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Virtual Reality libraries in Nevada take learning to another level

by Miles Buergin for My News 4

Some students either learn by the book, or they learn with hands-on training. The Nevada State Library has released new technology that helps out with both kinds of learners.

In over fifteen libraries across Nevada, the Nevada XR Libraries Project features new virtual reality technology that focuses on school subjects which include biology, medical assistance and eco-hydrology landscapes.

Back in 2017, the Nevada legislature passed Senate Bill 549, which provided over $500,000 to the Nevada State Library's collection development, databases, rural Bookmobiles, and emerging V-R technology. Specifically, $22,000 went to launching the first-ever pilot technology in libraries in nine Nevada counties.

"I just like the aspect of you actually being able to build stuff and think of it with a group," says Evan, a Churchill County Middle School student.

 

Evan's school is located in Fallon, NV, where Churchill County does not have the most accessible resources for new advancements in academics. However, since this V-R technology has been located in both the county's high school and public library, students fill up the V-R room to get a first-hand look at this new way of learning.

"The program really makes it available for everyone. It shouldn't just be for 'well-to-do' schools, libraries or communities that have access to this and so when we put it in the library, i'ts available and accessible for everyone," says State Deputy Librarian, Tammy Westergard.

Westergard, with the help of her team of state librarians, says with 360 immersive video, prospective students, and interested parties, can 'literally' see if the career pathway programs through the V-R database is a good for them.

"Bottom line, libraries equal education," says Westergard.

Virtual Reality makes real-world difference for student with autism

by Teri Vance for the Fallon Post
 
 

Churchill County High School librarian Holly McPherson talks to Logan Evans as he works in a virtual reality program, in Fallon, Nev., on Friday, April 26, 2019. Evans, who is autistic, has show a significant change in his verbal skills when he’s using the VR programs.
Photo by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Momentum

As 18-year-old Logan Evans donned the virtual reality headset in the library of Churchill County High School, his speech pathologist, Justin Worthy, asked him a string of questions.

“Do you know what world you’re going into?”

“Yes.”

“Can you read it to me?”

“White Winter.”

On the surface, it may seem like a routine exchange. But for Evans it was anything but average.

Evans, who is autistic, has been unable for most of his life to answer questions.

Instead, he would repeat the question.

When Worthy learned the high school library had joined a group of early adopters in a virtual reality program — offered through the Nevada State Library — he brought Evans down to give it a try. Something almost magical happened when Evans immersed himself into the virtual worlds, especially exploring the outdoors.

“When he’s in the program, you get an instant response,” Worthy said. “It was amazing to me to see the difference. When I get that response, I am overjoyed.”

The improvement doesn’t stop when the headset comes off. Evans continues to show increased articulation, which will make his life better in the real world.

“Answering questions is a critical skill,” Worthy said. “He’s able to make choices for himself if he can answer a question. He can advocate for himself.”

It will help him in everyday life, and especially in his jobs where he works in the school cafeteria, Greenwave Cafe and at Fallon’s Blue Sky Thrift Store.

The virtual reality program was implemented by librarian Holly McPherson this year.

“The funding from the 2017 Nevada Legislature has kick- started a powerful opportunity for Nevada libraries,” said Deputy State Librarian Tammy Westergard.

The one-time allocation of money was used over the last biennium for collection development, bookmobile services, statewide databases and emerging technology.

The Nevada Library Association is asking for $1.5 million in permanent funding to continue the programs put in place over the past two years.

“The ability to learn in 3-D is proving to increase critical thinking and seems to ignite drive and excitement for both students and teachers,” said Westergard, the Nevada State Library project lead.

The virtual reality system in the Churchill County Library is available for general use to all students, who can use it on their breaks and during lunch.

“Science and health teachers bring their classes in,” McPherson said. “They can look inside a cell and travel through the blood system or they can open up molecules of different organisms. There’s all kinds of things they can do.”

The value for students with special needs was an unforeseen benefit of the program.

“For some reason, when Logan has the headset on, he’s able to respond,” McPherson said. “For Logan, it has been dramatic. And I don’t think we’re still using it to its fullest potential.”

Worthy would also like to see the program continue.

“I definitely feel like it would be beneficial for other students,” he said. “It could be beneficial in a lot of ways for my language kiddos, possibly by helping with vocabulary or long-term memory.”

Meanwhile, Evans continues to progress as he explores virtual worlds.

“What’s that, Logan?,” Worthy queried.

“It’s a tree,” Evans answered.

“What color are the leaves, Logan?”

“Pink and red.”

Evans knew he’d done well.

“Nice work,” he said to himself.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles to highlight library programs funded by the Nevada Legislature. The Nevada Library Association is asking for permanent funding in this year’s legislative session.

Bookmobiles bring libraries to remote areas in Nevada

By Teri Vance for the Nevada Appeal

There was a certain energy in the air, an excitement swirling among the 15 students spanning the grades from kindergarten through eighth in the isolated, one-room schoolhouse in Ruby Valley.
It wasn’t just that the sun was finally shining — glistening off the wind-polished snow that stretched for miles — on this day in late March after a long, seemingly relentless winter.
There was something else. The Bookmobile was finally coming.
The Bookmobile, a semi-truck modified to house shelves of library books, visits schools and other institutions in rural Elko County on a two-week schedule.
This visit, however, was delayed by two months as the Bookmobile was undergoing repairs.
“These guys are in desperate need of books,” said teacher Traci Wines. “They’ve been reading everything they can get their hands on for months.”
The children live in the ranching community more than an hour from the nearest town of Elko, best known as “Home of Cowboy Poetry.”
The students are mostly drawn to books they can relate to.
“I like cowboy books,” said Bill Gardner, 9. “Because I am a cowboy.”
Another 10-year-old chooses books about horses.
“I’ve lived on ranches my entire life,” she said. “Everywhere I go, there are horses. So, I’ve learned to love them.”
But it’s not exclusively agriculture-related literature that piques their attention.
“I love to cook,” said Madison Dahl, 11, who checked out “Sally’s Candy Addiction” cookbook. “I cook with my mom.”
Three Bookmobiles throughout Nevada deliver library services to some of the most isolated places in Elko, Lander, Eureka, Humboldt and Lincoln counties, covering 52,374 square miles.
“Nevada is one of the most geographically remote places in the country,” said Cyndi O, director of the Nevada Library Cooperative. “For these folks, the Bookmobile is literally a lifeline. They get access to the newest books, laptops, Wi-Fi, and even classes and programming.”


Partial funding to continue Bookmobile services came through the 2017 Legislature, which allocated $500,000 to Nevada libraries. The one-time allocation of money was used over the last biennium for collection development, Bookmobile services, statewide databases and emerging technology.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Steve Sisolak proposed $420,000 in permanent funding. The Nevada Library Association is asking to make that $1.5 million.
Afton Sampson, 12, a sixth-grader at Ruby Valley School, has been known to check out more books than she can carry back to the classroom.
“I really love reading,” she explained. The stack may last her until the Bookmobile’s next visit, but it may not.
“Maybe only one week, maybe two. It depends on how much time I have.”

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles to highlight library programs funded by the Nevada Legislature. The Nevada Library Association is asking for permanent funding in this year’s legislative session.