Virtual Vocations; Oakland Education students dive into career possibilities through virtual reality

Published 6:40 am Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From the inside of an airport to investigating a crime scene, Oakland Education Center students had the chance to explore the inner workings of potential jobs from the comfort of their classrooms.

Small groups of the center’s high school students were able to get a small taste of different career fields open to them in the future. Utilizing virtual reality simulations via Google Expeditions goggles borrowed from Austin High School, educators were able to create a portal for experiential learning programs.

Alexa Dolan, an Austin High School instructional coach, helps Oakland Education Center students immerse themselves in different career fields via Google Expeditions, a virtual reality simulation. Photos by Hannah Yang/

“They’re getting a window into a potential career,” said Becky Gerdes, instructional coach at Oakland Education Center. “It gets you out of the textbook and into a career. Other students have had successful expeditions to other countries they’ve learned about, and seeing ancient Egypt, or seeing an anatomy of an ear close up … we want to create an experience for our students.”

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One example would be to allow students to be put into the shoes of a professional in a specific career area. From 46 different occupations, the two that students expressed the most interest in exploring were an airline pilot and crime scene reporter, according to Alexa Dolan, instructional coach at Austin High School.

Alexa Dolan, an Austin High School instructional coach, controls the virtual reality experience.

“You get a lot of ‘oohs and ahhs’ from students, which is great,” she said. “This is something out of the ordinary for high school students. These experiences help with retention of facts while they’re learning something. Virtual reality is one more piece to complete the story to what they’re learning.”

Mikayla Pierce, a 16-year-old  junior at the center, wanted to explore a possible career as a private investigator, and felt that using virtual reality simulations was something that was beneficial for herself and her peers.

“It felt weird,” Pierce said of her initial reaction. “You get to see real life jobs up close. I know other students in my class want to go into the criminal (justice) career field too.”

Two pairs of Google Expeditions Virtual Reality goggles sit on top of a desk at Oakland Education Center.

This wasn’t the first time virtual reality simulations were used in educational settings. Dolan said while high school students used virtual reality goggles for history classes and anatomy classes, this year was the first time vocations were explored using the technology.

“We’re trying to incorporate more technology into education,” she said. “By doing so makes them more technologically savvy and it’ll be beneficial for them.”