Using Virtual Reality to Establish Global Perspectives

Building a Relationship with our Global Counterparts in Education for Cohesive Future Readiness

By: Christine Lion-Bailey, from her educational leadership and technology blog:  Voice of CLB

I am, at heart, a people person through and through. I love to meet new people and have the opportunity to learn about their lives, their culture, and their passions. I enjoy finding commonalities with folks who newly enter into my life as well as differences, which often lead to charged and exciting conversations. I believe that in every instance in which I meet someone new, that extends beyond just the most simple of pleasantries, my life is slightly altered and I have, in turn, experienced personal growth.

The past two days have inspired me to reflect upon the impact that others have on my life. I have had the distinct pleasure, over the past two days, to get to know a gentleman who is visiting the United States from New Zealand. A fellow educational leader, who has been awarded with one of the most prestigious fellowships available to educators in his home country, Chris Murphy has spent the past 12 weeks traveling the world (quite literally) to observe and engage in education settings from a global standpoint. Chris has visited the likes of Cambodia, Morocco, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Finland, and numerous locations throughout the United States in an effort to learn about the educational practices and leadership of his global counterparts. Luckily, Morris Plains, New Jersey was on his list of places to stop and much to our delight, it proved to be our great fortune to host this insightful and inspirational guest.

Over the course of the two days that Chris joined our team in Morris Plains, we discussed many aspects of education. From pedagogy and content to social emotional learning and community connections, the very essence of what we are all trying to achieve as educators is very similar regardless of the hemisphere in which you are striving to accomplish the goal. It was validating to know that what we believe so strongly, in our small New Jersey district, about the importance of educating children for a future that is unknown is a common sentiment shared by our New Zealand counterparts. The desire to foster and encourage social emotional growth, the deeply rooted need for children to understand and display empathy, the constant passion for breaking physical barriers and encompassing global awareness within the learning experience, are all aspects of teaching and educating youth that are consistent between both of our worlds. If, in fact, we are all striving to equally produce future leaders and global citizens with these attributes and competencies, then we are equally preparing for our world to be in confident and compassionate hands.

At one point during Chris’s visit, we got to talking about the desire to empower our students to take learning beyond the physical boundaries of the classroom walls. I explained to Chris how our district has committed to having students access their learning through VR Lab experiences via our new VR equipment that we recently purchased. In preparation for Chris’s visit, I had asked our Technology & Network Manager to set-up one of the VR machines in my office so that I could share with our visitor the many exciting learning opportunities that we plan to offer to our students and staff in the upcoming school year. As we began to walk through the equipment and dive into some of the VR experiences, we accessed Google Earth. I began to explain to Chris how we intend to partner with other schools around the world next year to participate in collaborative units of study and, it is our hope that, our students will be entrenched in a global awareness aspect to this learning experience by being able to virtually visit the city/town/village in which the collaborating class resides via the VR equipment. As we discussed this initiative, I asked Chris if he could, using the VR equipment, take us to his hometown in New Zealand. It is at this point that the magic happened.

After spending close to 10 hours together, 4 car rides, 3 meals, and countless conversations, it was putting on the VR headset and having Chris navigate me through New Zealand by which I took a virtual tour of his home land that I was able to truly understand who he was and where he came from. It was absolutely magical to virtually walk the roads of his village, fly over his school, to tour the town where he grew up and the farm from which one of his students travels over 100 miles per day to attend school. It was heartwarming, personalized, and allowed for me to make a deep personal connection to who Chris Murphy is and what makes him unique. It was in this moment that I realized the power that the VR experience brought to my time with Chris and, in turn, the power that the VR experience will bring to our learners and to our teachers in the upcoming school year. To create such an emotionally charged learning opportunity for students where they are immersed in their learning in a manner that reaches far beyond content is powerful, inspiring, and future ready.

I am sad that my time with Chris Murphy has come to an end, as he continues on in his global journey seeking knowledge and insight into educational practices and leadership; however, I am grateful and inspired by the experiences that we shared over the past two days. Chris’s visit to Morris Plains has been validating of our efforts thus far, inspiring of the ideas and visions that we have for the future, and affirming of the the global commitment to the aspects of education that we are choosing the persue in our small corner of the world. While we have said goodbye for now, it is nice to know that Morris Plains will always have a friend in New Zealand and that Chris will always have a home in Morris Plains.

Christine Lion-Bailey is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the Morris Plains School District in Northeast New Jersey. As a Google Certified Innovator, and self-proclaimed “edtech junkie”, her passion is to provide school leaders and teachers with the tools and knowledge necessary to find success in the constant evolution of educational technology while sparking innovation and creativity.

Recently, Morris Plains School District made the decision to purchase the HTC Vive and VR Ready Desktops to create a Virtual Reality Lab in their district.  The school district also recently had Steve Isaacs (@MrIsaacs), a ByteSpeed On-Site Professional Development Trainer for implementing Virtual Reality in the Classroom, visit their district to provide training on how to use Virtual Reality applications in the classroom to teachers and administrators. Shortly after receiving the Virtual Reality training, the district was visited by Chris Murphy, an educational leader from New Zealand that was awarded one of the most prestigious fellowships available to educators in his home country. This fellowship allowed Chris to travel the world to meet with other educational leaders the world over. Morris Plains, NJ was on his list of his stops and this the story of his visit, as well as how the newly acquired Virtual Reality equipment helped further our understanding of his culture and daily life.

Connect with Christine Lion-Baley:

Twitter:  @clionbailey

Linked In:

Website:  (my blog is linked to my website)

Google+:  +ChristineLionBailey