The Prescott Valley Public Library unveiled an easier way to send students on field trips Monday in its Virtual Reality Room, all the while being filmed for an international education documentary.
Ten eighth-grade students from Liberty Traditional School "visited" Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde, Colo., and the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru. Sunah Kim, independent filmmaker from South Korea, and her crew shot the experience for an EBS Docu Prime production.
Scott Jochim, creative director with Digital Tech Frontier, LLC, created several of the virtual trips with what he calls "experiential engineering," and demonstrated to students and the filmmakers how to use the three-dimensional tours in classrooms.
"It's less about instructional regurgitation from the mouths of teachers," Jochim said. "The idea is to let the kids investigate as if they were actually there."
Students use a "cyber glove" attachment on their hand to travel down pathways on the screen in any direction. They can click on numbered areas to receive information about what they are viewing.
Students talked afterwards about the experience and appeared impressed by how technology brings the pictures to life.
"Once you figure it out, it's easy to use," said Taylor Reinhardt about the cyber glove. "We could definitely use this in all the classes."
LTS Principal Michael DeRois agrees. He said he hopes to build a relationship with the library so students can walk there in small groups and take part in virtual instruction.
Kim is heading the U.S. portion of a documentary about cutting-edge technology and education. Other filmmakers in England, Japan and Korea will add to the documentary, which will air in mid-October through South Korea's Education Broadcasting System Docu Prime.
Kim said the focus of the documentary program is the future of education. She has visited, or soon will visit, schools in Seattle, New York, Connecticut, Maine, and Boston, Mass. She said the hand device was something new she hadn't seen before, although she has investigated how teachers use three-dimensional programs in other classrooms.
Jochim said his company is the largest producer for virtual education in the country. The Koreans contacted him after seeing his website.The company works with education directors who develop programs that fit with each state's standards for grade levels and content areas.
"The learning process is individualized. All the information is accessible, so those students who can excel can move on and access information at a higher level. Those who need more time move on whenever they are ready," he said.
Several more students from teacher Bobby Goodman's elective computer class arrived to take part in a session on the solar system taught by computer aide Jessica Desjadon. She said she explored the virtual reality system on Friday in preparation for Monday's demonstration.
Students pointed lightweight numbered paddles at the web cam. Depending on which paddle they used, the sun and different planets appeared on the screen. Add a paddle labeled with an "i" and information about the planet materialized on the screen. Touch two planet paddles together, and the planets adjusted larger or smaller to show their comparable size.
After the lesson, students broke into three groups and used the paddles and information to answer 10 questions on a worksheet.
Student Zach Craner said, "Some kids fall asleep in class. With this, you don't get bored."
Calling the process "augmented reality education," Jochim said, "They are involved in collaborative learning - working in teams - fact finding, and individual learning."
"This is a natural evolution for technology and information. It combines the virtual world with the real world," he added.
Digital Tech Frontier takes teachers on field trips, trains them on how to use the camera equipment, and the teachers bring back educational material other educators can use from elementary to collegiate levels, Jochim said.
Goodman said using the three-dimensional approach in teaching about the American Revolution could include a virtual tour of Independence Hall, for example. Students in biology class can take a walk through eyeballs and hearts.
His eighth-graders are learning to create their own 3-D objects using the Google Sketch online program, and may post their work soon for other students to view.
Kim Moon, Prescott Valley Capital Projects coordinator, said the virtual reality room would open to the public in mid-October.