophany Huit & Denise Maduli-Williams on using technology to foster a classroom community. This presentation was part of a series of short talks given at the University of Pittsburgh English Language Institute. Participants shared interesting material they had encountered at the TESOL 2014 convention.

Hillary’s notes follow:

Talk originally given by Bophany Huit & Denise Maduli-Williams (City College of San Francisco, USA) at the 2014 TESOL Convention on March 27 in Portland, OR.

Before the class starts:


Day 1:

  • Cell phone policy
  • Breaking free of the classic icebreaker with your Smartphone


During the semester:

  • Use Courseweb for discussion board, e.g. “Your life in six words”
  • for videos and spoken discussions
  • for weblog; share videos, photos, and text
  • Surveys: immediate feedback and 3-2-1


After the class ends:

  • Keeping in touch with Twitter


Useful websites:


Useful Apps:

  • Google Translate
  • Photocircle
  • Voice Memos
  • iTunes U
  • Skitch

Using to generate and share vocabulary activities

Hello, NEALLT 2014! I’m an educational technologist and ESL teacher who teaches adult students at the University of Pittsburgh English Language Institute.

I’ve written previously about many of the student-oriented features of, and I will talk about some of those features during this talk. This entry complements the previous one. It focuses on some of features of Quizlet best suited for collaboration, including how to make a vocabulary study set from an existing vocabulary list stored in a Word document; how to copy and remix your colleagues’ Quizlet study sets for use in your own classes; and how to combine your and your colleagues’ study sets to create vocabulary master lists.

Please make use of the comments section! Presentations can be awfully one-sided and didactic, so keeping a real-time backchannel open for participants enriches the experience for everyone!

1. Creating a Quizlet set from your existing materials

For this demonstration, I will be using this Microsoft Word file. It’s a real document used in my institution, and if you’re a language instructor, you likely have many like it yourself. Feel free to use the file to follow along on your own computer while we create our first Quizlet study set!

1. Create a Quizlet account if you have not done so yet.
2. Click on the create-a-set button in the top navbar.
3. Give your study set a title and description.
4. Under “Enter your terms,” choose import data.

Notice this section:


We need to edit our materials until they match this format: exactly one term and one definition per line separated by a tab. Luckily, if you copy and paste a table from Microsoft Word, a tab is automatically inserted between each cell of a row. Our goal, then, is to pare down a table of vocabulary words until it only has a column of single-line words and a column of single-line definitions.

5. Open your MS Word document. Here is what mine looks like:

cv sheet 1

6. Delete all information except for the words and definitions. For example, in the chart above, we must delete the columns for parts of speech and collocations.

cv sheet 27. Delete or consolidate any extra word forms or definitions so that there are no line breaks within a word or definition. It’s fine if your text wraps naturally at the end of a line or cell; you just can’t have any manual line breaks, like in “Identify / Identification” or in the definitions for “Individual” in the list above. Make sure all extra line breaks and spaces are deleted.

cv sheet 4

8. Highlight your list of words and definitions and copy them. Click back over to your web browser and find the copy-paste box. Paste your words and definitions into the box.


If your data is formatted correctly, you should see appropriate results in the Live Import Preview box:


If not, you need to manually edit the text in the “Copy and Paste your data” box and/or tweak the “Between Term and Definition” and “Between Definition and Term” settings until your data is parsed correctly by the Quizlet importer.

9. Click on the import-button button.

10. Choose the correct languages on the the “Enter your terms” chart at the bottom of the page. It is important to select the correct languages so that Quizlet knows which text-to-speech engine to use to pronounce the words and definitions on your flash cards. In my case, both languages are English.


11. Double-check your words and definitions to make sure that everything imported correctly. Once you’re ready, click the “Save” button. Congratulations! You just created your first Quizlet study set!

2. Managing your Quizlet study sets

It’s easy to see and manage the list of sets you have created or used.

1. Mouse over your account name in the top-right corner of Quizlet’s navigation bar. Click on “Your Sets.” (Tip: Clicking directly on your account name brings you to the same page.)


2. This page is the nerve center of your account. You can access every Quizlet set you have ever created or studied; you can see any classes you are a member of; and you can create or join new classes. Simply use the buttons and links on the “Your Sets” page to accomplish whatever you need to do.

Tip: You can send people the link to your account page. For example, mine is If you visit that link, you can see every public study set I have created or studied.

3. Remixing Quizlet sets using Copy and combine

Quizlet has a few simple but very powerful tools for remixing study sets. First, let’s take a look at Copy.

3a. Using Copy to remix a set

There are several reasons you may wish to copy a set. Perhaps you’ve found someone else’s vocabulary set which you wish to tweak and use in your own class; perhaps you want to use separate copies of a given Quizlet study set in different sections of a course so that students only compete with their direct classmates in the study games; or perhaps you want to have one private copy of a study set and one communal copy which other teachers can edit.

1. Navigate to the study set you wish to copy. Mouse over “More Tools” and choose “Copy.”


2. After you click “Copy,” you are brought to the “Create a New Study Set” page. However, the old set is already filled in for you in the “Enter your terms” section! Simply make whatever changes you want (if any), give the set a name, and save it.

3b. Using “Combine” to remix a set

When we used “Copy” in the previous section, it created a new study set based on the content of an old study set. “Combine” works similarly. It creates a new study set which combines all of the items of multiple study sets.

1. Find some study sets you want to combine. For example, here is a list of three study sets I have created for the University of Pittsburgh English Language Institute: one for weeks 2-4, one for weeks 5-7, and one for weeks 8-11 of our Level 6 course. It would be appropriate to combine these three sets together into one master set as a resource for students doing a comprehensive review at the end of the semester.


2. Click on one of the sets. It does not matter which one. Then, mouse over “More Tools” and choose “Combine.”


3. If you are combining sets that you have created, the next step is easy: simply press the “+” button next to the appropriate sets in the “Your Sets” window. Otherwise, you will need to use the “Search Sets” box to find the other set(s) you wish to combine. In this example, we wish to add the “Weeks 5-7” and “Weeks 8-11” sets to the combination.


4. Once you have selected all of the sets you wish to combine, choose “Create a set” and click “Go.”


5. Finish creating your new set by giving it a name, making any necessary tweaks to the words or definitions, and clicking “Save.”

This has been a whirlwind tour of just a couple of the features of Quizlet most useful for collaborating with your fellow teachers. Following these instructions, you can create Quizlet study sets based on your or your colleagues’ Microsoft Word vocabulary lists; you can copy and tweak your colleagues’ Quizlet sets to use in your own classes; and you can combine multiple study sets into master lists.

How have you used Quizlet in your own teaching? Have you ever collaborated with a colleague through Quizlet? Do you have any tips to share? Post your story in the comments below!