Jakob Thorington is a spring 2020 graduate who majored in journalism and media production at WSU. Thorington loves sports, film and video games.
Ready Player Pullman
Students expand study of literature through virtual field trips
February 12, 2020
Last week, students in Julie Hahn’s ninth grade English class took a field trip to Kansas without having to leave her classroom.
The students sat in awe with virtual reality headsets hugging their faces as they toured historical Kansas. Pullman High School English teacher Julie Hahn said this was one of the “expeditions” her class took to go along with their study of the novella “Of Mice and Men.”
“It makes me think of ‘Ready Player One,’” Hahn said. “With all the kids going to school with VR headsets on.”
Shannon Focht, Pullman Public Schools communications coordinator, said the school district purchased 60 Lenovo Mirage Solo VR headsets at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
The district spent just under $60,000 of its curriculum funds to cover the costs of the headsets, storage, training and teaching tablets for teachers to guide lessons with VR headsets, Focht said. Each school in the district has a cart containing 10 headsets.
“I was skeptical as an English teacher at first of how I was going to incorporate them into my classroom but I quickly learned there’s a lot I can do with them,” Hahn said.
Focht said the district is still in the early stages of implementing the headsets into classroom curriculums although some teachers have been using them since they were first acquired.
“They’re a really great resource,” she said. “We just need to make sure teachers know how to use them.”
Both Hahn and Focht said student reception of the headsets has been positive.
“Students [in high school] kept saying ‘Wow this is so cool, this is awesome,’ and at that age, kids can be hard to impress,” Focht said.
Not only can VR serve as an asset in the classroom, but it can also help students placed on the Autism spectrum disorder. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Programs granted $2.5 million to researchers at Kansas University to develop VR programs to help improve social competencies for students with learning disabilities.
Focht said the use of VR is providing students with current and advanced technology that they normally wouldn’t be able to use often.
“It gives students more autonomy while learning,” Hahn said.
While Hahn said she doesn’t expect to use the headsets on a regular occurrence, it is nice to have them on occasion.
“If I can think of a project that they could be used with, I would love to do it,” she said.
Hahn said teachers like Doug Winchell, Pullman High School’s New Media teacher, use the headsets more often. Winchell uses a lot of multimedia technology in his classroom, she said.