Virginia Tech collaboration brings virtual reality to Montgomery County Public Schools

>May 11, 2018

Virginia Tech collaboration brings virtual reality to Montgomery County Public Schools

Virginia Tech collaboration brings virtual reality to Montgomery County Public SchoolsVirginia Tech collaboration brings virtual reality to Montgomery County Public Schools
The University Libraries at Virginia Tech is teaming up with Blacksburg Middle School to create a virtual reality laboratory and integrate virtual reality technology into the middle school learning experience.

Jonathan Bradley, the innovative technologies coordinator for learning environments at the University Libraries, is assisting in the creation of this pilot installation to spark a larger initiative to bring virtual reality to all Montgomery County public middle schools.

Since November 2017, Bradley has been working closely with Alicia McGee of Montgomery County Public Schools along with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) to create a plan for Blacksburg Middle School to implement space and training for virtual reality technology.

McGee initially reached out to Bradley when her son, a middle school student, came home from a school tour of the University Libraries’ Newman Library. Like many who visit Newman’s Virtual Environments Studio, he was excited to use the virtual reality technology. As an instructional technology resource teacher, McGee began to think about how virtual reality could impact all middle schoolers, especially as they move into high school and start to investigate future career interests.

At first, McGee did not know if creating a virtual reality space in Blacksburg Middle School would be technically feasible. But Bradley, with the help of Blacksburg Middle School and ICAT personnel, concluded that building a virtual reality area would be possible with a few minor alterations to the space.

Montgomery County Public Schools and Bradley submitted a grant application to the Student-managed Endowment for Educational Development (SEED) at Virginia Tech to fund the project and was awarded $3,000. A large portion of the grant will cover professional training for all instructional technology resource teachers in the local middle schools as well as 14 Blacksburg Middle School teachers. The remaining money will fund the equipment and support laboratory renovations.

“We are hoping teachers will use the space to introduce new and engaging learning experiences to our students using virtual reality,” McGee said. “Virtual experiences are cross-curricular, from art and social studies to science, and beyond. The application Unity will also be offered to students to begin developing their own 3D activities.”

Since the studio will be in a computer lab, the idea is that one or two students can experiment with virtual reality while others work nearby on computers. This way, students are able to develop technical skills alongside opportunities for virtual immersion.

Read MoreRead More