Google Expeditions has not only become a game changer in technology, but also in education. In combination with a headset, virtual reality (VR) can generate realistic images and sounds that replicate a whole array of real environments that can take students on virtual field trips to the places or "things" they are studying. For those of us who have been using Expeditions this past year, we thought that the 100ish Expeditions that were available in June 2016 were amazing, and only hoped that it caught on so more Expeditions were created. Well, it has.
Today, there are over 600 Expeditions available in the Google app. These include underwater exploration of the Galapagos, to inside the human heart, to outer space. By using VR in the classroom, students' imaginations and excitement in learning can be unleashed instantly.
Last week at Google's IO Conference, they announced some exciting news. Within the next few weeks they will be updating the Google Expeditions app to include some great new features including a new and improved way to search for Expeditions and the ability to annotate or scribble on the Expedition itself. By allowing the teacher to "scribble" on the screen, they can easily draw the students' attention to certain parts of the scene that have not already been identified by the focus points. This will help teachers further explain parts of the scenes, and can even prompt student discussions during the Expedition. If you want to watch the Expeditions session from Google IO, you can view it here.
For those interested in how to use Expeditions in the classroom, and the possible trips you can go on with your students, use our tool here to easily search for Expeditions. This tool will allow you to search for the Expeditions based on grade and subject, making it much easier for you to identify useful ones to use. If you need Expedition lessons, feel free to preview our Lesson Catalogue to see what we have available.
In addition to the new Expeditions features, Google also announced that this Fall they will be pioneering Expeditions AR. Expeditions AR allows the teacher to place 3D images in the classroom for the students to view through a Tango-enabled device. Unlike with VR, students will not have to use a VR headset to view the images. Instead, they can just hold their phone up and view the classroom through the screen to see the 3D object that the teacher has placed. If your school is interested in joining the Pioneer Program for Expeditions AR, you can sign up on their website here. In order to use Expeditions AR, you must have a Tango enabled device. Currently, the only phone available is the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, which retails for $500. More phones are due to be released throughout 2017, so hopefully the price of the devices will become more affordable for schools.
Until Expeditions AR is available to all schools, and the cost of the compatible devices decreases, schools will most likely implement virtual reality and use Expeditions.
For some schools who have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) scheme in place, teachers have a distinct advantage that all they need to get started are headsets for the students. With headsets retailing from $15-$50, depending on quality and resilience to students day to day use, money for such headsets can be raised fairly easily using Donor's Choose or a fundraiser at the school itself. My advice here is to get the parents involved. Invest in one headset, if your budget can't stretch to a quality plastic padded headset, try Google Cardboard ($15) or our Xiaomi Play Headset ($20), and get the parents trying it out for themselves! This has been my biggest success to date. Many parents have heard of VR but maybe can't see why it can be of such value in the classroom.. However, once they experience VR for themselves, they instantly understand the value it can have in their child's education experience.
If your school does not have a BYOD program, or the phones that are available are not compatible with VR, you are able to purchase VR kits from Aquila Education. We offer kits in a variety of quantities, so whether you want 5 or 50, we can accommodate you. Also, when purchasing from us, you will receive either a free Gold Education Subscription, or free lesson plans, depending on the kit you purchase.
Google is always learning and improving, and since it is focused and dedicated to improving education, we should expect a lot of great things from them this year. Connect with us to stay up to date on the latest news in education and technology, and join us next Wednesday for our latest blog post.
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