Virtual reality offers students new way of learning

January 21, 2019 | 3:08 am

Updated January 20, 2019 | 10:38 pm

Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars

In today’s digital world, teachers are struggling to engage students who are so used to being connected to technology at all times. PCs, phones and tablets are constantly surrounding students, so one local teacher is combing technology and learning to benefit everyone.

Katelyn West, a biology teacher at Heritage Park High School, was first introduced to virtual reality as an educational tool through the Daviess County Public School Foundation’s Exploration Station. This is a bus that has been transformed into a virtual reality classroom and it is equipped with a class set of iPods and VR goggles.

“Virtual reality makes experiencing the impossible, possible,” she said. “I was further encouraged after a technology training I attended for the district.”

West said, over the summer, a few of the HPHS teachers went to a training put on by the district called Quality Technology Integration Practices (QTIP). They were introduced to several technology resources to use in the classroom and were able to hone their skills in the area.

“One of the tools discussed during the training was Google Expeditions, which is an app that provides a virtual reality experience in the classroom,” she said. “With field trips being costly, VR is a great way for the students to explore the world without having to leave the classroom.”

Virtual reality is an educational tool that allows students to travel to places that are not feasible otherwise.

Photo courtesy of Katelyn West

In West’s Earth and Space science class, she can take her students to the International Space Station using virtual reality.

It can also allow them to explore each planet as if they were there. In biology class, West and her students have gone inside a plant to see the process of photosynthesis up close through VR technology.

“We travel into different organ systems, back in time, and millions of miles away using VR,” West said. “Students being able to go into a cell and see different processes allows them a better understanding of the material because they are able to see it first hand. Virtual reality is just like the Magic School Bus for my classroom.”

In his Cone of Experience, Edgar Dale, an American educator who worked with audio and visual instruction, theorized that humans retain around 10 percent of what they read, yet 90 percent of what they experience for themselves. According to, virtual reality facilitates knowledge retention at the highest possible level, through immersive and engaging personal experience.

West said one of the challenges with virtual reality is that not every student has a smartphone. Without the app, students aren’t able to participate to the full extent.

“Our school is currently trying to find funding or grants to purchase a class set of iPod touch devices for the teachers to use as a mobile lab available for every classroom,” she said. “This would allow every student the opportunity to embark on the adventure.”

January 21, 2019 | 3:08 am

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