Bringing virtual reality to Montgomery County schools

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) Within the walls of Virginia Tech's Virtual Environment Studio, endless worlds await through virtual reality.

"The goal of this space is to offer virtual reality and augmented reality technology to faculty, staff, students and the public at large," Jonathan Bradley, the Innovative Technologies Coordinator for Learning Environments, said.

Alicia McGee is an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools. When she tried the VR experience for herself, she saw how it could be used in local classrooms.

"The more we talked, the more I realized this is great for middle school students and high school students," McGee said.

Virtual reality is more than just a video game.

"In a very real way they were designed as games, but they are educational," Bradley said.

So McGee and Bradley teamed up to apply for a grant to bring a lab like the one at Virginia Tech to the county schools. This project was supported by the Jones Fund for Teacher Professional Development at Virginia Tech.

"The grant was a seed grant to get it to Blacksburg Middle School," McGee said. "Our hope is that the following grants will put it in all the middle and high schools in Montgomery County."

Even though Virtual Reality is just beginning, Bradley and McGee have a pretty good idea who's going to take VR to the next level.

"It's exciting cause we're right here at the cusp of it which is why I think this work with the middle school is so important," Bradley said. "These students are going to be the ones who design the technology, design the experiences down the road that actually do have an impact on us and society as a whole."