Longview offers virtual reality after-school program

BREWSTER, NY – Longview School in Brewster is launching an after-school program in February that will include virtual reality and game-based learning platforms.

It will be open to all students in grades 5-10, both in Brewster and the surrounding community. It will take place in 8-week increments, three days a week, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

In addition to its new virtual reality program and its current Minecraft programs, Longview will also offer a painting and drawing class in its new art and creation space (built in fall 2020).

With support from the Vela Education Fund, which is dedicated to reinventing education, Longview will be able to offer scholarships.

“Longview has pioneered the use of technology in the classroom for much of its 20 years in business,” said school co-founder and principal Mark Jacobs.

For example, for the past three years, Longview has offered a Minecraft option. Minecraft is a program with a variety of game modes, including those focused on the creative development of homes, buildings, and towns as well as the development of interactive adventures in a wide range of worlds. Students create and follow a fair set of rules, learn math, physics, and engineering concepts such as building design and task automation, and collaborate on tasks that are also curriculum-related school social and socio-emotional learning.

The course will be modified for the after-school program.

But Longview’s most unique offering will be its new virtual reality program. With a grant from the Vela Education Fund, Longview purchased 10 Oculus Quest 2 headsets and hired staff to design a program that, although it will take place in Longview’s gymnasium, will primarily exist in a variety of virtual worlds. The curriculum of the program is based on individual and collective intellectual, physical and socio-emotional development.

  • For physical development, programs such as Beat Saber, Pong, Echo VR and Eleven Ping Pong will be used.
  • For intellectual development, programs such as Space: Apollo 11, Mission ISS, The Room VR, Red Matter, The Spy and the Liar and Do You Copy will be used.

Through the development of challenges and establishment and movement through roles in group quests, students will grow not only individually but also socio-emotionally.

With a virtual reality headset, like the Oculus Quest 2, you can step into a virtual world created by computer programmers and world designers. Although the idea is not new, the latest developments are:

  • Virtual worlds have reached the point where they have become extremely realistic;
  • Virtual reality technology is cheaper than it has ever been. The cost of technology has come down so much that fully immersive headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 can be had for less than $300.

But is virtual reality “good?”

The Longview School has a long history of embracing emerging technologies. Rather than simply allowing it to be used as it sees fit by children, the school has adapted the technology to meet both the academic and socio-emotional needs of students, Jacobs said.

“What will be the future of virtual reality? The truth is, nobody knows,” he said. “What we do know is that the old models of fact-retention-based learning do not prepare students for the rapidly changing landscape of the modern world. Students need deep engagement in their learning experiences that help them develop crucial critical thinking and social-emotional skills that they apply in a range of contexts.Virtual reality technology can be an integral part of 21st century education.

As a prototype after-school program, enrollment will be extremely limited. For more information and to register, go to the After School Program tab on the Longview School website.