New book shows teachers how to leverage VR in the classroom

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Multiple award winning school teacher, Jennie Magiera, was part of the original team that came up with the idea for Google Expeditions, the virtual reality field trips for school students using Google Cardboard.

Under her guidance as the Chief Technology Officer for Des Plaines School District 62 in Chicago, schools are using virtual reality (VR) as a learning and teaching tool. Teachers download the Expeditions app onto a set of devices and off the class goes on an educational field trip somewhere in the world.

Magiera is author of the cleverly-titled Courageous Edventures for teachers who want to innovate or transform the classroom and don’t know where to start. The book is also aimed at the broader spectrum of leaders in education, like school principals or CTO’s who want to lead their teachers to make the best of the latest technologies and transform their classrooms for the benefit of their students.

As an experienced classroom teacher, a former district coordinator, technology coach, and now a CTO, Magiera has the credentials and experience to make a transformative impact in the district that she is responsible for. Many students in this district are from low-income families who have little opportunity for travel and limited financial resources for electronic devices. The VR experiences made possible through the Google Cardboard give these children unparalleled learning experiences.

In conversation with Stephanie Carmichael, editor-in-chief of the Classcraft Blog, Magiera says VR is a tool which, like other tools, can be shared, making the benefits of this advanced technology accessible to all students. A school can obtain a set of Google Cardboard viewers which are loaded with the Expeditions app, then booked on a rotating basis by teachers for specific classes. She sees VR as a tool teachers can use periodically, explaining that the Google team purposefully didn’t put head straps on the Cardboard. Students learn about a topic via an immersive experience – it’s not a question of strapping on a headset and spending the school day in VR. Admittedly VR is the most exciting and explicit way to explore a phenomenon like the migration of wildebeest through the Serengeti, but there is still the related information and concepts to be worked through using a tool like the Internet.

Magiera taught fourth and fifth grade in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on the south side and was the digital learning coordinator for 32 of the CPS schools. Prior to that, she was with New York City Public Schools. She is also a White House Champion for Change, an Apple Distinguished Educator, a Google for Education Certified Innovator, a TEDx speaker and was a speaker at Games for Change 2016 about virtual reality in the classroom.