By Erin Olson, Instructional Leader
Also featured in The Storm Lake Times on Nov. 16, 2018

Sioux Central Virtual Reality

Students in Mr. Tjaden’s geography class recently explored different parts of the world visiting
places they had previously researched. Mr. Cadman’s seventh grade science students toured
the inside of cell. Ms. Sells’s sixth grade students found themselves standing in the middle of a
stomach as they learned about the digestive system. This seemingly impossible travel was
made possible with virtual reality.

Sioux Central has access to a portable virtual reality cart powered by HTC Vive. The equipment
includes a HTC Vive headset, two controllers and two receivers. This is connected to an
extremely powerful Windows computer. The equipment allows students to view, interact, and
even design virtual reality games and videos. While one student wears the headset, the cart
connects to the projector allowing the entire classroom to see what the student connected is
seeing. Technology Director, Rob McCartney, is enthusiastic about the possibilities, “This cart
will allow our students to review, create and collaborate with the virtual world. One moment they
could be using Google Earth to stroll across the San Francisco Bridge, the next the they could
be using 3D Sunshine to design and build their own bridge.”

Sioux Central teachers have utilized the cart in a variety of ways. Ms. Jamie Turnbull’s middle
school students used the VR cart to become acclimated in the virtual landscape. Her students
will use future virtual experiences as a basis for writing. Ms. Turnbull shared, “I plan on using VR
to highlight the importance of sensory details while writing descriptively.”

Mr. Jarvis found VR helpful as his students engaged in inquiry. Mr. Jarvis’s civics students have
been focusing on the push and pull factors of human migration and refugees questioning what
causes people to move. After reading and researching the effect of violence and persecution of
the Rohingya in Myanmar, investigating what life was like in Syria before the civil war in 2011,
and researching inequality and violence in Central America, Mr. Jarvis thought students were
beginning to understand the role violence plays in people’s decisions to leave their home. He
wanted students not only to understand why people leave, but the impact of the decision to
leave. Just as Mr. Jarvis was considering how to make the experiences of a refugee real for the
students, Mr. McCartney shared two VR videos that showed refugee experiences. With Mr.
McCartney’s help, Mr. Jarvis’s students used the VR cart. While it was a virtual experience,
students were able to observe the living conditions in refugee camps. Mr. Jarvis’s inclusion of
VR is centered on gaining perspective, “What I am hoping this experience will enable students
to achieve is a certain level of empathy for those who have lost much of what their lives were.”

As teachers continue to plan learning experiences for students that are engaging and
meaningful, the VR cart will serve as a support for instruction making possible what seems
impossible. Mr. McCartney is happy to assist teachers with their inclusion of virtual reality, “I
really believe that this technology will allow our students to connect and experience things in a
whole new way, and I’m very excited to see what our students will discover and create.”