South Middleton schools use virtual reality to engage students

BOILING SPRINGS, Pa. (WHTM) – The South Middleton School District is teaching kids in the virtual world, thanks to new technology.

The district just bought two “‘zSpace” machines with virtual reality activities. Teachers are still training with more than 1,200 activities on the system, since they were assembled in October.

The technology is basically a computer accompanied by 3D glasses. Students control the computer graphics with a stylus and can manipulate the screen through experiential, guided activities.

Assistant Superintendent Joseph Mancuso showed us an activity that allows us to dissect the human respiratory system.

“You are going to actually push the dissect button,” he said. “You are successfully removing the rib cage.

The school district was able to purchase the machines with a $10,000 grant from Pittsburgh Plate Glass Industries, which focuses on education in four crucial areas.

“When you look at science, technology, engineering and math, that seems where the careers and jobs are for our students,” Mancuso said.

The activities are mostly focused on these areas in a language in which students relate.

“With technology, it has made kids into visual learners, seeing things online,” 11th-grader Miah Deutsch said.

High school librarian Maryalice Bond is training teachers to use the system. She says they are exploring activities in other areas, as well.

“One the most exciting responses was an English teacher who said, ‘If you can get me a field trip to Auschwitz, I may never retire’,” Bond said.

The hope is that the school district can soon raise enough money to get a lab with 12 zSpace machines in each school.

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