Virtual Reality in the ICSD
The recent deployment of virtual reality (VR) technology throughout the Ithaca City School District has engaged students in a whole new way.
Through educational VR programs, students can experience interactive lessons on topics like landforms, anatomy, and outer space. Teachers are being introduced to VR programs and encouraged to find ways to implement it in their lessons. At the secondary level, students are given opportunities to test out the technology, and some are even learning to set it up independently.
The VR setups allow students to experience a variety of educational activities, artistic pursuits, simulations, and games – immersing them in their lessons while also fostering an interest in technology. Google Earth allows students to drop in anywhere in the world, and other educational programs allow classes to virtually visit museums, other countries, and even outer space.
Technology integration staff spent the first part of the school year becoming comfortable with the VR systems, which include headsets, handheld navigation paddles, sensors, and gaming computers that can handle the intense graphic demands of virtual reality programs.
Sten Anderson, technology integration teacher on special assignment (TOSA), took on the role of learning how the VR equipment works. In November, he began demonstrating the technology for elementary teachers with the aim of helping them implement it in their existing lesson plans. Some elementary classes have already used it to study landforms.
The VR equipment has also been set up for demonstrations at Ithaca High School, Lehman Alternative Community School, and Boynton and DeWitt middle schools. Secondary students have had the opportunity to engage with Google Earth, games, a painting application, and a roller coaster simulator, among other experiences.
Some IHS and LACS students are even learning to set up the systems on their own. During a February 13 VR demonstration day in the IHS library, members of the school’s Chromebook Club set up VR stations and helped dozens of their peers learn to use the technology. “They learned how to run it, and now they’re just going with it,” said Chromebook Club advisor Michele Barr.
Anderson said staff are exploring ways to deploy the technology in community centers and other settings to reach as many children as possible, providing equity and access to technology for all ICSD students.