Students at Oregon Trail Elementary Experience Virtual Learning
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Students in Tessa Waterman’s class on Tuesday journeyed to the center of the earth.
The trip didn’t cost the students anything and they didn’t have to bring any luggage. What’s more, it only took them a second or two to get there.
That’s just a few of the significant things about virtual reality.
Waterman’s third-grade class, along with other classes at Oregon Trail Elementary School, experienced virtual reality in the classroom through the help of a Google Expedition team that has been visiting Idaho schools this week.
Student teams in Waterman's class used smartphones to scan codes on paper that brought up virtual images of the earth’s core and crust, the makings of a tsunami, and a seismograph machine, among other images. Other classes explored different realms in a virtual world.
“Oohs” and “awes” and “wows” were heard among the students as they became fascinated with the images on the screen, such as Planet Earth rotating in their very classroom, as depicted on one team’s cellphone.
One of the neat things about the augmented reality project, Waterman said, is that students get to experience things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise – and they don’t have to leave the classroom to do it.
“They get to see things at their fingertips,” she said.
Hopefully none of the students will ever be involved in a tsunami, for instance, said Whitney Ward, an instructional coach at the school, but through virtual reality they can see how a tsunami is created.
She said she's seen how it helps students "find enjoyment around the content" they are learning about.
Waterman said she would love to see virtual reality incorporated into the school’s curriculum, but it would likely take a lot of grant money to make it happen on a regular basis. The cellphones and other items for Tuesday’s project were provided through the Google team.
“I think it would be very beneficial to get a program like this for the school,” she said.
Shannon Youngman, who teaches fifth grade next door to Waterman’s class, helped get the Google experience at the school, she said, noting “I sign up for everything.”
Youngman said a similar, permanent program would be beneficial because field trips aren’t always available for students, but with virtual reality “we can bring the experience to them.”
The excitement among students was palpable as they enthused about the augmented reality on the screens, experiencing things they likely will never get to in the real world.
“Ooh, it’s like a volcano,” said 8-year-old Isai, a student in Waterman’s class who was looking at the makings of a tsunami.
His project partner, 9-year-old Cy, commented on the seismograph machine he saw taking readings of an earthquake: “It’s sticking into the ground so it can read vibrations,” he said.
Additional chatter was heard throughout the rooms as students explored their first adventure into virtual reality.
“I think we’ll have some good discussions afterward,” Waterman said.