RANDOLPH, NJ- Randolph Middle School students have the opportunity to learn using the latest Virtual Reality technology in their technology and computer classes.
Teacher Dr. Ned Sheehy said he is using the Vive Virtual Reality (VR) technology to expand students' experiences and interactions in the classroom. "VR delivers an innovative way to engage and capture the attention of students of all ages," Dr. Sheehy said. "Virtual Reality immerses students in an experience, stimulating their imagination in ways that books, pictures, or videos cannot. Improving and lengthening the learning experience is at the core of what Virtual Reality can deliver to students, thereby enhancing knowledge retention through deep and captivating personal experience."
In addition, Virtual Reality allows children to explore simulated environments and locations they would never have the chance to experience in the real world in a safe and economical manner, he said. "Imagine the learning that takes place when students explore the inside of a blood vessel, travel through an atom, or walk into the Roman Colosseum."
In a recent class, students took turns using the Virtual Reality system to find their home in Randolph, explore the architecture of the Roman Colesseum and visit other foreign places where they had never been.
"VR has the potential to help children with using descriptive and moving language," Dr. Sheehy said. "Students will find it easier to use a variety of vocabulary when describing a scene in their stories, once they can understand what a particular place actually feels like to them. The VR assists in providing stimulating experiences for teaching children to relate their writing to a multi-sensory scene."
Dr. Sheehy said his students use Virtual Reality to study geography, history, biology, art and sociology. For geography – using Google Earth, Dr. Sheehy assigned students a biome to explore (for example the rain forest, or Hawaiian volcanos). He said he will provide his students with questions to identify characteristics of the area (ie types of vegetation, rock formations, or elevation changes). As students travel to these areas the biomes come alive as they move throughout the region.
Google Earth can also be used to study history, he noted. Students search for historical locations, will explore features of the location (such as the different types of columns, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian). This way students can discover for themselves the location of the different types of columns and determine how the location relates to the time period in which they were built.
The Virtual Reality program also lets students use a surgery simulator so students can perform a virtual heart transplant learning the functions of different tools and techniques used during the operation. They can create many different tools to create their own worlds – and there is no messy paint to clean up and students can explore different parts of the world and research different houses people live in.
“Virtual reality is a safe economic way to bring a multitude of experiences to children,” Dr. Sheehy noted.
Students said they also enjoyed working with the technology.
"I like it," said seventh grader Roman Frey. "It makes you feel like it's real."
Roman said he was curious about how the Eiffel Tower was built. "So we were able to get up close to the Eiffel Tower and study it and really see the details of the architecture," he said.
Dr. Sheehy noted that it is rare to have virtual reality technology in a classroom as the cost is prohibitive.
RMS Principal Dr. Dennis Copeland said the virtual reality technology benefits RMS students. "The technology allows students to be creative and imagine endless possibilities to a problem," he said.
The middle school's Vive Virtual Reality Technology was funded by grants from the Randolph Middle School PTO and the Randolph Education Foundation.