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Traveling with Technology


Traveling with Technology

Wieland students learn with virtual reality goggles

Wieland Elementary School students traveled to Selma, Ala. in January to learn about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in 1965. The trip took less than an hour, was completely free and students never left their seats in the library thanks to virtual reality (VR).

“With VR we got to see what it looked like,” Wieland fifth-grader Deborah Reis said, “Because I’m not going to go to Alabama to find out.”

The VR goggles, in conjunction with the Google Expeditions app, transport the viewer to specific locations. The viewers can turn their heads to see a 360-degree view of a location, as if they were observing it in real life.

“It’s taking the picture they typically look at and immersing them right in the middle of it,” PfISD Instructional Technology Specialist Angela Matthews said. “They are more apt to tie it to reality versus what they are seeing in a book or a slide presentation.”

The instructor acts as a guide. Using an iPad, the guide reads information about what students are seeing through their goggles and the app uses arrows to direct their attention to specific sights in the virtual scene.

“It was so exciting to watch,” Wieland librarian Susan Van De Water said. “It was a way for them to go to a place that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to experience.”

The technology department purchased a classroom set of VR goggles for campuses to use as a way to integrate technology into their lessons. Classes at Wieland spent a week in January using the set.

“We want to make sure our kids are future-ready,” Van De Water said, “So using the technology the district has to take them places they normally couldn’t go is fun and exciting.”

Teachers chose from a wide variety of Google Expedition topics, which are free and designed by Google experts. Everything from the ocean, space, habitats and weather are included in the database.

Out of all the places in the world, Wieland fifth-grader Bao Tan would like to use VR to travel to his mother’s home country.

“I would visit somewhere I’ve never been and want to know more about, like Taiwan,” he said. “My mom came from there, but I’ve never been, so I want to know what it’s like.”

Matthews hopes that by exposing campuses to the VR technology, they would come up with the funds to purchase their own VR sets, so students can have unlimited access to this innovative learning tool. Educational sets range from $4,000 to $9,400.

“The main goal is to get kids excited about learning,” Matthews said. “With excitement and engagement comes better academic success.”

For more information about the district’s use of VR goggles, contact PfISD Instructional Technology Coordinator Kathryn Ives at 512-594-0226.

Access virtual reality on your own by downloading the free Google Expeditions or Google Cardboard applications via smart phone. Affordable virtual reality goggles and tutorials on how to make your own can be found here.