Submitted by Matthew Neylon, Director of Visual and Performing Arts

Just 10 days into the school year, students in Marie Graham’s virtual reality class hosted a Virtual Art Museum for their peers and teachers. Students used the program Tiltbrush to paint in   3D, inviting their peers to step inside the paintings. Through a collaboration with the Music & Film class, each virtual environment was set to music, several of which were original compositions by our Upper School students. In addition to the virtual paintings created by 10 students, Junior Ethan Ray performed a live demo of painting in 3D that was displayed on a screen for visitors to observe.

At the event, Graham explained, “VR takes creation and storytelling to new levels, and the entry point can be low. Students should be able to explore and create within immersive technology almost immediately.” When asked what she would like to share with teachers who are interested in immersive technology, Graham said, “The deep immersion that occurs in the virtual reality space is unprecedented. Empathy becomes intuitive, environments come alive, deep learning is possible. Also, you can learn to create in 5-6 days. Don’t be scared to just have people come in and try things.” When asked about her motivation to create an event so early in the school year, Graham explained, “I wanted the kids to share what they’re doing, and I also wanted to increase interest in [VR]. Look, we have so many girls participating today!” Graham has a passion for encouraging all students to participate in immersive technologies, which is a field that is historically not incredibly diverse. She believes that opportunities to create visual environments, tell compelling stories, and use VR for good is not just possible, it is what sets VR/AR apart from other media. “It is creation in the most organic sense; it feels almost magical!

Graham opened the Virtual Reality lab through a partnership with Alienware in 2017 and has already facilitated students editing and generating all of the content for ChildArt, an international magazine about VR, engaged in creating content for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta pediatric rehab, worked on creating content for a rural community outside Mumbai, India, and this year, she has even bigger plans. 

“We are going to do an animation workshop next week.” This year, we have been able to bring on SCAD intern Nikolai Ibanez, whose background in coding, animation, and 3D rendering has already taken the program to the next level. 

Through unique course offerings such as Exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality, Design in Virtual and Augmented Realities: Empathy and Entrepreneurship, & Introduction to Coding (C#) and Unity: Creating Content, our students are able to work with teachers like Marie & Nicolai who are helping students not only explore but make a huge impact in the rapidly growing field of Immersive Technology. 

In a field that did not exist a few years ago, our students are actively creating content, learning in-demand tech skills using industry-grade equipment, and leading the conversation on VR in education. 

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