Sprout – An Almost “Magical” Technology

This week I’m in Melbourne, Australia and yesterday I spent the day at HP’s Experience Centre seeing a range of products (more to come on this), however there was one technology that genuinely blew my mind with the wide range of possibilities for application within Education.

This technology was Sprout by HP.

To get an idea of what this looks like, check out this promo video:

In short, Sprout by HP is an all-in-one computer with a touch screen but also has a built in downwards facing projector above the screen that doubles as a 3D scanner and an interactive mat that functions as a second input device and soft keyboard. This combination of technology allows you to do some crazy things, such as:

  • Take a photo of any “real world” object by placing it on the mat and then immediately start interacting with it in the software and adding it to other artefacts you’re collecting
    • Example: you find a photo of a skirt you really like on the internet, but you want to see what it would look like if you made it in a fabric pattern you already have. Place the fabric on the mat, scan it, and then by drawing an outline over the skirt in the photo you can “punch out” the original skirt and insert the fabric pattern you just scanned.
  • Place a real object on the mat such as toy or wrist watch, scan it into the Sprout, and then start interacting with it in various ways by adding colour, textures and other filters.
    • Example: you could scan a real world object, make some basic modifications, and then output these to a 3D printer so you can effectively “clone” real objects
  • Create collages with a combination of both existing digital images you already have, but add in scanned physical items around you and then mark up with text
    • Example: in NCEA English students need to create static images (e.g. AS.90855 at Level 1) – using a Sprout they could truly combine all physical and digital artefacts and allow their creativity to take over.
StaticImage exemplar

An exemplar of a traditional Static Image for NCEA Level 1 English. A Sprout could revolutionise how these are created by combining both physical and digital artefacts

What was clear from the demonstration presented by Paul Burman from HP was that the Sprout is perhaps not the best tool for creating incredibly detailed and accurate finished products, but it is unparalleled in combining a range of features that would normally require exceptionally high skill levels in programmes such as Photoshop or AutoCAD.

For this reason, there is significant appeal for a device such as this in all year levels of schools, as I can see that students in our Preparatory School could easily apply their creativity to using this tool in effective ways. Likewise, Secondary School students in a range of curriculum areas could engage with this to very quickly create engaging conceptual designs using a range of media.

Below are some quickly taken videos from the presentation yesterday that illustrate a range of functions of the Sprout and, hopefully, how easy and relatively simply it is to quickly use. In the room watching was around 10 ICT Directors and Managers and all were riveted – most filming the presentation on their phones too – highlighting that this technology appears to bridge the traditional design / 3D print space and allow creativity to just flow:

Visualising a skirt re-designed with a physical fabric swatch

Scanning a physical object into a 3D model with Sprout by HP

Editing a photo from the web quickly with Sprout by HP

Getting Creative with Writing

This post is based around work done by Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. She has already blogged about this unit here. She has also created a Sway about it, which you can view here.

One of our aims, as an eLearning team, is to foster and supplement the intrinsic enthusiasm of many of our staff. We find this blog is a great way to publicise and celebrate the success that we see every day in our school.

studnetsOne such staff member is Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. A previous post on this blog described her success with using Google Earth to explore film setting with her Year 10 English class. This activity was part of a wider unit exploring the importance of setting within English. In response to the great work her class produced in this activity, Ms Proctor approached me to talk through some ideas to continue this innovation-based learning with this class.

Example video showing a world created by a student to inspire their creative writing 

With a continued focus on setting, the class was given a fairly stereotypical short story brief. Write a short story of approximately 600 words with the theme of Conflict. Each student must produce at least four drafts, make those drafts available to their peers for feedback and feedforward, and act on appropriate advice given. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here!


A scene created using the source engine of the game Counter-Strike

However, acting on inspiration gained from a keynote address given by Australian author Michael Pryor at the NZATE English Conference, Ms Yuill Proctor had students design the setting for their story before they wrote it. The period before the recent school holidays, the students were set the task of creating a virtually designed setting for their story. They were able to use any digital platform they wanted, and could spend as much time as they wanted, over the holidays, on the setting. The results were remarkable.

While a smaller number of students contacted Ms Proctor asking if they could work in ‘the real world instead’ the vast majority of the students stuck to the original brief. There was a wide variety of work produced, with settings constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike.


