LØRN case C0174 -

Shyam Sundar Venkatraman



3DL - the learning tool of the future

In this episode of #LØRN Silvija talks to App Studio founder Shyam Venkatraman about 3DL and the use of digital technology to deliver a new form of learning architecture . How the 3D model makes learning more engaging and the key concepts in edtech are some of the highlights of their discussion. Shyam defines edtech as a technology that is used by students and teachers to learn in the classroom or outside i.e. technology, learning, and teaching. Shyam encourages collaboration with clusters like Oslo EdTech as being the right platform to learn from shared experiences.

LØRN case C0174 -

Shyam Sundar Venkatraman



3DL - the learning tool of the future

In this episode of #LØRN Silvija talks to App Studio founder Shyam Venkatraman about 3DL and the use of digital technology to deliver a new form of learning architecture . How the 3D model makes learning more engaging and the key concepts in edtech are some of the highlights of their discussion. Shyam defines edtech as a technology that is used by students and teachers to learn in the classroom or outside i.e. technology, learning, and teaching. Shyam encourages collaboration with clusters like Oslo EdTech as being the right platform to learn from shared experiences.


17 min

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SS: Welcome to Lørn. Today’s topic is edtech. My name is Silvija Seres and my guest is Shyam Venkatraman. Welcome.

SV: Thank you.

SS: I was told I could call you Kurt, why?

SV: The story is that when I worked in the US I was a rude person, so they called me Kurt and I just replace the C with a K when I moved to Norway.

SS: It’s easier to remember.

SV: And I’m still rude.

SS: You’re friendly. You come from a company called 3DL, can you tell us about who you are and what 3DL does?

SV: I’m from India and been living in Norway for 20 years. In my school days if ADD or ADHD had been known I would be classified in there.

SS: A good sign.

SV: I never managed to finish university, though I was a researcher at the age of 17 working with Smithsonian, University of North Dakota and National science foundation. But I never managed to finish my degree, that was always in the back of my head.

SS: What was your research about?

SV: My research was crocodiles. My background is in hypotologies, after that my topic was aviation before I came into IT. That explains why I’m ADD. But luckily for the last 20 years I’ve been focusing on IT and started off in 99 in Ilearning system. My experience goes back to 99. It was two organisations in Norway which bought the product. One was Forsvaret and the other was Landbruksforlaget. It wasn’t many schools that were interested in the product at the time. London Metropolitan University was one of our customers. That’s where we came from and then I went in to various different lines, last year I was in a school holding a lecture on marketing in a digital world. The first thing I heard the teacher say was “put away your phones, don’t have your headset on, no snapping” I was just thinking “ok, is this what we’re telling a digital generation? But away the digital devices.” That was an inspiration for me to come on to the content side of edtech. We found out quickly that the most commonly content in schools was Youtube videos. That was an eye opener for me. I have two children and I definitely want them to learn something other then from Youtube.

SS: So 3DL creates 3D models from things from science?

SV: Yes. We focus a lot on science currently. We create models, interaction with models, we make things a little bit more engaging for both the teacher and student. You can explain convex in a convex lense using arrows. But it’s more fun for children when they pick up a dinosaur and put it in front of a convex lense and see what the result is and what happens when there’s a fraction. Take a selfie and put it up there and see how you look. That engage them a lot and that we believe is a way to teach science. It’s not just about using models, but also about creating something interesting. You can create a puzzle with different buds to show how the beak and claws work together. But it also creates creativity because in a digital world you can help them be creative to create a beak of an eagle and the feet of the duck. It possible for children to be creative and it’s fun to explain to them and hear what they have to say why they made it like that.

SS: It would be interesting to get them to understand why has nature made things like that.

SV: Yes. Explaining is also just to throw the bird without a web in to the water and show how it sinks. Create an environment with their children on their phones and create a river, but with various kinds of elements in and see how the water flows. How does it build up when it’s a mountain in front, how does it goes when it’s a valley. It becomes much easier to teach the children when they do it on their own. It’s learning by doing.

SS: One of my big heroes in the space of VR is Gerard Linear and he started playing with VR 20-30 years ago in the 80s. He was making this point, it changes the way you learn because you are so immersed and you can imagine yourself as a lobster and you have to understand how the lobster move around or what he would have to do to survive. You could be a cloud and change the rules of your universe, and suddenly it makes you a more responsible person.

