Thursday, May 18, 2017

Exploring and Learning with Google Expeditions

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, one of my favorite toys was the View-Master. I’m sure you know the one. That red toy that you put a thin cardboard disk in, pull the handle on the side, and step into a new scene with each arm pull. It was like being transported to a new world. Through the View-Master’s pictures, there was an excitement that I had for learning. Well fast forward 30+ years from my childhood, and I find myself with another View-Master, it’s name, Google Expeditions.

Back in February, I had the opportunity to host Google Expeditions at my school site. These expeditions are virtual trips that students can take to locations in and out of this world. A teacher, through the use of a tablet app, can lead students through ancient ruins, national monuments, or outer space. Exciting, right?!?!

To be honest, I wasn’t excited, I was terrified. When the kit arrived, I saw that there were so many cords and plugs. Would I be able to connect with all of the devices ? Would there be enough devices for all students? Would I break the red and white cases when trying to take the devices out to charge? All of these questions raced through my mind. As it turns out, the expeditions were a phenomenal success.

The screams of excitement, the “oooohs”, “ahhhs”, and “WOWs” of students as they looked through the Google Expeditions View-Master, was my favorite indication of success! It transported me back to my own childhood excitement. Students who don’t have an opportunity to travel to exotic places, were delighted to see and virtually interact with underwater sea creatures, “climb” Mount Everest, and explore the inside of the human body. Topics they were learning about in their textbooks, but laid static and two dimensional on a desk, were virtually brought to life.

To hold students accountable for their learning, they were instructed to work through a hyperdoc with video resources that supplemented the content of the expedition. Afterwards, students answered questions and completed a Google Form reflection log.

Here’s what I found to be the key to having a successful expedition, ditch the script. Though it gives students and teachers a great amount of background content information, your main goal shouldn’t be to read through all of the content, word for word, during the expedition. Give students time to be completely engulfed in the wonder and excitement of virtually exploring the world through Google Expeditions. It’s this natural, unabashed excitement that sparks their interest. When student interest is sparked, therein lies the flame that fuels authentic learning.

Canesha Wrathall
Elementary School
TOSA- Digital Learning Coach
Orange County, CA

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