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CMS receives grant for virtual reality tech

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Clanton Middle School students will have the opportunity to explore new technology and new locations thanks to a Bright Ideas grant from the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative.

CMS teachers Aimee Dobbs and Allyson Welborn received $350 to purchase virtual reality viewers for their classrooms.

“We are both career tech teachers, and together we decided to get a classroom set of virtual reality headsets,” Dobbs said.

The equipment will be used with a virtual reality app on a cellphone or similar device.

“The headsets just hold the phone, they are kind of like viewers,” Dobbs said.

She said the headsets will give students the opportunity to use a new technology that some may have never seen.

“Most of them have cellphones, and it teaches them a responsible way to use their cellphone,” Weborn said.

Google Expeditions and DiscoveryVR are two apps the teachers are planning to use.

Welborn said students could take virtual field trips under the sea, to the pyramids in Egypt and factories through the apps.

Dobbs said one of the apps includes NASA flight center, human anatomy and other career-related expeditions.

Welborn also teaches Project Lead the Way engineering courses at CMS. PLTW is in every Clanton school.

“They are using virtual reality headsets to fly their drones with at the high school,” Welborn said. “I was excited to hear how it could tie in my course to the high school course.”

She said her students like to explore on Google Earth, and this is a way to build on that enjoyment and allow for deeper exploration and learning.

She said similar technology is used by surgeons and pilots to practice.

“I think it kind of gives them (students) that kind of practical, real-world experience,” Weborn said.

The devices will also be used during the teachers’ enrichment classes and Fun Fridays classes.

Welborn said the teachers will find likely find more ways to integrate the technology into learning once the headsets arrive.

Once the equipment is ordered, it will take a few weeks to arrive.

Dobbs and Welborn accepted the grant at the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative Prattville office on Jan. 15