Student’s setting made using Sketchup

Bringing the learning together

The final aspect of this task involved students recording a short video, or audio recording that would allow them to clearly the author’s purpose, specifically regarding the setting they had designed. The challenge we now faced was what is the best way to tie all this great work together in a way that was accessible for a larger audience. Our original idea was to use the augmented reality App Aurasma, which has been used with some success in the Preparatory School. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that the use of this App, with this particular group, was going to be problematic as although the class all had their own laptops, not all had a compatible smartphone.

The obvious solution was to host students’ videos on You Tube and create the links with QR codes instead. This proved to be a great decision as all students were able to create and link their codes effectively and quickly. The other pleasing aspect of this success was that it further consolidated my belief that, in a classroom setting, it is usually much more effective to use an easy to use tool, that a more complicated substitute that may, in fact, have any tangible value added.

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

With many students choosing to create their setting in Minecraft, Ms Yuill Proctor and I were really conscious that it might be difficult for the audience of the story to get a full appreciation of the complexity of a Minecraft setting design from a 1D picture. Resultantly we decided to print these designs on the school’s 3D printer. The knowledge of Joshua Harrison, a member of the IT team, was instrumental at this stage, and I acknowledge his important contribution.

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Reflections on a job well done

I was particularly pleased with the fact that this, very successful, unit is a great example of a teacher challenging herself, and her students, with an activity that is clearly modification on the SAMR scale.

Ms Yuill Proctor was also very pleased with the results of the unit; especially the fact that it “fully integrated all aspects of the English Curriculum.” The creating meaning and the making meaning Curriculum Strands were both clearly addressed and the structured nature of the unit allowed student agency to come to the fore.

Example of Student Work

The following story is based around a setting created in the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Use the QR code to see a video of the setting, or click here!

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Reflections from the 2014 Independent Schools Conference

Click the image to download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint

Click the image to download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint

Last weekend I attended the ISNZ 2014 conference titled “Agents of Change” in Auckland, along with a number of staff and Board members from St Andrew’s College. Our Rector, Christine Leighton, had asked Francesca Eathorne (Head of Communications) and myself to co-present at a 1 hour workshop around the theme of Innovative Marketing, Communications and Blogging.

The quality of the keynote and plenary speakers was outstanding and, interestingly for me, most of them came from outside of the education sector. This enabled them to share insights from a wide range of backgrounds including business consultancy, technology incubators, advertising, governance in the health sector, along with some educational specialists.  A review of some of the speakers is further down this post.

In the 1 hour workshop presented by St Andrew’s College, the Rector started by talking about the importance of reputation and reinforcing the branding of the College through the promotion of our student voice. She showcased this through two student-led videos:

This Is Us:

Three Years On:

The delegates attending our breakout session actually clapped at the conclusion of the second video, suggesting the continued resonance of earthquake stories from the Canterbury region.

Francesca Eathorne then talked about the progress in the Communications Department at St Andrew’s College over the last four years, highlighting this beautifully with the “then” and “now” of the following marketing images:


Standard Advertising Material from 5 years ago

Standard Advertising Material from 5 years ago


Advertising from 2014 showing students in action

Advertising from 2014 showing students in action

I finished off our workshop, suggesting what does this innovation look like at the “classroom” or “teacher” level, and chose to explore this through the lens of blogging and contributing to marketing through sharing the College’s eLearning stories. To do this, I selected a few screenshots from various blogs around the College including:

  1. Year 2 Class Blog – focused on giving simple information on learning to parents
  2. Yr9 Science Class Blog – focused on videoing and recording the teaching moments in a class and allowing students to contribute notes and review their learning at any stage
  3. Teacher Reflection blogs – two examples that are used as part of their professional reflections for their Registered Teacher Criteria (RTC)
    1. Sitting on the Classroom Mat
    2. Exploring Modern Learning Environments
  4. Official eLearning Blog – this blog, show casing innovative and engaging eLearning stories from around St Andrew’s College.

This message tied in nicely with the earlier comments from Francesca Eathorne, as the stories on this blog have been picked up and re-blogged elsewhere, including the following websites:

Finally, through this blog promoting our teachers’ innovation in the classroom, we were approached by Bradley & Montgomery Advertising Agency on behalf of Microsoft to explore creating some videos of our teachers talking about use of MS OneNote in the classroom. These “unintended” marketing opportunities have reinforced the importance of celebrating the stories of our teachers and students in a range of different ways and tied in nicely with messages from the keynote and plenary sessions.

Some Reflections from a number of the Keynote and Plenary Speakers

Brian Sweeney, a Kiwi living in the USA and co-founder of SweenyVesty Consultants, challenged us how we can leverage the four big “I’s”

  • Ideas
  • Innovation
  • Inspiration
  • Identity

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