FRONT ROYAL – School districts continue to seek ways to use technological advances for the betterment of classroom instruction.
One example was on display Tuesday at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, where students got to experience a virtual field through headsets purchased for $10,000 by the county through a Warren County Educational Endowment grant.
Each device, using Google Expeditions, gives students the opportunity to view different scenes while teachers lead them through them with facts. Each scene is a 360-degree picture.
Amy Lelito, who serves as the technology integration coach for A.S. Rhodes Elementary and Warren County Middle schools, said that she contacted A.S. Rhodes in January to see if the school was interested in using the headsets.
“We had decided to let everybody, from second grade to fifth grade, to use them in this building this week,” she said.
Lelito said that Google Expeditions is a hot commodity right now for teachers because of how accessible it is.
“If you search Google Expeditions, you can come up with any topic related to your course material, so it’s not like it’s extra work teachers have to do or a whole bunch of extra planning,” she said. “We go through an expedition together with the teacher, unless they’re able to do it on their own. It’s a real easy way to get the kids involved in the subject matter.”
Each of the different grade levels experienced their own trips and scenes – second-graders explored national monuments, third-graders went on an adaptations exploration, fourth-graders took a tour of Civil War battlefields, and fifth-graders visited the inside of a cell.
Heather Becker’s third-grade class got to explore various places, including a rain forest and Paris.
“It was really exciting to show them some different technology,” Becker said. “We’ve used Chromebooks in the classroom, and they’ve used iPads in the library, but they’ve never done virtual reality.”
Becker said that her students had a blast with the headsets and seeing different places.
“It takes them places,” she said. “Some of them may be in Front Royal and never get a chance to travel. I think, the more they use it, the more things they’ll get to do with it.”
Nine-year-old Tyler Vaughn said a snake in the rain forest was his favorite scene, while 9-year-old Alle Lambert was a big fan of the rhino beetle.
“It was so cool,” Lambert said.
Lelito said that the headsets are in high demand right now in Warren County schools.
“We’re hoping to get a second kit next year,” she said. “We would also like to write a grant for getting a 360 camera and create our own tours. If the kids go on a field trip, they would be able to take that back and create a tour that the kids can view through the viewers.”