A Seattle-based company has selected Jasper County Schools to be the test market for a new app it designed which uses virtual reality to encourage reading.
Peeka plans to launch its virtual reality reading app nationwide early next year. But students in Jasper County get to try it out first.
“We’re focused on building high-quality virtual reality reading experiences for kids so they can really feel like they’re jumping into the pages of books,” Vice President of Marketing Hunter Stutsman said.
He said the app has two benefits: motivating kids and helping with their comprehension and retention. Peeka has been working with researchers at the University of Washington to investigate virtual reality platforms for reading.
“The impact of that virtual reality in a reading setting has been dramatic,” Stutsman said.
Stutsman said it was serendipity that the company came to Jasper County. The Antioch Educational Center in Ridgeland’s executive director Jackie O’Bannon visited the Pacific Science Center in Seattle when she noticed the Peeka exhibit.
“She really loved it and the kids she was with really loved it,” Stutsman said. “We really made a connection and at that point and ever since we’ve been in conversations trying to make it happen. And here we are.”
Typical virtual reality equipment can cost as much as $2,000. Stutsman said Peeka units are less than $100. Their goal was to create an economical unit anyone could interface with their smartphones.
“We really wanted to go in and make a difference somewhere,” he said. “We want to find a place that really couldn’t have a virtual reality curriculum in their classroom because of the high costs of entry and create something for them and get in and do something that would really make a difference.”
Stutsman and his fellow Peeka developers are in Jasper County on Tuesday to demonstrate the technology to teachers and students at Ridgeland and Hardeeville Elementary Schools.
AEC plans to equip each K-third grade literacy/reading classroom with Peeka by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Immediate plans will equip all of JCSD first grade students with exposure and learning opportunities through Peeka.