TechTol website could revolutionize educationWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Local technology company TechTol Imaging is developing a free educational website with 3-D images.
“We’re taking teaching aids in a classroom and imaging them so they’re available for any student in any school at anytime with an internet connection,” said Zak Ward, vice president of visual operations at TechTol Imaging. “They are able to study stuff at home they wouldn’t be able to take out of a classroom.”
The website 3DTOAD.com features 3-D images in categories such as anatomy dissections, computer networking, dental hygiene, geology, skeletons and yoga. The name 3DTOAD.com comes from an anagram meaning TechTol’s Online Academic Database.
TechTol is succeeding under a system the company claims is the “first — and only — in the world that instantly captures and then creates 3-D rotational images for use with any computer-based system.” The system is faster and more cost-effective than any other, with the ability to upload an object in the studio as a 3-D image in under a minute. This is achieved using a circular studio with 16 cameras shooting simultaneously.
For the short term, the main objective of 3DTOAD.com is to continue adding images to the website to build a foundation.
“Once it gets big enough, we can divide it by different education levels, but we have to have enough stuff to justify that,” Ward said. “This is an ongoing development. We’re adding a whole bunch of stuff and trying to get input from teachers.”
Along with input, the company is also looking for objects to image for the website.
“We have a couple different fossil collectors in town donating their items to be imaged,” Ward said. “If someone had a butterfly collection, that’s something we’d like to hook up with. A person who is home-schooled will never see a butterfly collection except for 2-D images in a book. With this technology, they can explore.”
While it is still in development, the website is available now. Ward said TechTol plans to have a soft launch in the summer and hopes to be fully operational by the next school year.
“This can be used anywhere in the world,” Ward said. “It’s wide open. I would love to see it be successful enough to be a national or international website.”
The company is located at the Toledo campus of Owens Community College, but it is in discussions with Bowling Green State University and is looking to get involved with other institutions.
The website is not just for universities. Ward sees it as an asset for any school struggling with its budget.
“There’s so much negativity when you talk about education,” Ward said. “Here is a unique thing with a local company using their technology to hopefully better education, not to mention it’s free. This has the potential to revolutionize interactive education and distance education.”
TechTol is designing a mobile application for the website and is creating interactive lessons using the technology.
“For K-12 schools, this could be a real asset to their budget,” Brenda Leady said. “I’d hope they’d have some basic models and materials. Then this program would add to the depth and breadth of what the students use.”
Leady is a lab coordinator for biological sciences at the University of Toledo and sees potential for the technology at the college level. However, she knows there is no replacement for hands-on experience.
“This could provide a great supplement to a traditional lab,” Leady said. “However, labs are about touching, feeling, smelling and seeing the actual objects,” she said. “A completely online experience can’t provide that. As an example, a plastic bone replica and a human bone can look exactly alike, but as soon as you touch it you feel the immediate difference.”
Ward agrees with Leady’s assessment, but he still sees the website as a valuable asset.
“In a classroom, when someone passes around a fossil you get the ability to touch it and make more of an emotional connection,” Ward said. “In a school system that does not have a budget for geology or other programs, this is the next best thing.”
The website offers an added dimension with the option of viewing a 3-D anaglyph version of every image using the standard red and blue 3-D glasses.
“We’ve tested it in the classroom,” Ward said. “The parts pop out of the screen. It’s a great way to keep kids interested and see things differently.”
Ward said the website offers benefits to education in what he calls the before, during and after stages.
“Before, you can prepare students with a preview of subjects coming up for discussion,” he said. “During, you can ask questions in class and have students interact with the images. After, you have the ability to open discussion with your family and show them what you did in school with things you normally wouldn’t be able to take home. Hopefully the learning process gets extended to home.