In a collaboration effort with our special education teacher, we are creating a curriculum composed of virtual life scenarios where students can practice transitional and real life skills that they are not able to practice in a school setting. We started by using Unreal Engine 4, a game developing software, to create three environments: a home, grocery store and parking lot. Videos were created to act out different real life situations. The videos include questions followed by multiple choice questions such as “You are at the grocery store. What should you by first? A. Ice cream B. Chips.” To encompass a more interactive experience, our plans for this project include using 3D equipment such as a 3D projector or Oculus Rift while playing the content. We believe this is a media that students are accustomed to.
To design these environments, we researched specific layouts for it to feel real. All three are settings we visit frequently. However, as we started inventing, we realized we needed to intentionally look for the little details. For example, we took pictures of our school parking lot and used Google Earth to create an exact replica. Creating three virtual environments took a lot of group members and teamwork to complete. There are three groups of two and one group of one in different grades and class periods that created the grocery store, home environment, general parking lot and school parking lot. When one group accomplished or figured something out, they would share with the other groups.
This project is providing a curriculum needed at our school for our students who are our peers and friends we have grown up with. Every student has different needs educational-wise. Our special education teacher came to us because practicing transitional and real life skills is something not offered to students who need them because there is not a current program or funding in place. We have seen the interactions and dialogue taking place when students use these virtual reality videos. They are engaged, positive and hold invaluable conversations that lead to learning in a community that is sometimes overlooked.
We believe through what we are creating, students will leave high school more prepared and with knowledge they may not have had because they didn’t have access to it. We have met with our Educational Cooperative’s School Psychology Specialist which is also our special education teacher’s LEA Coordinator and will also be working with the Consultant for Behavior Intervention there as well. They expressed how a curriculum such as this is really needed in all schools. There is not one in place right now that is relevant, current and based on the student in mind.