Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program Takes Students ‘Virtually’ Anywhere
More than 500 students at Jack Hille Middle School in Oak Forest, Chicago, with cardboard boxes pressed close to their faces and eyes, went on unique field trips Tuesday.
Google Expeditions Pioneer Program
Google Expeditions is a virtual reality platform designed specifically for the classroom, and built to accommodate up to 30 students simultaneously. Google Expeditions Pioneer Program teams are currently visiting select schools around the world, to demonstrate how teachers can take students on learning journeys anywhere.
“This is amazing,” one student said. “I feel like I’m falling,” said another.
Seventh-grade science teacher, Melissa Kelly, read from an iPad and prompted the students through a tour of the body. The application was perfectly related with her current curriculum, in which her entire class is in a simulated medical school.
“I can show the kids a picture of a cell, or the digestive system, or the lungs, but for them to see it from this perspective is really going to give them a deeper understanding,” said Kelly.
Even though, one of her students, Jacob Kincade, has the same viewmaster at home, he thought Tuesday’s experience was very helpful in learning what his teacher had been explaining in class.
“I like how, through the viewmaster, you can see instead of just talking about it,” Kincade said. “You can actually see what it looks like.”
Students were seen gasping, throughout the media center where Google set up shop, at the experience as they held Google Cardboard virtual reality viewers which took them on their guided tours.
Within a period of 30 minutes, different classes went to Greece to view the ancient ruins, while others visited Verona, Italy to walk through the streets of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. A science class went on a virtual trip through the human body’s entire digestive system, and another visited France.
All of the trips were part of Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program where students are able to experience lessons through a virtual reality application that includes 360-degree photo spheres, 3D images, and videos annotated with details and points of interest.
How the school was selected
Forest Ridge School District 142 was notified two weeks ago that it was selected to take part in the program and two of its schools were chosen. It will be the turn of G. Kerkstra Elementary School students on May 24. The two schools are the first from the Southland to participate in the program.
Julie Ryan, the instructional technology specialist for the school district had in November, applied for the grant. She was notified by Google, Two weeks ago, that the district was on the short list. She had to streamline some of the more than 150 expeditions available through the program to the curriculum being currently taught in the school’s classrooms. She was requested to give Google dates and from there, everything fell into place.
“Our teachers are very tech-savvy, and so many of these expeditions fall right in line with what our teachers are already teaching,” Ryan said. “It gives them a different avenue and perspective to teach.”
Lisa Zamora, the teacher of a sixth-grade social studies class, took her students on a tour of Greece.
“I can show them a picture on the wall, or in a book. I can even show them a film, but it is nothing like this. They are immersed in the experience,” Zamora said.
One of her students, Camryn Griffin, said it was just like being there. “I can see everything,” Griffin said. “I was amazed at how big it was.”