High-tech camera allows students, parents to take virtual reality tour of schools

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- As a math and science teacher, Mike McDowell uses technology every day. But this technology is different. A high-tech camera allows a person to create virtual reality and McDowell used the device to create a tour of Jefferson Middle School in Winston-Salem. He captured 1000 scans all over the building and it took about 30 hours.

It’s a great way to attract new students and help them feel more comfortable with the building before ever stepping foot inside.

“You could be in Arkansas, thinking about moving to Winston-Salem, and you want to tour the school,” said Mike McDowell. “You don’t have to get on a plane or drive, you just pull up the computer or log on with your phone.”

McDowell used a teacher grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation to train on this technology with John McBride of Looking Glass.

“In the next five years, this whole virtual reality space and augmented reality space or mixed reality space is going to be a $200 billion market,” McBride said.

McBride believes virtual reality tours are just the beginning for schools.

“There`s a paradigm shift in how these kids are going to learn it and how they absorb it, and we need to learn from them,” he said.

According to him, schools will be able to take their students all over the world—and to outerspace—without ever leaving the classroom.

“This is how kids are going to learn about the human body, Mars, about being in an Egyptian tomb they`ve never been in,” McBride said.

Assistant Principal Daniel Bryant says it`s exciting to be at the forefront of the technology, thanks to McDowell`s grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation.

“Whatever the professional development is, it puts teachers in a better place to be successful and have their students learn more efficiently,” Bryant said.

Starting next week, teachers can apply for the 2017 Teacher Grants on the Winston-Salem Foundation’s website.

There’s a Teacher Grant information session at the Foundation’s office at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11 and another one at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19.

Applications are due February 9th.