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Teaching with the virtual

Teaching with the virtual

April 16th, 2017 by Michelle Brooks in Local News

California High School teachers who attended the Midwest Education Technology Community this winter were, left to right: Amy Kuebler, Elizabeth Dick, Maggie Long, Erika DeMoss, Courtney Wiley, Kristen Runyan, Sarah Byrne, Mazie Holt, Mike Moon, Taylor Grellner, Lisa Milligan, Denise Banderman and Janet Henley.

Virtual reality could be the next teaching tool in the California High School science department.

For now, teachers are seeking donations from the community to accumulate 25 Androids (4.4) or iPhones (4s or above).

Several teachers in the district attended the Midwest Education Technology Community conference this winter.

High school science teacher Amy Kuebler was inspired by the session: "Enhancing Instruction Through Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard." Kuebler encouraged librarian Janet Henley to look into the possibility of organizing a virtual reality lab for the district.

A virtual reality lab is a set of 25 goggles and 25 smart phones that have applications or access to Internet-based virtual reality experiences. The virutal reality (VR) headset blocks out all external light and shows you an image on high-definition screens in front of ones eyes.

"The goal of the VR headset is to immerse you in some kind of experience, such as walking on the moon," Henley said. "A VR experience makes the person wearing the goggles feel and seem as if they are in the actual environment or experience presented through the goggles."

As development of different virtual reality experiences increases, resources such as Google Expeditions offer a variety of different "expeditions" from the 7 Wonders of the World to a TV studio set. Students can visit history and art museums or even walk around the Eiffel Tower via Google Maps, Henley said.

The lab cost is minimal, only about $500 for a set of 25 classroom Google goggles, which would come from the library's budget, Henley said.

"The hard part is getting enough Androids (4.4) or iPhones (4s or above) to go in the goggles," she said. "Not all students have smart phones and we want all students of all ages to have access to this experience."

Donations from the community are requested. Rather than holding on to the old device after an upgrade, Henley encouraged people to donate.

Before phones are donated the owner should reset them to factory settings, therefore erasing all personal information.

The request for used smart phones has been sent out by student flyers and social media. So far, response has been limited.

"So far we have only communicated the drive through flyers sent home with high school and elementary school students," Henley said. "We will be sending home flyers with the middle school students at their orientations for next year being held in April. Social media has also been used. We will be communicating through our website and the schools mass texting system."