As part of our fellowship Jesse and I were given a Teacher Toolkit with camera and video equipment to help us document and share our experience with our students and communities back home. We call it the big pink suitcase because well, that’s what it is! One of the devices in the toolkit is a Ricoh Theta camera that captures spherical images via two fish eye lenses. There are actually two of them—one captures still images and the other video. I started the expedition with quite a bit of camera equipment already in tow and so I didn’t give much thought to the Theta. I didn’t see much application in them and spending time to learn how to use them effectively would eat up valuable time I didn’t have and they might even keep me from using the equipment I did have—and was familiar with—to fully capture my experience. That said, we took them out a few times and grabbed a couple of photos and video. So that was that - until it wasn’t.
Lying awake last night, talking about all that we saw and bouncing ideas off of each other, we began to realize the potential of using the Thetas as digital storytelling devices that could be used to create interactive lessons, virtual scavenger hunts, and virtual field-trips. Unlike a photograph that has been framed and composed, the Theta allows users to maneuver within a landscape or scene. In the hands of a student, the student would have the ability to explore the surroundings of a place by panning right and left and up and down or by zooming in and out on things that interest them.
And so with a primitive grasp of the technology but big ideas in mind we set out to Buccaneer Cove, on Santiago Island, for some late morning snorkeling. Thetas in hand, we decided it might be a cool thing to capture some video of the two of us introducing Buccaneer Cove and interviewing Juan Carlos—the naturalist on board—about some of the things we might see beneath the sea line. We used the Thetas throughout the much of the rest of the day to introduce other landscapes and the wildlife within them. The project is definitely a work in progress but it has promise and we are excited about to see where it takes us!