Monday, March 14, 2016

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program Visits Minnetonka Schools

Middle School East 7th Graders on a Google Expedition
On Friday, the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program came to Minnetonka Middle School East seventh grade science classrooms. Technology Instructional Coach and seventh grade social studies teacher Carson Hoeft signed up for the program last fall and recently learned that the school was selected to be a site to try out the new technology. If you aren't familiar with Google Cardboard, check out a previous post for an overview: Google Cardboard- Virtual Reality in the Classroom.
The Google Expeditions Program brings a class set of Google Cardboard viewers along with Droid devices preloaded with virtual environments. The teachers can select what they wish for their students to visit. For Friday's virtual field trip, students traveled to Borneo to visit the beaches, jungle, and scuba dive off the coast. 

The content includes information about the locations for the teacher who is a virtual guide for their students as they view things through the Cardboard viewers. The teacher uses a droid tablet to view the same content, and has the ability to pause the images, see a floating icon for each student to determine where everyone is looking, and can tap the tablet to make an arrow appear on the students' screens in order to direct attention to a specific location. 

The students were so excited about the experience. It was great to be present for their initial reactions (oohs and ahs, Wow! Cool!) when they began. In a way I felt like I was glimpsing the future of classrooms to come. I can imagine so many possibilities and so much content becoming available for teachers to engage their students. I can foresee a time when the students don't just have this as a one time event but a daily experience. Eventually students could have their own device to regularly walk across a battlefield with their history class or be virtually present during an important speech. I can also imagine it won't be long before the content is not just static 360 degree images but moving interactive video immersing us in an environment where we can interact with others. Wow!

Here is some additional information from Google about the program:

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.
  • These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.
  • While nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, Expeditions provide an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning. Seeing the brilliant ways teachers integrate VR in their classes has taught us so much already.

About Google Cardboard viewer:

  • Google Cardboard is a virtual reality viewer made almost entirely of actual cardboard. Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality. There have been more than 5 million Cardboard viewers shipped.

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