Montgomery Public Schools (Students Ages 5-11)
Discover how Montgomery Public Schools in Alabama is engaging students in STEM and literacy with ClassVR
Montgomery Public Schools, a 27,400-student district in Alabama, is taking STEM and literacy lessons to the next level though a large-scale adoption of ClassVR.
We spoke with Principal Dr. Bryan Cutter and STEM Facilitator Jennifer Noah from the district’s Dalraida Elementary School about why they adopted ClassVR at their school – and how their school became a model for a much larger implementation in the district. Now, 41 of the district’s 50 schools offer ClassVR, including every elementary school in the district, giving teachers access to engaging, standards-aligned VR content that takes lessons to the next level and giving students virtual experiences that immerse them in the places and things they are learning about.
Engaging Students in STEM
The idea to use ClassVR started at Dalraida Elementary School with Principal Bryan Cutter.
“I wanted to find a way to use VR to immerse students in experiences where they can virtually travel to different places and have experiences that enhance the curriculum. I started looking into it and found ClassVR,” he said. “What really got me was seeing how students can (use the AR component to) hold a frog in their hand, and that we can (virtually) take them inside of a heart. I became a child again and said ‘our kids need this now!’”
“We were so amazed after the demo, Noah added. “(Avantis) took us through a heart, inside a vein, and showed us some of the ways we could use ClassVR in the school.”
Dalraida Elementary School first started using ClassVR in its new STEM lab to support science instruction and then Noah started going into classrooms to model it for teachers. She was especially impressed with the way the content aligned to state standards and with the level of engagement it provided students.
“One of our third-grade standards is teaching about severe weather. So, we used ClassVR to virtually take students inside of a tornado. They were actually able to see the inside and the debris that was surrounding them. And again, that engagement is just amazing to watch,” she said. “Many of our students didn’t know much about a tsunamis or hurricanes, even though we're semi close to the coast. They might hear about them on the news, but I was able to take them into a tropical storm and it made that learning so much more authentic.”
Noah also showed teachers how to use ClassVR to support literacy instruction in their classrooms by immersing students in virtual scenes similar to the settings they would be reading about in books. “We did a test of our own to see if it would help with comprehension,” Noah said. “It gave them the background knowledge and when they started digging into their stories they were like ‘I saw this back on the headsets!’ so it helped reinforce what they were learning which was exciting to see.”
Spurring a District-wide Implementation
The success of ClassVR at Dalraida Elementary School soon spread. Montgomery Public Schools superintendent toured the STEM lab and saw ClassVR in action and how it tied to state standards, prompting the decision to implement it on a much larger scale. Using ESSER funding, the district purchased a total of 80 carts of ClassVR headsets. Now every elementary school has at least one set and each of the 16 STEM labs throughout the district has an additional set. The implementation was done slowly and purposefully to allow time for training. Each school engaged in a school-wide implementation training to learn about ClassVR and get to the “why” of using it with students. Then Noah went into classrooms and modeled lessons working alongside the teachers. In some schools, teachers at each grade level were selected to train other teachers on the technology.
A Versatile and Practical Design
Cutter and Noah said a big draw of ClassVR is that it’s designed specifically for schools. They said the headsets are simple enough for kindergarten-aged students to use, and also keep older students riveted to the content at hand. “I’ve been amazed at how versatile they are,” said Noah.
Cutter also was impressed with the durability of the headsets and the self-cleaning feature provided by the carts. ClassVR's UVr Ultra Violet lighting system helps cleanse the headsets of bacteria and micro-organisms in between uses.
“The issue coming from Covid with using headsets was that everyone shares things. I think the fact that the cart allows the cleaning process to occur is important and forward thinking,” said Cutter.
From an administrative standpoint, Cutter appreciated that the content is constantly being updated with new scenes and lessons, and he appreciates having usage reports so he can get details about how the headsets are being used.
Looking Ahead: Students will Become Content Creators
Cutter and Noah are already planning the next steps with ClassVR where students will become content creators! Cutter and Noah are working on plans to have students develop content in CoSpaces and to create videos using 360-degree cameras. Using these tools, students can actually create the scenes and experiences and upload them into ClassVR, taking their learning to the next level.
How Would You Sum UP ClassVR?
When asked for their final thoughts on ClassVR, Cutter and Noah had this to say:
“It’s a wonderful immersive experience that takes students to places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to go,” said Noah.
“ClassVR provides students with endless opportunities and immerses them into different environments at their fingertips,” said Cutter.