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School district receives technology innovation award


Cumberland County Schools has been named a “District of Distinction” by zSpace — a company that creates virtual and augmented reality-based educational programs and technology — for its achievements in integrating AR/VR technology into high school and middle school classrooms across the district. 

California-based zSpace, presented the award to the Career and Technical Education and Technology Department officials on  at a ceremony at Seventy-First High School on Tuesday.

Sheena Shoemaker, a senior success manager for zSpace, said the company recognized CCS with the award because of the district's “top-notch” collaborative nature in implementing these programs, which combine new technology with curriculum standards in health sciences and agricultural sciences classes. 

“When you have the tech department and the curriculum team working side by side, that's where innovation rolls out the best,” Shoemaker said. 

Shoemaker, herself a former high school and college science teacher, assists school districts nationwide in implementing the zSpace technology in classrooms. 

“It's a phenomenal district to work with,” Shoemaker said. “I absolutely adore coming out, visiting them, and working with their instructors because they have a great team.”

The technology and programs created by zSpace are used in more than 3,500 school districts across the country; CCS is the 31st district to receive the company’s award for its implementation of AR/VR technology.

Shoemaker also praised Career and Technical Education Executive Director Chip Lucas for his support of teachers in implementing the new technology within CCS, so educators can guide students in their learning. 

“We were so delighted that we were able to integrate not only a cool device for students, but also get our curriculum teachers involved in health sciences,” Lucas said.

The zSpace technology has been used in classrooms in Cumberland schools for four to five years, according to Shoemaker, but the company partnered with CCS in 2022 to carry out a case study on the implementation of the AR devices into school curricula. The devices combine a specially-designed laptop with a small projector and stylus to create an interactive learning experience for students. 

“​​It just makes public schools a great place to come and have our students learn about integrated technology and curriculum,” Lucas said. 

Through the program at CCS, students in health science and agricultural science classes are able to interact with virtual models of body systems, medical problems and anomalies, as well as perform virtual dissections, Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said the dissection program can be especially beneficial for students, since they're able to go back and correct mistakes or restart the entire model if something goes wrong. Working with a virtual program can also lessen students’ potential fears of hurting themselves or cutting a specimen incorrectly, she said. 

“You can’t screw up a 3D model,” she said. “It's OK if you mess up. You can just click reset.”

Shoemaker added that the program also gives students the confidence to guide their own learning without fear of mistakes. 

zSpace products and curriculum are currently integrated into 11 high schools and three middle schools across the district. Beyond just health and agricultural sciences, CCS and zSpace hope to integrate this technology into additional classes, like cellular biology. 

Lucas said he was excited about what expanding this technology to younger students might look like.

CCS and zSpace plan to expand the program to include additional curricula and grades in the future, with the goal to bring the technology to one elementary school in the district within the next six months. 

For more information about CCS's partnership, visit zSpace.

Contact Char Morrison at cmorrison@cityviewnc.com.

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