Virtual simulations will help engage students, district officials said.

A major metropolitan school district has announced that it will offer a 3D virtual-world environment to every classroom teacher in its 35 schools.

Forsyth County Schools in metro Atlanta, Georgia’s ninth-largest school district with 38,000 students, is using Dreamland Metaverse to host the NOBLE Virtual World on the OpenSim platform, which offers the ability for enterprise-level account management, school groups, and tools and procedures that make for a secure online environment for students.

Forsyth County Schools has attempted to use virtual-world technology in the past, but concerns about student safety and a lack of management tools prevented the district from fully implementing a virtual world.

“NOBLE” stands for New Opportunities for Better Learning Experiences, said Jill Hobson, the district’s director of instructional technology.

The system will let district ed-tech leaders “deliver immersive learning adventures that engage students in more authentic and engaging ways,” she added.

Unlike digital games, a virtual world is not pre-scripted, and users are able to create whatever they might imagine. Many educators champion the use of virtual worlds to promote student creativity, construction, role playing, and collaboration.

For instance, developers have built a to-scale model of a section of the Berlin Wall to help students understand aspects of the Cold War.

“After visiting the 3D model, with its guard towers, dog runs, booby-traps, and barricades, the students internalized the Soviet repression of East Germany in a real and meaningful way,” said Steve Mashburn, the grid master for NOBLE. “They developed higher-order thinking skills such as creativity, data analysis and problem-solving by working in teams to devise an escape plan over the wall. They then placed their own graffiti art to the west side of the wall to express their understanding of the Cold War.”