Teachers and students react to The Jeremiah VR Experience
The Jeremiah (יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ) VR (Virtual Reality) Experience allows students and teachers to step into a museum exhibit which goes verse by verse through the first chapter of the book. The experience includes animations and fully modeled environments, teaching the biblical verses in a way that’s impossible in the standard classroom setting.
Using state of the art VR technology backed by Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality program, the user's head, body, and hands are all fully tracked in 3 dimensional space. This allows the student to walk around, pick things up, and interact with the virtual world as if they were actually inside the narrative of the book.
In The Frisch School Evening of the Arts, for example, many students and teachers were able to beta test the VR experience for themselves, to great acclaim. One student remarked that he “never realized the passuk (verse) could mean that before!” Similarly, a Judaic Studies teacher commented that it helped him visualize the text in a way that he never could using traditional learning techniques.
As someone who has been a game developer for a few years now, I already had a general understanding of the technology and how it works. However, in order to develop for it, I had to master C Sharp in the context of the Unity game engine, a programming language that I have only briefly used in the past.
Building The Jeremiah VR Experience allowed me to dive deeply into the text in order to make it more accessible for the user. Along with this, working in a context where I was required to document my progress has been extremely beneficial to help me reflect on my work. I intend on adopting this workflow in the future.
The student-teacher collaboration aspect of the project was extremely helpful, as opposed to other projects for my gaming studio, MidnightCoffee Inc. where I primarily worked by myself. It allowed me to see the development process differently. Whereas I’m usually really messy in my workflow, having a teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, to guide me throughout the process kept me organized, knowing where to start and end with different parts of the project.
I think this type of mentor-disciple relationship is lacking in the standard classroom, with teachers just assigning work, as opposed to being “the guide on the side” to facilitate student growth and learning throughout a complex, multi-step, real-world project, like the creation of The Jeremiah VR Experience.
Thanks for reading!
- Judah Mantell
President, MidnightCoffee, Inc.