Did you ever wish you could go to a faraway place without even leaving your seat? Do you want to see the Egyptian Pyramids, swim in the ocean right next to sharks or dolphins, or blast off into space like an astronaut, but you never thought it would be possible? Well, it IS possible with Google Expeditions!
Google Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on immersive virtual field trips or guided tours of places school buses can’t go, like oceans and outer space, to bring their lessons to life. They are comprised of virtual reality panoramas and are led by a guide or teacher.
he Expeditions immerse students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and give them a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom. They are collections of linked virtual reality content and supporting materials that can be used alongside existing curriculum.
The “kit” contains a tablet for the teacher and Cardboard viewers and phones for every student.
To get started, the teacher selects an Expedition from the list of tours on a tablet.
The teacher can see all of the locations (or panoramas) that are available in the Expedition. He/she selects the first panorama and then clicks start.
The instructor can view the panorama the students are experiencing and can move it around to see the 360 degree view.
The teacher’s tablet displays notes that the students can’t see. He/she can guide his/her class and point out highlights using the pre-populated descriptions. The instructor can click a point of interest and a white circle will appear on the teacher tablet while the students will see a white arrow in their viewers directing them to look at the point of interest the teacher has selected.
The instructor has a pause button and a navigation button. The pause button is used to control where the students can explore. The navigation button takes them to another location within the Expedition.
Smiley faces appear on the teacher’s tablet to represent where the students are looking.
An audio button turns on or off ambient sound, if it is included with that particular Expedition. (Not all tours have sound.)
Google Expeditions are also customizable, so teachers can collect, curate, and create their own field trips, too!
Each Expedition typically lasts about 20-30 minutes, however, the timeline depends on how the teacher incorporates the Expedition into a lesson.
One teacher can guide a trip for 30 students at one time with an Expeditions kit. (Students can share if there are more than 30 students in the class.)
Google Expeditions create a group adventure for classes to take together. During the experience, students can ask questions, listen to the narrative from their teacher, and talk to each other about what they are seeing.
This technology is currently available to schools in 10 states across America. Three Tempe Elementary schools have gone on Google Expeditions so far.
At Connolly Middle School, eight teachers recently took their students on these virtual journeys, and they chose to visit: Oceans, Environmental Change and Biomes, Frontiers of Flight, and Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Laird School students in second- through fifth-grades recently explored the Great Barrier Reef in the ocean safari; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; London; Australia; and Japan.
When asked what he thought of this experience, Laird fourth-grader Mike Williams said, “It was awesome! I liked how it was 3-D.” He explained, “It was pictured by people all around the world for us to learn about these places we don’t usually get to go to, like the ruins and underwater in the ocean. I loved seeing the shark! I felt like I was actually there looking at it!”
“In second grade, students learn about habitats,” said Teacher Nicolette Patterson, “and one of the stories they read involves jellyfish, so going on the ocean safari was a perfect opportunity for them to see jellyfish and other sea creatures ‘up close.’
Third-Grade Teacher Taylor Shortway explained, “Prior to the expedition, my students struggled with understanding where they are on a map and were confused with the difference between cities, states, and countries. This Expedition allowed us to explore different locations in the U.S. to broaden our understanding of where we are on the map.” She added, “I also developed a more personal connection with my students, because I actually traveled there [to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania] myself when I was in third grade, so I was able to share my experience and some of the fantastic things that I learned there, too!”
When Laird Principal Dr. Nancy Uxa was asked why she thinks this experience is so great for her students, she replied, “Our students were able to ‘travel’ to places they have never been and get a 360-degree view!”
Fuller Elementary students also experienced an underwater ocean adventure without ever getting wet!
Their expedition to the Great Barrier Reef was tied into what they are learning in science and geography. “We have discussed landforms and ecosystems thoroughly in those subjects, so students were able to take the contents of the ocean and tie it back to the things they have learned,” said Third-Grade Teacher Kelsy McNeely. “It also incorporated math when we learned about the measurement of the different varieties of fish. They were able to hear terms like millimeters, pounds, mass, etc. Those are all vocabulary words that we have thoroughly covered in math the past few weeks.”
When the students were asked about what they thought of their Expeditions, here were some of their responses:
“The waterfall in Japan was my favorite. It was so beautiful and interesting.” said Brisa Hickman, fourth-grader.
Fourth-Grader Jack Nemecek liked the Grand Canyon and that you didn’t have to get on a bus and “get all situated.” He added, “It was cool that you could turn in different directions and it would still be there.”
“It’s like we’re real photographers!” said Josiah Eckles, second-grader.
Fifth-Grade Teacher Renee Zamer summarized the Google Expeditions experience by saying, “Many of our students lack the opportunity to explore areas outside of their community or beyond what they see on television and in movies. The chance to ‘visit’ remote places of interest for educational purpose is extremely valuable.”