Sixth-grade humanities student Ty Nguyen ’29 turns around in the Winn Science Center and finds himself standing at the base of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. As he looks left and right, up and down, the Meta Quest 2 headset covering his eyes immerses him in one of the holiest sites on earth.
This stop in Israel is part of a virtual reality field trip that Toby and his classmates took in Jason Lange’s sixth-grade humanities class. As the boys learned about Moses and the Exodus, they retraced the steps of the ancient Israelites as they made their way from Egypt to Canaan. Other locations included the Temple of Karnak, the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai.
“It’s one thing to read the Old Testament accounts,” said Lange, whose class is studying the origins of Judaism. “It’s another thing entirely to stand on the shore of the Red Sea, visit the top of Mt. Sinai and look out across the valley of Jerusalem. Virtual reality in the history classroom connects 21st-century boys to the past in ways never before possible. It shows them not only the relics of the past, but also the way society has evolved over time.”
Just like the smartphone, the computer and the calculator, virtual reality — though still in its infancy — has the power to revolutionize education.
And, like those prior technologies, VR will be another tool with which talented educators can reach their students.
“From field trips across the globe in humanities class to exploring deep space in science class, virtual reality allows the student to be completely immersed in a world of learning,” said Kendall Murphy, a Middle School computer science instructor who is spearheading the adoption of virtual reality in classrooms. VR allows boys to have educational experiences that they would not ordinarily have.”
In addition to touring Jerusalem, other humanities classes have used VR headsets to explore the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, France, a subject they’ve read about. The possibilities for this technology are endless, from interactive biology labs to virtual tennis lessons in PE. And Marksmen won’t just be consumers of VR content. The School recently purchased a 360-degree camera, giving students tools to create their own virtual reality programs and tours.
“There is genuinely something available to enhance any subject, when all the while, the boys are also enhancing their knowledge of computer science!” Murphy said. “These captivating experiences lead to a dynamic classroom environment where students can use technology to enhance the learning process.”