Every now and then, I have to begin with a very honest disclaimer and this is one of those times. What I understand about science would not fill a thimble; however, I do know a fabulous teaching tool when I see one and folks, the Comanche Middle School has hit the jackpot this time, and the Comanche National Bank wanted me to tell you all about it!
Having heard the excitement in middle school principal Scott Carlisle’s voice when he told me about a new interactive computer in science teacher Amy Turner’s (I thought you’d recognize Turner!) classroom, I recently visited the school to see just what all the hoopla was about. What I found is something called Z Space, an interactive computer that has 3-D virtual reality capabilities that brings a “whole nuther” angle into the learning process.*
Now, if that mouthful was enough to really confuse you, basically what I mean is that Amy’s classroom now has a very large computer with four cameras along the top of the screen. To go with the computer are a pair of 3-D glasses that have sensors in them as well as a stylus (like the “pencil” you use to sign your name when you get your prescription or write a check at Walmart). The stylus is used to operate the computer instead of a mouse.
With this setup, the teacher and students can literally “pull out” any object and look all around it at the same time. For instance, they can look at the front, back, and the inside of the heart at the same time, and they can actually watch the heart beat and see what all parts are doing at the very same time. AND, believe it or not, the person holding the stylus can even feel those beats in the stylus!
Soon, the class will be examining an owl pellet, which the students normally would have dissected. This year, however, they will be doing a virtual dissection. How will they do it? The computer will allow them to remove everything in layers. First they will remove the fur. Next, students will separate the bones that are in the fur. Of course, they will then try to figure out what the owl has eaten.
And every bit of it can be done virtually!
“The kids are very excited, and it is a different way of learning. Since we have had it, they want to get on Z Space every day. We have been studying body systems. For instance, one group had the muscular system and one group had the skeletal system and so on. We would research and use Z Space to take those systems apart and examine them. It has worked great!”
Although Turner teaches 5th grade, Z Space is actually designed for grades K-12 and while it works great for advanced science, she explained that it is also equipped with lessons in other subjects such as history and even auto mechanics. Can you just imagine the advantages of being able to take a motor apart virtually before doing it “for real”?
No, it’s not the classroom of old…not even right here in Comanche, Texas, and the Comanche National Bank sends out big KUDOS to everyone involved in bringing this cutting edge technology to Comanche Middle School and these middle school students!
*Bringing you this story was especially special to me because of my nephew, Dillon. If you read his story, you know that his legs were removed and “put back on” when he was six. The surgery was done virtually many times using technology very similar to this before it was actually performed on him.