Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Google Introduces Expeditions for the Classroom

By Holly Clark

Take your students places a school bus can’t go!

Nestled at the bottom of South Australia sits a town known for it’s amazing wine and beautiful beaches - Adelaide. This week, however, Adelaide took on a new distinction, it became the home of the world premiere of Expeditions, Google’s new virtual reality learning tool.

(Think of it as Google Classroom, meets Google Cardboard, meets Google Streetview )

Luckily, I happened to be in Adelaide at the same time, so I attended a session. I entered the Expedition classroom with a healthy dose of curiosity and skepticism - but with one look at the table of “cardboards,’ all I could feel was pure anticipation - and I could sense the collective excitement from the other teachers. It was as if we all instinctively knew that this could become one of those educational tools that might just change the way students see themselves and the world.

What are Expeditions?

Simply put, they are field trips from your desk. Using Google Cardboard as a catalyst, Google has put together these Expeditions so students can explore the world. These “Expeditions” are made with 360 degree cameras by a host of Google partners who have created amazing imagery of international landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef, El Capitan in Yosemite, and the ice-covered land masses of Antarctica. Google hopes to open up a world of knowledge to students - allowing them to visit different locations, experience underwater geographical features and learn about lands far, far away. Someday, it might give young learners the ability to virtually experience a day in the life of an unknown cultures Hopefully, this will allow students to develop an empathetic view of the world and a healthy respect for the cultural differences that makes our world great.

To help teachers guide students through the Expeditions - a “script” is provided from the Expedition content (if the teacher needs it), and he or she can begin reading about the important events in the expedition and point students to important details using the touch of a screen. This touch will deploy embedded arrow markers on the screens of the students. These markers help students find the spot being highlighted.

I got a chance to run my own expedition - and saw first hand the power of this evolving virtual learning tool.

How can we use them in the classroom?

Learning about coral reefs? Why not visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Students can look around as the teacher explains the importance of the reef and how it is supported by the fish and animals (that you can see) that live there.

The future of Cardboard in the classroom?

Version one depends on photos from partners - but later versions might include the ability to generate user content. Imagine this use in the classroom. Students could take 360 degree photos of their own town and make an Expedition of the area - which would include that town’s own unique geographical features and landmarks.

Teachers could assign students to storyboard, collaborate and plan a complete town visit. To help develop writing skills, students could create a script for others to use when visiitng your town via the Expedition site. To foster the application of math skills, students could add information about distances between locations in both miles and kilometers - or gather and then compare/contrast statistics about the area.

Forget about learning California History from a textbook, why not have students make their own Expedition to an actual mission where they can narrate a tour of the area - both past and present.

Where I hope Expeditions will take students in the future?

“Visit My City” - A student created content center. Students would create the content - and people who visit would know the quality might not be as high because they were generated by younger learners. This would give students a place to share and publish their work.

For more information about Expeditions visit this website, or watch video produced by Google. Better yet, you can come and learn more at a Gafesummit near you.

Special thanks to Suan Yeo - from Google for Education Sydney - for the opportunity to be one of the first to try this tool out!


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