International School of Nanshan Shenzhen is embracing Virtual Reality

The world as we know it is changing. As technology advances, so does our perception of what’s happening around us. Virtual reality is slowly creeping into every aspect of our lives.

Our schools must strive to keep up. The International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (ISNS) understands the importance of this, running a specialised program that specifically focuses on immersive technologies. From Harry Potter-esque yearbooks to entering imaginary worlds, children of the school leave with a deep-held understanding of virtual reality beyond that of their peers.

Located in Shenzhen, China, the school takes children from kindergarten all the way through to Grade 12, providing the International Baccalaureate (IB) program through the New Brunswick (Canada) curriculum. The school only enrols students with foreign passports or foreign Residency Cards and currently houses over 32 nationalities.

ISNS’ Virtual Reality (VR) Program’s first year recently came to an end. As such, staff and students here are busying themselves with the excitement of the upcoming second year.

“In year one we worked with a small group of students and teachers to incubate and develop deep knowledge and understanding of this emerging space,” said Paola Paulino, Director of VR/Augmented Reality (AR) Immersive Tech Education. “Pioneering projects, activities, and IDU’s derived from this awesome experimental year, we are excited to share what we’ve learned to on-board more teachers and students in year two to explore the possibilities of high-end VR in IB.”

In year two they intend to expand the VR Pilot Program, working with “the school community to drive mini-pilot explorations in IDU’s, lessons, activities, and clubs!”

VR allows students to experience the impossible: they can travel to other planets, immerse themselves in ancient societies, shrink small enough to travel through the human body as a single blood cell and expand their imaginations like never before. ISNS students create entire life-sized worlds which before would have been classed as childish dreams but are now a tangible reality.

One of the most important aspects of the second year is collaboration with teachers. Recently, the school hosted two-weeks of intensive high-end VR demonstrations for all ISNS staff. Teachers’ investment in the program will allow them to explore the ways VR can transform learning in the IB curriculum.

All ages get involved

In the Primary Years Program (PYP), IB students explore content creation applications in 3D coding clubs. Here, children learn how to take their ideas, code them, and explore their own virtual worlds using CoSpaces Edu for Google Cardboard. Their studies into AR overlap into other areas like Visual Arts lessons, literacy activities in the library, lunch tech clubs, and their Grade 5 exhibition.

For the Middle Years Program (MYP), ISNS steps it up a notch. VR is integrated into many classes across the MYP including Design and Technology (DT), Math, Biology, Music, and Language Acquisition.

This year, ISNS are running a spatial-centric IDU between DT and Math. Here, pupils have the chance to design architectural structures and create 3D models of their designs in DT. In Math, they learn how to calculate their design’s volumetric shape. They are then able to import their 3D designs into Virtual Reality and walk inside their own life-size structure.

Grade 10 students work on their culminating project for the MYP, the Personal Project, immersing themselves in research. They test and learn 3D-world building tools for PC and Mac. Students regularly visit the VR/AR Lab to experiment and see which tools will be useful for their projects.

At the top of the school, Grades 11 and 12 use VR applications in their Visual Arts and CAS classes. Here, students utilise tools such as Google Tilt Brush, StoryboardVR, Google Blocks and other VR creation tools in their creative processes for their two-year DP Art Installation and CAS projects. They take 2D sketch ideas of their world and bring them into VR to previsualize complex ideas and problem solve before building in #RR (Real Reality).


Grade 12 CAS students teamed up to create original graphic novel series their junior year. This year they will be creating Virtual Reality marketing content that showcases their rich characters and art styles for the launch of their CAS novel!

ISNS knows that VR can be used in many engaging ways

One of the great things about VR is the potential it creates, providing a wealth of hands-on classroom experience. The greater understanding staff and students have of immersive technologies, the greater the potential, and the school is doing a range of activities off the back of the program.

AR + 360° Yearbook

This year, the entire yearbook committee, compiled of both staff and students, will adopt the Project “360° Yearbook”. The 2016-17 prototype will be adapted into the new project, documenting school experiences through the medium of an immersive 360° video spanning the academic year.

Next summer, the school community will enjoy memories of 2017-18 in full 360 degrees. But ISNS hasn’t stopped there; there are plans in place to transform the yearbook pictures into Harry Potter-esque moving photographs. Using AR images, the photos will come to life, just like the magical newspaper, The Daily Prophet.

Drama Club + MYP Drama

Students who attend Drama Club have the chance to explore Computer Animation Motion Capture performance using VR technology. Pupils can practice their creative storytelling and script writing, along with more technical aspects, including cinematography and performance for motion-capture animation.

ISNS plans to incorporate what teachers and students learn through Drama Club into the MYP Drama curriculum for term two. Drama Club is building the foundation for the upcoming collaboration between English Literature, Visual Arts, Music, and Drama. This exciting collaboration should come into fruition in the 2018-19 academic year.

MYP English Language Acquisition prepares pilot VR Lessons!

The English Language Acquisition department, IB Director and Director of VR/AR collaborate in term 1 to design a small pilot of immersive lessons for term 2 that enrich MYP English Lang Acquisition students’ approach to learning English skills. Students’ will experience the locations and stories first hand in their Unit on Myth and Legends!  Students will make inferences and draw conclusions to demonstrate communication through language.

VR Maker Club (Retro-Gaming Club)

The MYP English “Terry Fox” Unit has inspired students to raise money for the cause. They organized Retro-Gaming competitions which were later developed into an after-school club.

The club has recently participated in the HTC VIVE “My VR Dream Youth Competition”, where they designed and pitched VR experiential ideas to the company. Even more notably, this year the club will be competing in the famous Global Game Jam (Game Hackathon).

VR Summer Camp

This year, as a part of the first group of students in China to pioneer VR Storybooks on Vivepaper, Grade 5 students attended the VR Summer Camp. Their storybook projects were so successful they were selected to be showcased at this year’s Shenzhen Maker Faire, Asia’s largest Maker Faire. (Dec 2nd, the VR Summer students will be demo-ing their VR Storybooks at the 3rd Intl School Nanshan Maker Faire!

The technological world is undeniably evolving, and young people must undoubtedly evolve along with it. ISNS is preparing students for the modern world – and it certainly helps that they have a lot of fun along the way.

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