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Wylie fourth-grader Samuel Gafford, left, works to finalize his virtual reality project on April 4. photo by Lonnie Huhman

By Lonnie Huhman,

lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com


Through the 5 C’s and virtual reality, Wylie Elementary School students have been working at creating their own “dream world” or “happy place.”


All 500 or so of the third- and fourth-graders at the Dexter school spent about the last month or so planning and designing their projects by using creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, cooperation, communication and technology.

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This work culminated in the school organizing a VR Museum.


Dexter Community Schools Media Specialist Meredith Nickerson said through this project, students are designing either their own “dream world” or “happy place” in a digital, 3D environment. 


She said by using their Chromebooks and a 3D modeling tool designed specifically for students (CoSpaces EDU), students are learning how to manipulate 3D objects and are creating engaging, virtual reality scenes to share with classmates and the school community.  


“It’s become a great way for the students to share their passions,” Nickerson said on April 4 as students worked on wrapping up their projects with some last steps that included learning about creative commons, attribution and artists’ rights by citing the sources/artists who created the 3D models used in their projects.


Fourth-grader Reed Kinney said the work has been a lot of fun. His VR scene included things like a house bouncing and work man doing flips, a person yelling at the television as well as a pirate ship and unicorn.


“I wanted to create something with a lot of random things,” Reed said while testing his project on April 4.


The creativity of making random scenes was a common sentiment among the students.


Fourth-grader Isaac Momrik said one of his favorite parts of the project was that he “got to make what I wanted.”


Fellow classmate Rebecca Beauchamp agreed.


“Where else can you create something that has you riding on top of a turtle,” she said while looking over her VR scene, which is an underwater ocean base.


Wylie fourth-grader Rebecca Beauchamp, right, does some updates to finalize her virtual reality project. photo by Lonnie Huhman


When asked what she hopes students learn from this, Nickerson said, “My philosophy around educational technology is that it should be a tool that promotes “creation” vs. “consumption.”


“Many of our third- and fourth-graders are already familiar with using technology to “consume” or passively take in media, whether that’s watching YouTube videos or playing games online,” she said. “I hope to challenge students to see technology as a creation tool as well!” 


She said through projects like this, students will hopefully learn that they can leverage technology as a creative and collaborative tool to share their passions, interests, and goals. 


“In Media, we use computers to create via coding, multimedia projects, and now these VR projects!” Nickerson said.


This is the first year that they’ve done this project, and Nickerson said it was a big experiment.


“The students and I took a risk, as we weren’t sure if all aspects of the technology would work for us – fortunately, that risk paid off!” she said. “I’d love to continue using this technology next year and allow our current third graders (next year’s fourth graders) to build off of their experience with this project.” 


She added, “I can see this technology being used to create a scene from students’ favorite book, to create a landscape or concept being explored in science/social studies classes, or other creative projects that we could try next year.”

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