February 27, 2023
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How West Allis-West Milwaukee School District Brings Immersive Technologies To Students In Poverty


The School District of West Allis-West Milwaukee serves a diverse student population, with over 50% minority enrollment and 65% of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. With 18 schools and 7,400 students, the district's mission is to create experiences that build community, empower learners, and prepare them for a successful future.

The district implemented Zoe in 6 of their schools where teachers will facilitate students in creating immersive experiences to demonstrate learning across many disciplines, from math to social studies, language learning, and more.
Learn more about the WAWM districts deeper learning approach.


Access to immersive technologies is becoming the most efficient and engaging way to develop future facing skills to young learners, but many students, particularly in low-income settings, do not have exposure to these tools. Furthermore, it’s still very new for districts to implement virtual reality into their schools.
There are many factors to consider for a successful implementation at a district wide level:
  • Setting up headsets, distribution, charging and accounts still takes more time than computers, especially when the IT department of the district needs to be trained in using those on a daily basis;
  • Getting teachers who don’t have a computer science background to feel confident to use VR can be a challenge;
  • Making the curriculum fit in 40 minute classes including teachers having to get their students into headsets smoothly;
  • Making sure that using VR for student creation is integrated as a core part of their existing lessons rather than “another thing they have to do”.
11th grader designing an experience in a VR headset.


We addressed these challenges by launching the first Zoe Impact Program thanks to a grant from the Unity Charitable Fund and headset donations from Meta. The teachers and students at the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District are the first recipients.

The program supported the implementation of Zoe curriculum to over 400 educators and students in the Title I School District and began with a 4-week training program for teachers over the summer of 2022. The program is expected to end in May 2023 with the student work starting now.

Immersive learning is a way to bring the world to students who may not have other avenues to see it. These technologies expose them to what's possible for expressing themselves, learning about themselves, and choosing a college or career pathway that works for them and their caregivers.

Deidre Roemer - Director of Leadership and Learning

Teacher Training Program Overview

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District selected 20 educators, teaching a variety of subjects, to participate in the four-week online training program delivered by Virtual Research. The program was designed to empower teachers to embrace immersive technologies and put it in the hands of students in a meaningful way.

Virtual Research, led by educators and innovators Kwaku Aning and Kevin Merges, brings new technologies, including VR/AR, blockchain, AI, and beyond, to schools.

The training program was delivered by Kwaku and Liz Nebo. It was split into two parts, with the first part focusing on Design Thinking approaches and the "why" of using VR in the classroom. The aim was to help teachers focus first on the outcome, before thinking about the technology.

The second part of the program was focused on getting to know the VR headset, Zoe software, and exploring the various steps students would need to go through to create their own VR experiences. This approach allowed teachers to understand how VR could enhance their current classes and helped them identify challenges they would need to overcome during class.
Kellen wants his students to use Zoe to build and solve mysteries.

Plan A

Zoe team
Get familiar with Zoe with a series of short exercices. Assign a music track to the tablet on the table, make the windmill rotate, set up a basketball, and more.

Plan B

Benjamin Dehant
Ask participants to stand under the icon that best represents their current mood. A great icebreaker to start conversations!

Plan C

Benjamin Dehant
Each participants gets 5 minutes to recreate their favorite movie or TV show using only assets from the library.
During the four-week training, teachers participated in 2-hour Zoom sessions with Virtual Research and received a Meta Quest 2 headset at home. As part of the program, teachers:
  • Researched and learned about virtual reality;
  • Participated in brainstorming sessions;
  • Created supporting visuals that communicated concept direction, wireframing, and/or storyboarding for virtual reality experiences;
  • Learned about how to effectively design for immersive environments;
  • Learned how to lead students through a similar experience;
  • Created a lesson plan for their class.
Teachers were able to understand how VR could enhance their current classes and anticipate how to overcome challenges they might face when working with students during the school year.
Jennifer, science teacher plans her VR course around the creation of ecosystems in Zoe

Logistics…. and more logistics

Deploying VR programs in schools presents its own set of challenges, including, but not limited to: setting up accounts, dealing with headset charging stations, giving easy and quick access to students. With the support of the Zoe team, the West Allis-West Milwaukee IT department set up the headsets on which Zoe was pre-installed and ready for use in class.

We opted to have one set of headset per school that would be shared amongst the different classes, on average 5 classes per school and used ArborXR to manage the headsets across all the schools so that teachers have to do the least amount of work possible.

For those interested in how we recommend setting up school accounts, check out this guide.

Outcomes: First, getting teachers excited about the possibilities

Brendan, Innovation Coach talking about using Zoe for storytelling
The hands-on experience with the Zoe no-code VR platform and the ability to build their own prototypes empowered teachers to think differently about the use of VR in education. Teachers who were initially wary of the technology found more confidence in the fact that students only need to be facilitated and teachers don’t necessarily need to know everything.
The four-week training program allowed teachers to create fully fledged lesson plans using Zoe templates, with new ideas on how VR could be used effectively in the classroom. Most teachers reported feeling more confident and envisioning how VR could be taught in school after participating in the program. This was a significant step forward in empowering students to imagine, design, and build virtual reality experiences.
Learning the ins and outs of VR and Zoe were difficult at first, but taking the time to go in and perform the tasks helped.
Teacher - WAWM
What really clicked for me was project ideas, workflow, and planning. The last class where we shared our plans and projects was probably the most beneficial session for me to see what everyone had gained and learned from the program.
Teacher - WAWM
VR Planner by Justin, who teaches Design Thinking

You can find all of the resources that were used during this training on this page. Here is also a blog post created by the district talking about their experience during the program.

The VR program was designed to bring the world to students who may not have other avenues to see it, exposing them to what's possible for expressing themselves, learning about themselves, and choosing a college or career pathway that works for them and their caregivers.
As a result, students in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District now have access to cutting-edge technology and curriculum that will prepare them for the future.

Next Steps

The Zoe Program at West Allis-West Milwaukee is in the early stages. The district has about 3,000 students who can benefit from the access that immersive learning can provide. The Zoe Impact Program is designed to enable educators to easily replicate the curriculum year after year, building awareness and ensuring more students continue to gain similar 21st Century skills.

If you are a district administrator and interested in joining the Zoe adventure, feel free to contact us.

If you are a teacher excited to get started, join our Slack community!

I think VR is something that students can really get engaged with. It is new, challenging and cool to them. I feel that if we added more opportunities within VR for student creativity all could/would benefit.
Teacher - WAWM