Five Questions With: Joe Devine

Joe Devine is the executive director of Tech Collective in Providence, which held a virtual-reality summer camp this past summer, buoyed by state and private-industry grants, technology partners such as Microsoft Corp., as well as local organizations.

The result of that camp was vLEAP, a successful virtual-learning platform for public high school students, which showed how virtual reality can be a tool for educators to get students actively engaged in learning despite COVID-19 restrictions.

PBN: What is vLEAP, and how did this Tech Summer Program come about?

DEVINE: It is a learning platform that uses the latest technology to deliver educational content. The platform that the Tech Collective created used traditional videoconferencing technology – [such as] Zoom – coupled with a learning-management system, a digital badging system, a virtual-computing platform and a virtual-reality platform to create an immersive, virtual-reality space.

The power behind vLEAP is a virtual-reality learning world that emulates a video game-like experience. Students build avatars and move around in the virtual world, much like they would in a video game.

During our May board meeting, Frank [D.] Sánchez, president of Rhode Island College, asked how the Tech Collective could play a part in mitigating COVID learning loss. He indicated that the traditional summer slide would be worsened by the COVID-driven rush to distance learning.

The Tech Collective – which has long been committed to building computer science career pathways for our [youths] – jumped at the chance to lean in and have a positive impact. We convened a meeting with interested members of our board and partners that shared our passion for supporting K-12 education. This proof-of-concept program was made possible by the efforts of our volunteers, technology donation from our partners, and grants from RIDE [R.I. Department of Education] SAIL [Summer Academy for Interactive Learning] and Amica [Mutual] Insurance [Co.].

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