VR and Special Education

Iowa Rehabilitation Services Implements VR for Teens and Adults with Special Needs

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) is incorporating virtual reality technology into its curriculum to spark the interest of special needs students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and support their acquiring new, 21st century work skills.

Using zSpace, an interactive VR technology, students are learning STEM subjects using 3D, virtual-holographic images that they can move and manipulate. Supporters of the technology say they believe zSpace could transform the way students with disabilities are taught.

The level of participation and enthusiasm that students demonstrate when using zSpace is the reason Kenda Jochimsen, bureau chief of Iowa Rehabilitation Services, cited for expanding the use of virtual reality at IVRS.

“I knew students loved anything technology and did not doubt the value of the medium by which students would be presented information,” Jochimsen said in a prepared statement. “But when I observed students in high school who have disabilities, who are in special education, use zSpace’s virtual reality computer, I was convinced that this could be a potential game changer for students with disabilities.”

Students using zSpace can dissect virtual biological specimens and perform troubleshooting exercises on an electricity unit. According to Jochimsen, the most exciting development is that students demonstrate the exact skills the instructors at IVRS are trying to instill in all their students, namely:

  • civil discourse and disagreement
  • collaborative communication
  • problem solving and deductive reasoning
  • teamwork and troubleshooting

IVRS is going to incorporate zSpace into two districts to determine the impact on measurable skill gains and students’ interest in STEM, according to a news release.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].