Virtual reality offers students immersive learning experiences

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Virtual reality offers students immersive learning experiences

Sophomore AJ Smith explores Ancient Roman archaeological sites from his desk in room 2310.

Sophomore AJ Smith explores Ancient Roman archaeological sites from his desk in room 2310.

Sophomore AJ Smith explores Ancient Roman archaeological sites from his desk in room 2310.

Sophomore AJ Smith explores Ancient Roman archaeological sites from his desk in room 2310.

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Inside an unassuming classroom, students wander about, blind to their physical location between rows of plastic desks. With black headsets covering their faces, ancient worlds otherwise unattainable are revealed and explored through the use of plastic, glass and thousands of pixels.

World history teacher Charles Johnson uses virtual reality as a way to teach students. 

“Virtual reality is the opportunity for kids to use these headsets to get to travel all around the world and visit historical places,” Johnson said. “One of the biggest pros for virtual reality is the kids get to experience whatever we’re learning. For a class like world history, it’s very useful to get in touch with places like Rome and the Colosseum.”

Johnson began using virtual reality in the classroom four years ago, after attending a Google seminar over the summer. 

Virtual reality is the opportunity for kids to use these headsets to get to travel all around the world and visit historical places.”

— Charles Johnson, world history teacher

“I thought this would be a great way to get our kids to travel the world without having to leave the classroom,” Johnson said. “It draws them to places, and it gives them an opportunity to see somewhere other than the United States. Pictures from a book just aren’t going to do it, and so this helps us out a lot.”

The library recently donated a new computer to Johnson to facilitate the process.

“They had it stored away in a closet, so we got it put in here,” Johnson said. “With the computer now, they get to walk around Rome and walk around the places we’re going to learn about, so it’s just much more immersive. Eventually, I want to put four sensors in the corners of my room and get augmented reality where a kid can walk from the middle of my room all around the room and they’re walking through Athens and Rome.

Johnson said the lessons are driven by students and provides them the opportunity to immerse themselves. 

“I kind of just sit back and let the kids do their thing,” Johnson said. “Some of the places that we have seen and websites we use, kids found. The kids get to experience whatever we’re learning. Whatever place we’re going to, that’s a huge deal.”

Johnson said the introduction of new technology in the classroom provides an opportunity for students to immerse themselves.

It’s a way to show people how awesome and beautiful the world is.”

— Charles Johnson, world history teacher

“Later in the year, we’re going to do some World War I stuff where we’re going to climb out of a trench,” Johnson said. “It’s a reenactment of trench warfare, and you’ll be a soldier, climbing out from that soldier’s perspective. Giving kids that opportunity to go through stuff like that without having to leave the classroom is very powerful.”

Johnson also sponsors the Video Productions Club. 

“I’ve been doing video production for 20 years and photography for over 20 years,” Johnson said. “It’s a way to show people how awesome and beautiful the world is, and I know there are kids out there that are interested in that. I enjoy the kids’ reactions when they go and visit. They get to see how beautiful different places are and how structures from thousands of years ago are still standing.”

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