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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 7, 2011

Photo: Students wear 3D goggles in the College of Education's new Teacher Leader Center as they view a 3D project created using virtual reality software. Photo by Kirk Murray
UI, Grant Wood AEA and City High provide virtual reality training

The UI College of Education Teacher Leader Center is launching a unique partnership between the center, Iowa City High School and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to help students develop virtual reality projects.

Nick Liberko, a Mount Vernon High School senior, will lead the training session for 15 City High School students from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday Sept. 9, in the UI Teacher Leader Center, located on the first floor of the Lindquist Center.

Using 3D and virtual reality technology, students will develop projects on everything from exploring human anatomy to rendering an architectural design.

Teachers will facilitate the process but not direct the outcomes during the initial training session, said Will Coghill-Behrends, associate director of the Teacher Leader Center's Career Center.

"This unique project turns the learning process upside down and is consistent with new ways of teaching and engaging students to become producers rather than consumers of education," Coghill-Behrends said.

He added the training is offered in conjunction with Virtual Reality Education Pathfinder (VREP), an educational initiative and partnership between government, education and industry that is creating a consortium of schools and businesses committed to bringing a new kind of learning and teaching to schools across the country. 

Liberko has been involved in virtual reality trainings for high school students for several years and is recognized as one of the best student trainers in the area of virtual reality, Coghill-Behrands said.

College of Education students will participate in the group as facilitators under the direction of City High School faculty who will work as "project managers" as City High School students complete individual projects, he added.

"Research done in schools incorporating virtual reality show exciting gains in achievement, particularly in students who feel otherwise disengaged in the traditional school curriculum," Coghill-Behrends said. "The College of Education will host the group over the course of the year and provide technology facilities, Teacher Education student facilitators and will share Teacher Leader Center space for the creation and design of 3D projects."

City High School Principal John Bacon said he is very excited about this program that will benefit students with diverse interests from a wide variety of backgrounds.

"This program will provide our students with an engaging, high level technology learning opportunity," Bacon said. "Students will gain technical skills, expand their creativity and critical thinking skills and receive exposure to what learning is like at a major university level. It's also another excellent opportunity for students to find their special niche."
UI Teacher Education Program faculty will have the opportunity to incorporate 3D learning and teaching tools into their clinical and course experiences, Coghill-Behrends said.

The 15 City High School students will meet weekly with plans in the works for monthly excursions to other virtual reality programs across campus such as the award-winning virtual soldier, SANTOS, and the National Advanced Driving Simulator.
Schools can work with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency to sign up for the VREP. Currently, the UI has the only formal partnership with City High School. Coghill-Behrends said the Teacher Leader Center staff would like to pursue additional partnerships, perhaps as part of a research study.

For more information, contact Coghill-Behrends at 319-512-8932 and visit

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reporters and photographers/videographers are welcome to cover the first training session.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Will Coghill-Behrends, UI Teacher Leader Center, 319-512-8932,; John Bacon, Iowa City High School, 319-688-1040,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,