By SARALYN NORKUS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 3/3/17

Cleveland Middle School’s library has welcomed a new addition that is sure to help pique students’ interest in STEM learning.

A zSpace computer was recently purchased by the school and has …

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Cleveland Middle School’s library has welcomed a new addition that is sure to help pique students’ interest in STEM learning.

A zSpace computer was recently purchased by the school and has been set up in the library, drawing curiosity from faculty and students alike.

Billing itself as the “ultimate immersive learning experience that allows students to interact with objects and understand the concepts behind them,” zSpace, Inc. was founded in 2007. The company released an independent software development kit in 2012 and since then, has seen its technology used by more than 150,000 students in the U.S., and in other countries throughout the world.

Now, the 1,300 students at CMS will have the chance to experience the hands-on virtual reality, 3D learning that is presented with zSpace.

“We just got this (two weeks ago), so I’m still getting to know it. We’ve had a lot of enthusiasm from our students,” said CMS media specialist Grace Dyrek.

“This is the way learning is happening for the future — it’s more simulations and more visual content like this. I want to help the students visualize abstract concepts and give them the tools so that they can learn it independently, on their own,”

The zSpace computer will give students and teachers the capability to explore STEM topics in a virtual, yet hands-on way, as well as provide programming for social studies and language arts.

“We have purchased software programs for the zSpace and they each have different aspects of teaching our curriculum. It’s primarily geared for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math,” Dyrek explained.

“We are educating future scientists, future inventors, future technologists, people who are going to be living in this world and not the world that we are currently living in.”

By working with zSpace models and simulations, students can literally pull apart 3D models with the aid of a stylus pen and a “dissection mode,” which gives them a glimpse of the inner workings of whatever model they choose.

“I have one young lady who wants to be a doctor, and she was taking apart the brain and learning all about the different hemispheres through an activity,” the media specialist said. “It won’t take the place of real experience, but it will provide a safe environment for learning all kinds of different things.”

CMS Principal Dr. Leneda Laing is equally excited for the opportunities the zSpace computer will provide the students.

“Research shows that students remember 20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see and up to 90 percent of what they do or simulate. Virtual reality allows students at CMS to simulate flying through the bloodstream while simultaneously learning about different cells they encounter. They can travel to Mars to inspect the surface for signs of life. This device reaches our most reluctant learners in a way that traditional instruction cannot,” Laing said.

Wanting to continue making the CMS library a top destination for students, Dyrek began researching new technology ideas back in December and January, because an update was needed. After discovering the zSpace computer, she knew that it was something she wanted to see in action.

Luckily, there was already one zSpace computer in Bradley County, sitting in Erin Hattabaugh’s medical science classroom at Cleveland High School. Dyrek made the quick trip to check out what the zSpace could do and decided that the middle school needed something like that.

A zSpace computer is not a cheap purchase, with the hardware costing around $3,000, the software coming in at $2,000 and then a $1,000 a year renewal fee for licensing. Dyrek was able to use earnings from book fairs and her library budget to purchase the school’s first zSpace.

“We would like a lab and I’m currently exploring potential grants to make that a possibility — these are not cheap,” Dyrek stated.

Ultimately, the middle school would like to build up a zSpace lap containing 10 computers.

“A zSpace lab at CMS would make learning come alive for more students by allowing them to see their subject in a way that has not been possible before with previous technologies,” Laing said.

“A computer lab with zSpace Virtual Computers is something that we want to work toward at CMS. To watch students' reactions when they first experience this technology increases my desire to provide them more access to this innovative technology.”


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