The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
As we start to wind down the year after Pesach break one might think we would take it easy. Not at all! This week we began our AP exams, teachers are working on integrating Project-Based Learning, we have planned our second ComedySportz High School League match which will be held at Valley Torah on may 25th, organized the 2nd annual Student Exhibition for June 2nd, began designing new courses and refining currents ones for next year and, wait for it…..wait for it…..launched the official Valley Torah Virtual Reality Club!
The club began this Tuesday and the students got to experience virtual reality using an Oculus Rift powered by an Alienware computer. If these words are foreign to you, Virtual Reality is an immersive computer simulated environment and you can click here to see the Rift that displays that environment. But why now and why Virtual Reality?
Well, the now is easy. My vision for the General Studies program does not wait around. As the great Hillel said in Pirkei Avot, “if not now, when?” As for the why, well you clearly have not tried it if you are asking. It is so cool! It truly immerses you in another world. Check out our very own Mitch Goulson below who at that time was on the edge of a building about 100 stories up above a metropolitan city. Was it real to him? You decide.
Ok, but “cool” is not enough of a reason to start a club as “cool” only lasts so long. The novelty will wear off and we will be left with some very expensive technology gathering dust. The real reason why we started this club is that one of my main leadership goals is to support creativity in our staff and students as well as support them in trying new things that will increase meaning in teaching and learning. We did not start the club for the device itself but for the endless creativity the device will allow. Sure, the students will want to spend some time up close and personal with a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Oculus Dream Deck or flying in a spaceship playing EVE Valkyrie, yet the purpose is not for the students to be consumers of VR, but producers.
The students in the club will be introduced to the Unity Game Engine where they can learn to design and produce 3D games and environments for the Oculus. The possibilities are endless and the skills they will learn will be useful in a world where technology moves faster than a Louisiana gator during hunting season (been watching a lot of Filthy Riches on the National Geographic Channel). Finally, Marc Zuckerberg said when he announced that Facebook acquired Oculus, “Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible.” Well, we share a similar mission here at Valley Torah where we support our students in creating and achieving the impossible. The VR club is just another step forward in this goal.