SV: Yes. It was an interesting VR experiment I saw which talked about the voice of women. It was extremely interesting were you talk and say that “I’m in” and you see how the momentum grows. It was an interesting experiment which was on Click on BBC yesterday. It’s interesting how you can use VR. You don’t have to create mortals for everything. You can do various interesting things. My 9-year-old took over the VR glasses and used our content on solar system. They remember things must faster because he understood teleporting like that. Which means he teleported himself to Mars and learned about Mars. He teleported from Mars to Jupiter and that was a long journey. You can also teach trust using VR. What happens when you take a space shuttle and go to the international space station? How much trust do you need? When do you give your trust? So you apply the trust and at the same time you show formally what comes with it, so it helps them to calculate how high do I have to go and when do should I not use my boosters? Once they’re in the space station they get to do a spacewalk so they’re able to see the earth. Then you have connected physics and geography in a very interested way.

SS: I think what you’re saying is so important. Another personal anecdote from me is one of the books that actually got me into some of the work I do now is by Nicholas Carr ‘Is Google making us stupid?’. It was actually an article and later followed up by a book called ‘Shallows’. His point was that he noticed he can’t read the proper book anymore. He’s a very good journalist and provocative journalist as well, but he says “I can’t read a thick book anymore cause I immediately open the last page to see what happend. I don’t have the patient anymore.” If you look at the current films they all start with an explosion. The new generation can’t wait for the build up, the thing that pulls you in. He was saying that this is a problem and people argue about his sources, but he says that human creativity is very dependent on us going deep, not just shallow and broad, but Internet is inspiring us to do so. It’s not enough to be able to Google three sentences about any problem, sometimes you need to worry about that problem for long enough to understand “what was the original question?” I think when you let people get immersed like you do, whether it’s a model of a human heart, the solar system, molecules or some mathematical formation, I think you could start asking the questions “why should I care?” and that is nice way to use new kinds of technology in education.

SV: I think it’s important to use technology for education. Use the correct technology, not use it because technology exist. That is a big difference. Attention span over the new generation is lower than what it was when it was my period and I’m 51. That attention span also comes with higher grasping ability. They’re quick to grasp presented in the right manner. That is the most critical factor. Not to use it fluent things. There are two things we focus on, what is it that adds value for teacher which makes them teach a topic easier? The second is what helps the teacher to engage the students better and activate the students better. When you put this in the right way and use it for that, then you see fantastic results. It’s not possible for all the schools to have VR glasses in all their classes, so you need to combine VR, phones, PC and projectors. We have invested a lot in infrastructure, but we’ve not used that infrastructure to the optimal. Other than investing in new infrastructure more and more, let us first liberate and exploit the infrastructure we have and then move ahead. It’s not a slow process, it goes pretty quick. When you see that for 20 years it’s been no content, then in 5 years you can make a lot of difference.

SS: I think you’re onto something important. One of the biggest problem for VR, but also edtech, has been that we were trying to either stuff analog content to digital devices or there was no content. You are creating that content.

SV: Yes. Our focus is on content, content and content.

SS: How hard is it to make the 3D models? What to you do?

SV: It’s very expensive. From a pedagogic perspective and from a technical perspective, but start with the pedagogic perspective. If you want to create content you need to involve teachers, but if you give the teacher a blank paper and say “what do you need?” Most often you get a blank paper back. But if you make something and then show the teachers, then you get critical feedback. So the first thing you do is to spend time and put money in things, presenting it to teachers. 50 per cent you get right and 50 per cent you get wrong. Then you take it back and correct it, and then you present it again to the teachers. The teacher say “yes, we like this”, then you present it to students and then the students have an interesting feedback. My son put on his VR and looked at the solar system and said “pappa, what can I do over here?” He was not just interested in seeing the solar system, he wanted to do something. So then comes teleporting and all the other things. Zoom in, turn on your GPS and see. My sons are 9 and 6, and both of them do the same thing. They’re smarter than me and I learn from them about how to integrate youtube videos into my powerpoint. That’s the digital generation we’re talking about. To tell them to put away the phones in classroom is kind of difficult. So I was in a session with teachers and I ask them for their phones, none of them would give it. So I told them “if you’re not willing give me your phones, why do you expect your students to give up their phones?” Why can’t we use that distraction into an asset? Why can’t we ask them to take it out and find the plan where they currently are? See where the sun would be 6 months from now. You can do so many fantastic things with augmented reality in the classroom using the phones with the teacher having full control. Engage them in the platform they’re most comfortable with.

