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Virtual Reality Headsets Make Debut at Falls Church City Schools

Thanks to a Falls Church Education Foundation (FCEF) super grant, Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) sports medicine coordinator Vicki Galliher purchased six Virtual Reality (VR) hardware headsets along with a library of 23 VR games for FCCPS students.

In recent years, research has been conducted to prove that VR technology is an innovative way to benefit students who may have special needs or student athletes that have been injured due to it being more engaging and effective.  Among special education students, Galliher said she hopes the headsets will enrich the experiences of FCCPS students during the school day.

Galliher, who is also the concussion management specialist and CPR first-day training coordinator at FCCPS, said she became interested in virtual reality after accidentally stumbling upon an article about a high school teacher in Texas receiving funding for VR equipment to help injured student athletes.

“After talking to [the teacher], I thought ‘I wonder what else VR technology is being used for in the realm of Sports Medicine Education,’” Galliher said. As the school year has just begun, Galliher said she hopes the use of the VR headsets will help injured student athletes “quickly regain those areas of deficits” and have fun while doing physical therapy protocols.

Galliher said students in her sports medicine course at Meridian will learn how to incorporate them when working directly with injured athletes, as well as showing special education teachers and students how to use them.

Thanks to a Falls Church Education Foundation super grant, FCCPS sports medicine coordinator Vicki Galliher purchased six Virtual Reality hardware headsets. (Photo: Chrissy Henderson)

For example, the VR headsets used at FCCPS have games such as “Job Simulator,” which allows special education students to practice interviewing skills and the training process for a job of their choosing. “I got really intrigued because we have such a strong program here for our special education students and I thought ‘Wow, this is one more really innovative thing you can add to the teacher’s toolkit.’”

For special education students, Galliher said the headsets will allow teachers to control the level of stimulation for their students, while student athletes recovering from concussions will be able to improve their visual processing and balance skills. “It really helps our students,” Galliher said. “We’re one of the few high schools in the nation that are doing this.”

Learning how to use the hardware was different for younger and older students and staff, with Galliher saying that younger individuals “took right to it” due to growing up around video games, while older staff members were “a little apprehensive and nervous.”

“Once they went through the orientation training that we do with them, they really got excited about [the VR headsets] and how easy it really is,” Galliher said. “They’ve already been coming back for additional training sessions in advance of actually incorporating this into their classroom curriculum.”

“It’s just a great sense of pride in us being able to offer the elite care and educational opportunities to our students and athletes,” Galliher said. “It’s just a source of pride that we’re one of the very few in the country that are doing this.”