Magnolia School introducing VR learning to students

Students at Magnolia School experience VR for the first time.
Students at Magnolia School experience VR for the first time.
Photo by Jessica Vaughn
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Magnolia School is trying some new tech for an immersive learning experience. Thanks to title funds the staff purchased Google Daydream VR headsets during the last school year and will soon begin training teachers on how to use them in the classroom.

“We decided to think outside the box and not get paper and pencils and glue,” said Principal PJ Sute. “We really wanted some things to advance the technology here, but not just more smartboards, and not something that we’d use for one year and then it end up in a closet the next.”

With over 900 students total in the school, the staff wanted something that could be utilized and enjoyed by every student. In the end, they decided on VR headsets.

“I’m hoping once we get all the teachers trained to get some virtual field trips set up that will engage the kids in new topics and units that they have coming up in science and social studies,” said Librarian Michelle Davis. “There’s all sorts of things we can do with these new VR headsets.”

The Google headsets give teachers the ability to download outside resources and professional expeditions created by Google to take classes on virtual field trips to locations such as London and Tokyo, Washington DC and Philadelphia. Other virtual field trips will take students out of this world.

“There are two really cool field trips that I’m looking at right now,” Davis said. “One’s through the solar system to all the planets and how they line up, and it looks like the kids are in a spaceship looking down at the planets themselves. Another one is for cells, and students get to see the cell parts and what they actually look like, not just little drawings in the workbooks.”

Grades 3-6 will begin using the headsets first, with around 20-minutes of VR learning at a time. For students who aren’t comfortable wearing the headsets, teachers can display the visuals on a smartboard. The school has a total of 26 headsets so that every student in a classroom can experience the virtual reality learning.

The system the school purchased allows automatic syncing from the teacher’s tablet to the headsets, which will save on download time, and most virtual lessons come with captions. The school has a large population of Spanish speaking students, who Davis believes can greatly benefit from this learning style.

“Taking the class on a virtual field trip through space or to learn about cells, that transcends language,” she said. “Google’s great about having translation options as well, so this will be something that we look at and make sure that we’re accommodating all students.”

To learn more about Magnolia School, check out their website at www.bcbe.org/magnolia.