Learning Lab brings virtual reality to Claremont schools

At Oakmont and Mountain View Elementary schools, students had the chance to experience learning through ‘mixed reality.’

Combining virtual and augmented reality technology, the zSpace Learning Lab, a bus containing specialized computer equipment with 3D glasses, brought their virtual classroom to campuses on Monday, June 5 and Tuesday, June 6.

zSpace is a technology company that markets ‘mixed reality’ educational hardware and software, which representatives say give more students the chance to explore subjects in new ways.

“It inspires curiosity with kids,” said zSpace sales rep David Cisneros, who guided students through a demonstration of the zSpace software. “They can experience things at a level they normally would not.”

The 3D nature of the zSpace software allows students to form pictures of the things they are studying in their minds, Mr. Cisneros added.

For example, the zSpace software includes a model heart, which students can manipulate and virtually dissect, an opportunity generally reserved for higher-level students.

The schools brought in this resource to give students a chance to experiment with new technology and explore some of the educational modules in the zSpace software.

“I was at a convention and saw it and thought it was cool,” said Oakmont and Mountain View computer lab teacher Diane duPlessis. “I am always trying to bring new and interesting technology to the school.

Students and teachers who participated in demonstrations of the technology were very impressed by it and the opportunities that it provided.

When Mr. Cisneros first demonstrated the technology, students from Amy Reed’s second grade class gasped in surprise, and oh’s and ah’s echoed through the mobile lab.

When given the chance to experiment with the zSpace software themselves, students were shocked, and perhaps slightly disturbed, by the detail in some of the 3D models.

“Ew, gross!” one student said in response to the heart model. “That’s so creepy!” another said, looking at a model of a prosthetic hand.

Oakmont Principal Jenny Adams was similarly astounded by the technology.

“This technology is amazing, and really exciting,” she said.

While zSpace does sell its technology to schools, CUSD will likely not be able to purchase it in the foreseeable future due to budget constraints, according to Ms. Adams.

However, Mr. Cisneros believes that classrooms nationwide will eventually begin to incorporate virtual and augmented reality to give students opportunities for learning and exploration; someday, students in Claremont Unified School District could work with virtual and augmented reality in the classroom every day.

—Marc Rod



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