Salem City Schools (Student Age 5-18)
Salem City Schools, Virginia are transforming teaching and learning in Computer Science across their district with ClassVR.
We caught up with Branden Wells, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher at Salem City Schools, about how he's integrated virtual reality into instruction, his experiences using VR in special education, and the district’s plans for the future.
On the Move with Virtual Reality
As Instructional Technology Resource Teacher for Salem City Schools, Branden travels across the different schools in the district, taking virtual reality learning experiences with him. He delivers engaging Computer Science lessons using ClassVR, and the students absolutely love them!
“We’ve got four elementary schools in our district, and I bounce between two of them teaching Computer Science. I’ll spend one week at a school, then the next at another school, and I take VR with me wherever I go! We’ve got three cases of ClassVR headsets, and I’ll throw them in the back of the truck and set them up in my office at that school for the week.“
“We use them a lot! I adore them and the kids adore them. I'm integrating them as much as possible because ClassVR is so engaging and so high interest.”
Integrating Immersive Learning into Every Lesson
Standards of Learning are key at Salem City Schools. This year's students have been taking what they’re learning in other lessons, building content using their coding skills in Computer Science and exploring their creations in ClassVR. This builds their knowledge and understanding of each subject in line with all the Standards of Learning!
“We have Standards of Learning that are very problem-based and focused on computational thinking, sequencing and coding. So within those I try to keep a vertical alignment with other subjects. If I look at the Standards of Learning for 2nd grade that week and they're learning about the water cycle, we'll do a coding activity, building the water cycle while viewing it in VR. That was my plan this year: to take what they're learning in class, in science or social studies or history, coding it on their computer using a program called Scratch, then viewing it with ClassVR!”
Motivating & Supporting Special Education
Before moving to Instructional Technology, Branden worked with students with special educational needs. Using virtual reality, he was able to transform the learning experience for these students – improving motivation and engaging them with topics that were previously difficult to grasp. What’s more, when other students took part in the VR lessons, those with special needs could take the lead in guiding others through the experience, which opened up further opportunities for personal development!
“I believe a lot of students with special needs struggle with intrinsic motivation. In my last role, my bread and butter was finding ways to motivate kids with special needs to achieve their academic goals, and a lot of the time VR was the way to do this. It takes the learning from just another textbook, where they're not interested, to an exciting learning experience. That, in itself, is motivating. I had kids on behavior plans, and if they achieved their goal, we would go on a VR roller coaster ride!
“Teachers would see these experiences and I’d have other kids join in the experiences. Then the students with special needs became the VR experts that showed the other kids how to do it! It levelled the playing field, because now you've got the kids that don’t struggle with learning, asking the kids who do, for answers and assistance. It’s beautiful.”
Virtual Reality Showcase!
Looking forward, Branden wants the students at Salem City Schools to demonstrate the possibilities of immersive learning to their families through a VR showcase! By getting the children to guide their families through virtual reality experiences, he’s hoping to show them how incredible VR learning can be. We’re so excited to find out how it goes!
“I definitely want to do some sort of community showcase where we bring parents and families into school and get them to experience virtual reality. The kids would show them how it works and get them exploring with ClassVR. Many households see VR as a gaming platform, but I want to be able to show the families that it’s also an educational platform, and how amazing it is!”
How Would You Sum Up ClassVR?
When asked for some final thoughts on ClassVR, Branden answered:
“In summary, ClassVR makes the most abstract content come to life. No matter what you’re learning about, ClassVR can take it from dry to immersive instantaneously! Your students will be engaged, excited, invested and hungry for more! The amount of content is truly endless, and with additional features like CoSpaces and Avantis World, educators will never run out of ideas.
“ClassVR has taken a cutting edge technology, and made it accessible for everyone! I am humbled every day when I see students excited to learn with VR.”