SS: How do you do this accessible broadly? The thing I worry about in tech is that it’s good stuff, but it’s still fragmented. We need to somehow scale it up.

SV: Yes. It’s so many good solutions out there, but for schools, is it one solution where a lot of these things are integrated? Not really. It’s everything we’re doing working? No. But we’re collecting everything into one place and presenting it as an entire package at a school level, at the same time we’re also making it available on a be to see business, a consumer model. So those school students who don’t have it in school can still buy it. But how do you make it affordable? The only way to make content is to go abroad. So from the day we started we decided we had international ambitions. So we’re not just in Norway, but we also go to France, the US and Europe, we’re going to be in Bath next month.We try to sell to an international audience (?) and then you get lower costs and it becomes more interesting.

SS: I think finding the right way to combine what Norway is best on in kinds of content abroad is an important part of what you do.

SV: Pedagoic is a cultural aspect. If you’re in India it’s factual based. It’s facts, grades and mugging up and it’s doing it.

SS: You’re a foreigner like me originally integrated, not Norwegian. What’s the best thing about Norwegian schools?

SV: Including. The students are involved in the learning and teaching process. In a typical school including the US, you’re taught, here you learn. The future generation most important thing is that we don’t know what kind of jobs they’ll have. But we have to teach them have to learn. We have to teach them how to filter out what you find on the web. Learning to learn which is a cliche that has been in use for a very long time, but it is extremely important. That I think is the key. That is where Norway excelles. You see the book exercising in a book, it helps you to learn. Learning that is an inclusive learning and something that is very good in Norway.

SS: They find their own engine faster than other countries. If they have to remember one thing from our conversation?

SV: It should be that edtech is not here to either replace teacher or liberating learning. It is to create the full ecosystem to function correctly. Teacher, parents, students. These three are the stakeholders in a learning process in the school level. In fact even in the university level in some countries. It is important to give the right to use the complete ecosystem, rather than to just the teacher or the students. That’s important.

SS: Thank you, Kurt, for coming us to inspiring us about edtech.

SV: Thank you.

SS: Thank you for listening.

What do you do at work?

As a product owner, I have contact with the teachers, find out what is difficult to explain and which subjects they struggle to engage the students. Based on these discussions, we have meetings with technical teams to find out how we can build content that serves both purposes - making teaching and learning more meaningful.

What are the key concepts in edtech?

For us, it is about using digital technology to deliver a new form of learning architecture. An architecture that exploits students' inherent curiosity, learning by performing and social reach on the internet.

Why is it exciting?

Children growing up today need to be prepared for tomorrow. A future that we do not yet know what jobs it will offer. One thing is for sure, everyone needs to know how to learn. At a higher level, edtech will change the future of how education will be used, taught, utilized and ultimately the results it can provide, both for the individual and for society as a whole.

Your own projects within edtech?

3DL is our latest contribution. This uses 3D objects so that teachers can teach and teach the student to learn. It is available on most platforms, from PC and mobile phones to VR.

Your other favorite examples of edtech internationally and nationally?

Bayju in India and Kikora in Norway.

How do you usually explain edtech?

All that is technology and is used by students and teachers to learn in the classroom or outside. That is, technology, learning and teaching.

What do we do uniquely well in Norway from this?

In relation to many other school systems, we have had a participatory environment in Norway. This is an important basis for changing education through technology and the use of technology for learning and teaching. When it comes to collaboration, clusters like Oslo EdTech are the right platform to learn from shared experiences.

A favorite edtech quote?

We have really not changed the students' academic outcomes - said by Bill Gates in the ASU GSV summit.

Shyam Sundar Venkatraman
CASE ID: C0174
DATE : 181217
DURATION : 17 min
Concepts in Ed tech
Learning architecture
"Edtech er ikke er her for å erstatte læreren, det er her for å få det fulle økosystemet til å fungere ordentlig. En ny læringsarkitektur utnytter studentenes iboende nysgjerrighet som «learning by doing», lære ved å utføre."
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