LBX Talks

Katie Kirby: Virtual Reality x Education

The LBX Immersive team recently had the opportunity to sit down with Assistant Principal / Math Supervisor Catherine Kirby, at Union City High School (Union City, NJ), to discuss her role in championing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Virtual Reality in education. 

Assistant Principal Kirby initially worked in sales after college but went back to school to earn her master’s degree in Educational Technology. She has now been working at Union City High School for almost 20 years. Always an advocate for students’ well-being, Kirby acts as the school district Anti-Bullying Coordinator. Her concern for students only increased with the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic. 


“We were slammed with the pandemic, and all of a sudden we are teaching from home and you don’t know where the students are going. I could only imagine the mental toll of the pandemic on all students, but especially the students who relied on the school for food, interaction, or a sense of home.” – Katie Kirby

Assistant Principal Catherine Kirby 

Union City High School

Before the pandemic, Kirby talked with the company Curiious: Immersive Impact about their virtual reality SEL program called WISE. Kirby wanted to hit the ground running with this SEL program before the students returned to in-person classes, so she began training a cohort of teachers virtually. Seven teachers from various departments, including math, science, history, and special needs were trained to incorporate the program into their lessons. The prototyping of this program at Union City High School also became the focus of Kirby’s dissertation for her doctorate program, titled Implementing Social and Emotional Learning Through the Use of Virtual Reality. 

So what were the reactions from teachers and students? According to Assistant Principal Kirby, the teachers were excited to use virtual reality in the classroom, and the students needed no convincing to enjoy the experience of learning through new technology. 

“What we are talking about here is a tool. One of the coolest tools ever. Allowing you to learn as it transports you to any place you choose.” – Katie Kirby

It is the moment when teachers and students put those VR headsets on for the first time that they are genuinely blown away. The light bulbs start going off about how fun learning through virtual reality is and all of the possibilities for making classes more engaging. 

As Assistant Principal Kirby looks to the future, her hopes are to train more teachers on how to integrate SEL and virtual reality into their curriculum. In the state of New Jersey, SEL is supposed to be integrated across grades and subject areas, and virtual reality is a great way to deliver this. The capabilities of virtual reality headsets do not stop at SEL content. Kirby views virtual reality as an amazing tool that educators can use to deliver a range of content, including science, history, math, ESL, etc. Virtual reality doesn’t replace traditional modalities of teaching, instead, it can enhance educators’ curricula. 

Not every school has a champion for virtual reality like Assistant Principal Kirby, but that doesn’t mean they have to be excluded from this future of education. Kirby’s advice for educators and schools is to not start with the technology but start with the problem. When educators can identify a problem or need in their classroom, they can then see how it can be fixed using virtual technology. 

Steps to Integrating VR into your School

  • Identify the need or problem
  • Understand how VR can address the need or problem 
  • Seek ongoing VR technology training and support 

This process does not have to be done by educators without professional support. Just like when Apple laptops were first introduced into schools, it takes time to grasp new technology. That is why at LBX Immersive we work with schools throughout the process of integrating virtual reality into their classrooms. Our experts can understand your use case and know what VR headset technology and the content will help you achieve your education goals. We also provide ongoing support and device management so you are never left with technology that you do not know how to use. Virtual Reality is increasingly becoming an integral part of education and the LBX Immersive team can help guide you through this journey.

Thank you to Assistant Principal Catherine Kirby, at Union City High School, for sharing the work you have been doing in implementing SEL and virtual reality in the field of education. This article is the first in our interview series where we talk with professionals who are integrating virtual reality and augmented reality in their fields.