During the last couple of weeks, several schools in PPS had the opportunity to experience the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program, This program allows teachers to take their classes on immersive virtual reality journeys that bring abstract concepts to life and give students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom. Google sent out a team to participating schools with an Expedition kit, which includes everything you need to travel: Google Cardboard viewers with devices and the app already installed. The Google team also gave teachers a brief orientation of how to run an expedition on an Android tablet and test out Google Cardboard for themselves.
Teachers were asked to select an expedition that was related to content they were currently studying in class, but with over 100 expeditions available, there was some time during each session just to explore. The first groups of elementary students I watched experience Expeditions screamed with joy every time the teacher led them to a new location. I couldn’t help but laugh as students were randomly shouting and pointing in the air as they were noticing artifacts and areas of interest. The teacher can highlight specific points in the expedition with an arrow and circle on the viewer and also pause the trip to get student attention when needed.
Actual field trips today are on the decline and Google Expeditions has the potential to allow students and teachers to visit unfamiliar, unvisited places for an engaging experience and opportunity for supplemental learning. Virtual field trips do not offer any physical or social context, however, so it is important that this technological experience be linked to curriculum to deepen understanding of content. Otherwise, we just have another gadget sitting on our shelves unused and we don’t need that.
PS You can sign up to get the beta version of the Expeditions app here.