The Cleburne ISD board of trustees try on the district’s new virtual reality headsets during Monday night’s meeting. Teachers will be able to check out a 30-person set of VR headsets to incorporate into their lessons starting in the fall. From left are Board Vice President John Finnell, Superintendent Kyle Heath and Board President June Bates.
The CISD board of trustees tried out virtual reality headsets during Monday night’s special called meeting.
Cleburne High School Advanced Placement human geography and European history teacher Brent Barnes said the goal of VR is to improve education for students. Teachers can check out a set of 30 VR headsets to incorporate them into their lesson plans for the day.
First, Barnes took trustees on a trip to seven different places around the world using Google Expeditions, a tool that lets you lead or join virtual trips all over the world.
The trips are collections of VR panoramas — 3-D images — annotated with details, points of interest and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools, Barnes said. The teacher controls what the students see using a device like an iPad.
While piloting these VR headsets in his class last year, Barnes said he had 100 percent engagement. The students even asked him when they could use them again for another lesson.
Another program trustees tried for the first time was Nearpod VR, which brings a classroom to life with interactive mobile presentations that teachers can create and customize themselves.
CHS world geography teacher Taylor Bowers said teachers can choose from over 100 ready-to-teach VR lessons. Nearpod works on any device, including iPads, Chromebooks, Macs or PCs in classrooms.
Teachers can give students quizzes as they jump from one VR world to the next.
The final program trustees interacted with was CoSpaces, a VR tool that lets anyone create VR experiences.
In this program, students become creators themselves instead of consumers. They can explore the possibilities of new media in all dimensions.
Using a blank canvas, Barnes said students can create their own world like they can in the video game Minecraft.
Students can tell stories, build their own objects from geometrical shapes or create a whole fantasy world, he said.
The good thing about all three of these programs is they can be incorporated in almost any subject like math, history, language arts and science, he said.
The district trained some teachers at the end of the school year and plans on training more teachers before the next school year so they can use these headsets with their lesson plans.
“I can’t quantify the response we’ve had,” Barnes said. “We’ve had 100 percent engagement. They love it.”
Superintendent Kyle Heath said the VR headsets are a pilot program the board approved last year. The hope is the stay ahead of technology, Heath said.
Trustee Teddy Martyniuk said the board needs to find ways to challenge themselves to ensure students are equipped with these changing technologies in the future.
Not only can students visit places all over the world, but they can also participate in career explorations where they can be in the place of someone in a certain career field or even take a college tour without having to visit the campus itself, Barnes said.
There are more and more opportunities each day, he said.
CISD Communications Director Lisa Magers said the district’s curriculum and instruction department is in the process of purchasing four 30-unit classroom sets of VR equipment — iPods, goggles, containers/mobility package, and device chargers — totaling $31,169 for use by teachers throughout the district.
Working with instructional technology curriculum coordinators, the classroom sets may be checked out by teachers for use by students in a particular lesson plan, activity or project, Magers said.
Nearpod training, for use with VR, for interested staff is July 31.