When John Giambruno, a Video Production teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School, learned that one of his students was planning to produce a video about a boxing gym, he imagined something “gritty.” But when that student shared his final video, John was surprised. “He’s mentoring the kids. And I had a totally broken, shattered view of him and changed the way I saw him completely.”

If you watch this student’s video, the voice-over informs you that, “When you think of a community, you might not consider it to be in a boxing gym. However, for me, it is.” You find yourself in the middle of a bustling gym, full of young people working on drills and encouraging each other. You are immersed in this place that youth call their community, as if you are their guest. This is possible because the video is shot in 360° video, and if viewed using a virtual reality headset, you are quite literally viewing the action all around you.

Reflecting on the student producer before he began working on this video, Mr. Giambruno said, “He was not doing well in my class grade-wise. And when we got this project, he ran with it. He became a completely different student just for this.” The project Mr. Giambruno refers to is the 360 Filmmakers Challenge, part of the Oculus VR for Good program, in which high school students are invited to share their communities using 360° video. In the process, they build valuable creative and technical production skills, supported by 360° video professionals who volunteer as mentors for participating schools.

Virtual reality presents exciting opportunities for education, and students like Mr. Giambruno’s remind us that when new forms of media are developed, learners can do more than consume content with these new technologies.

Check out more of the student-produced videos from the nine participating high schools in the first Challenge on the project’s Facebook page. And, like the page to stay in touch — this semester, 34 high schools across the country are participating in the Challenge!


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