Virtual Reality in the Classroom

With the addition of a new virtual reality computer lab, Chase Collegiate School (CT) has officially entered the future of learning. Students are now able to study and manipulate 3-D scientific models, enhancing their ability to learn.

Colleen Altenburger, who teaches anatomy and physiology, sees her students’ enthusiasm levels rise when using the technology. “It’s hands-on, interactive learning, and the students are very engaged,” she says. “They are learning more quickly and with a greater depth in their critical thinking. Those are wonderful skills to have as they prepare for college.”

Chase recently purchased the hardware/software platform from zSpace, a California-based company that originally developed the technology with support from the CIA, and is currently collaborating with NASA, according to its website. All zSpace activities are aligned with state and national science standards.

The system allows students to zoom in and out on, rotate, and dissect graphics, so they can remove a heart valve from a digital heart or peek inside the structure of a brain, Altenburger says.

“Project-based learning and design thinking are two important concepts that are beginning to reshape the Chase curriculum for the 21st century,” says Scott Temple, the school’s director of technology. Temple first saw a demo of zSpace in a YouTube clip, although he’d been intrigued by the idea of virtual reality as an educational tool for years.

At Chase, an upper school biology class, middle school general science class, and lower school math and science classes are also using the technology. About 400 schools throughout the country are using the virtual reality technology, according to zSpace’s website.