Students travel the world with virtual reality goggles

Daniel Halterman, 12, of New Market, looks through virtual reality googles. Courtesy photo

North Fork Middle School students traveled the world this past school year with Google virtual reality goggles.

Alyssa Moore, instructional technology resource coach at the middle school, said the students believed what they were seeing so much that they tried to reach out and touch what they saw through the goggles.

“They felt like they were actually there,” she said.

The goggles were used to assist in project-based learning in a variety of classrooms. She said this past year focused primarily on sixth grade special education students, but she hopes to expand the use of these goggles to include more students.

She said the Iditarod races were used as a starting point for both an English and a math class. The English class read a novel based on an Iditarod race and the math class made dog shed houses using specific measurements. The students were also able to virtually be a part of the races they were studying.

After completing their projects, the students were able to take the experience to the next level, she added. The goggles provided students with a 360-degree view of the races. Students could also virtually ride in a sled with a musher, allowing for a musher’s perspective of the race.

“The kids were able to actually see the start and finish line,” she said.

She said students were then able to go online and follow and track the data on the mushers, extending the learning process.

“It’s a really great way for the kids to actually see places that they normally wouldn’t be able to see,” she said.

With the use of an app, one special education class took a virtual trip to the ocean through the perspective of a snorkler. She said it was very interactive. For example, when a student saw a fish, they heard facts about that fish. She added that the students got especially excited when the sharks swam by.

‘The apps that are available are really just incredible,” she said. “It gives kids this new, constructivism-based theory of learning where they can go and they can explore and they can really see things for themselves.”

“I think a lot of times our kids get stuck in Shenandoah County, or even Virginia, and don’t get to see the world around them. And so for them, it’s really great because you can go see the Seven Wonders of the World.”

She said that she is expanding the students who will be able to benefit from these goggles, including the multiculturalism and geography students who can take tours of the places they are studying.

With the division’s budget crunch, she said the goggles provide students with virtual field trips, in place of in-person trips.

These virtual field trips were made possible through a $1,000 Instructional Challenge and Innovation Projects grant, she said.

Teachers within the county can apply for the grant to provide new innovation that would be incorporated into the classroom, such as technology and strategies.

She said she had attended a conference in April 2015 where Google goggles were being presented.

“They were really, really neat,” she said. “It really felt like you were actually there.”

“I am a 100 percent visual learner. So for me, being there and physically seeing it for myself is a whole new ball game. And there are a lot of our kids that are like that as well,” she added.

She said she applied for the grant in April 2015 for virtual reality technology. When she received the grant, she purchased four Google cardboard boxes and two plastic boxes, which are the virtual reality goggles, along with four cell phones in February 2016. The cell phones didn’t need to work on data or with a service provider as they could work through the school’s wireless network, bringing the cost down to about $160 a piece.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com