Back in September, I read Richard Byrne’s blog post about Google Expeditions, a new virtual reality program for schools. Richard’s blog shared that Google announced that they would be bringing Expedition demonstrations (including the kits for students and teachers) to schools all over North America, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia & New Zealand. Naturally, I signed our district up for the opportunity to host Google Expeditions, thinking that it was a long shot.
Within 2 weeks, we were notified that the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program would be visiting our schools! Due to the high demand for the Expeditions program, we were asked to confirm participation within 2 business days, with the visit taking place the following week.
There were hundreds of “expeditions” for our teachers to choose from, as they selected virtual trips that aligned with the content being taught in classrooms at the time. Our Google representative arrived promptly in the morning, along with all of the equipment, and first met with our teachers to explain how the teacher tablets controlled the student viewers, as well as how to navigate the “virtual trips” and access the content available for discussion points/questioning, etc. He set all of the viewers up and even provided its own WiFi routers. He was a constant support to the teachers and students when troubleshooting was needed and was a pleasure to work alongside!
Three third-grade classrooms participated with the viewers (2 classrooms used the cardboard viewers, and 1 classroom used the Mattel view master prototypes, which are now available for purchase) at the same time. The excitement and thrill the students felt as they experienced the virtual field trips was truly something that brought a smile to my face! This experience truly took our students to places they had never seen and allowed them to feel as though they were there! The life-like experiences and feel of Google Expeditions is unparalleled and something that could not be duplicated by simply viewing photos or watching a movie. It’s certainly a tool that schools will be able to incorporate into instruction to provide meaningful, engaging experiences in the future.
As a forward-thinking district, we are always thinking about how to bring these type of dynamic opportunities into our students’ everyday classroom learning experiences, and this frontier program perfectly aligns with our philosophy of enhancing and transforming learning with technology. A special thank you to Google for allowing our students to participate in this exciting experience! Richard Byrne posted this, if you’re looking for an alternative to Google Expeditions.