Bellevue Public Schools Students Get Connected via Virtual Reality
In April 2016, Dr. Henry Winter, an astrophysicist from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, spoke before the students of Bellevue East and Bellevue West high schools as well as Logan Fontenelle and Mission middle schools—without leaving his office.
Bellevue Public Schools Students Meet Speakers Through VR
Numerous speakers including Winter were able to connect to students at Bellevue Public Schools through Google Hangout or Skype. Students were able to watch and listen to these experts from around the world using the video chat feature. All they needed were a computer and a projector.
Amanda Oliver, BPS director of communications, said of the event, “They really try to find these creative ways to be more hands-on.” In addition, this newly conceptualized way of teaching students proved to be a cheaper alternative than having speakers fly from across the country.
At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a huge video wall that gives visitors a closer and detailed look at the sun is displayed. Winter helped make the program possible. Through video-chatting, Winter answered queries about his work and how he started taking interest in being a scientist after learning video game hacks.
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Winter told the students, “Being a scientist, for me, isn’t just sitting in a room by yourself doing math problems or looking through a telescope, it’s actually working with a bunch of different people and doing things you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.”
Santha Walters, a teacher at Logan and high-school classmate of Winter, said, “I’m hoping they can take away from this session that scientists are real people, just like them.”
Many other significant personalities participated in the event, including speakers from Yosemite National Park and National Geographic. There were instances where classroom got to connect with each other too. Jeffrey Bernadt, Bellevue Public Schools instruction technology specialist, shared that connecting classroom to people around the world can hugely improve students’ learning experience.
Bernadt remarked, “These are powerful tools that our teachers can leverage to create a connected classroom that goes far beyond their classroom walls.”
There is also a program called Mystery Hangouts, which has students from different states communicate through Google Hangout and guess where the other class is located, which they do by asking sets of yes-or-no questions. The said event put the students’ geography skills to the test.
“This is a fun and engaging way to bring geography into the classroom, along with getting students to work as a team, problem-solve, collaborate, and communicate,” added Bernadt.