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Using Oculus 2 virtual reality hardware and Tilt Brush software, Eisenhower art student Molly Pilling creates artwork in a virtual space.

Art can be an immersive process — especially when virtual reality makes it possible to enter the art.

Oculus Quest 2 and Tilt Brush bring three dimensions to painting and drawing.

And a PA Smart Grant has brought Oculus Quest 2 and Tilt Brush to Warren County schools.

Five district teachers – Joie Hendricks at Warren Area High School, Becky Yeager at Youngsville Middle High School, Janelle Turk at Sheffield Area Middle High School, Jessica McElhaney at Eisenhower Middle High School, and Cathie Cummings at Warren County Career Center — have two Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality systems and Tilt Brush software at their disposal through May 31.

All they have to do to keep them after that is have their students watch the training materials, then provide the IU with a sample work created using the Tilt Brush app.

Molly Pilling

“Our local Intermediate Unit received a PA SMART Grant that Warren County is able to participate in along with Crawford and Erie Counties,” Instruction Technology Assessment Coordinator Jen Dilks said. “Each school received two Oculus Quest 2, two Chromecasts to display the student work, two copies of the app Tilt Brush, sanitation wipes and masks, and choice of a television or device to connect to an existing television/projector.”

The application and the hardware combine for a new kind of art experience.

“When you’re creating something you can basically draw yourself in it,” McElhaney said. “You can walk the whole way around it.”

“I haven’t even touched the surface of it,” she said.

The work of a student using an Oculus and Tilt Brush can be screencast to the devices included with the grant.

“You can see what the kids are making,” McElhaney said.

“We have 14 different project challenges I have written for students to build and design an entire virtual world in 360 degrees,” Turk said. “Students can use their art skills from traditional projects in class, and apply those lessons, like perspective drawing for example, into their virtual creations. Building these worlds is like the tools that you would expect to see in a drawing program like Procreate. Students can create an object, copy and paste, color the object, add tints and highlights, change scale, etc.”

Like many technologies, the students pick it up fast.

“The kids love it,” McElhaney said. “Some of the kids went to outer space. They experimented with it.”

“The Oculus has helped me to better understand 3-D designing,” Sheffield senior Amber Packard said.

“The Oculus is very good for learning perspective,” Sheffield senior Natasha Hodges said.

“I’ve had a lot of kids get excited about it,” McElhaney said. “They like that it’s something different. My younger kids saw that they were able to do it.” Immediately, they wanted in.

“Students are excited,” Turk said. “Anything new captures their attention.”

“Students I do not have in class now gather at the door to look in and watch the students who are designing using the Oculus,” she said. “It is an exciting time to be in the art room.”

“Some students connect with this as a medium more than others,” Turk said. “Some prefer the traditional pencil or brush to create. Other students find relevancy in a more modern approach to design.”

“I understand the shapes and motion I am creating in my work far better when I can see it in 3-D,” Sheffield sophomore Alexis Littlefield said.

Art is art, on paper or canvas or in virtual reality or on a computer screen.

“There has long been debate about whether art created on an iPad in a program like Procreate or on a computer in a program like Photoshop should be considered art, when compared to traditional pen and paper types of creating. I believe it is a tool, like a pencil, and is just as valid when creating,” Turk said.

Tilt Brush is an excellent first step, Turk said. When students are ready for more, she plans to employ software that will allow students to create, and then move those creations to a 3D printer.

“This type of application would provide real-world connections for students,” she said. “They would produce objects that are functional, designing both the project in a pragmatic and practical way, but also the tools that create the project. This develops critical thinking skills.”

“It has motivated some kids,” McElhaney said. “I’ve seen a positive impact from the different aspect… that digital world.”

“Virtual reality opens a whole new world of potential for artists and designers,” Turk said. “To be able to build in 3-D, as if you are sketching on paper with all the erase and edit options, but in 3-D where you virtually walk around the models to see what they are like is just a total game changer.”

“This has provided a tool to connect to those students who are interested in code and game design,” she said. “I am seeing interest in my courses from new groups of students which is great for promoting the Visual Arts program here in the WCSD.”

“These computer graphic design programs keep things relevant in preparing artists and designers for the real-world,” Turk said. “These types of programs and equipment are what they will use if they find themselves in a design career in the future.”

“Virtual Reality is another powerful tool in our toolbox here,” Turk said. “It keeps what we are doing in Art Education relevant in the 21st century.”

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