Goggles give students virtual look at 9/11

Staff photo / Raymond L. Smith Hubbard High School students Jackie Adler, center, and Simon Yesh view the World Trade Center site in New York through virtual-reality goggles provided by teacher Mary Davis.

HUBBARD — For 16-year-old Isaac Powell, walking through the new World Trade Center and being able to view the Twin Towers before they were destroyed — without leaving his Hubbard High School building — was a step both into the past and the future.

“This provided a different perspective,” Powell said. “This allowed us to take a step into what it was like during that time.”

Powell, like many of the students in Mary Davis’ high school history and government classes, was among the first in the district to use virtual reality smartphone headsets purchased earlier this year by history teacher Deborah Wack and Davis to use as another teaching tool.

The goggles allow students, using their cellphones, to see virtual 3-D images of digital recordings and photos, so it appears as if they are in the action and are experiencing various sites in real time.

“We saw this while we were at a social-studies conference and decided we wanted to bring them here,” Davis said.

The teachers found the goggles at a good price and purchased a set of 50, splitting the cost.

“I thought using these today, Patriot Day, would be a good way to introduce them in our school’s curriculum,” Davis said. “Some of our students already have them and use them for fun. Why not use technology they’re familiar with for an educational benefit?”

Not everything went perfectly.

Attempts to do a virtual tour of the 911 museum and the World Trade Center only worked for a fraction of Davis’ 140 students in six classes.

“We’re learning about this technology together,” she said.

With more use, Davis is confident they will have more success.

Davis tries to do something different every year for Patriot Day. She went to the 911 Memorial site two times this year, touring the facility and taking pictures.

She combined those modern personal photographs with YouTube videos she found to create a lesson that incorporated photographs of the New York skyline prior to the terrorist attacks 18 years ago, a short YouTube video of the day that including audio from air traffic control dispatchers, and calls from a passenger on one of the doomed flights.

“The vast majority of my students do not have the same kind of connection to Sept. 11 as the people of my generation,” Davis said. “I was a freshman in high school when this happened. I remember everything that happened in school that day and when I went home. For us, life changed. There was life before 911 and life after it ”

“Since then the nation has been in two wars — one of which is still happening — the office of Homeland Security was created, and politics have change,” she continued.

For students in her classes, Sept. 11 is a moment of history they’ve read about, have seen movies about and have spoken to older relatives about, Davis said.

“However, for many, they have no personal connection,” she said. “It is a part of history like the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam and Pearl Harbor.”

Gillian Courturiaux, 16, a junior, said using the goggle was a good way to learn about the attack sites.

“She could explain it at the same time as I was seeing it, instead of just having to imagine it in my own head,” Couturiaux said.

Courturiuax said although she was not alive when the attacks happened, the day still has an emotional impact on her.

“Every time I watch those videos, I get chills in my body,” she said. “I’m sitting there trying not to cry. Because even though I wasn’t alive, or there or knew people that were in that, particularly, it still hurts me to know that someone could be like that, could do something to hurt that many people.”

Davis hopes that using the virtual reality technology will make it more personal for these students.

While Wednesday was the first foray in using these virtual reality goggles, Davis said she also plans to use them to explore other aspects of social studies, and for her psychology classes.

“We can use them to explore the inside of the brain,” she said.



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