I attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) 2016 conference recently, which included numerous great workshops and time to collaborate with many wonderful teachers, librarians and technology coaches. During that conference, one of the coolest uses of technology I observed was Google’s new “Expeditions” program. Google realized that schools across the country have been significantly cutting back on field trips due to budget and time constraints. In order to help address this issue they developed “Expeditions,” which allows teachers to take their students on virtual reality field trips using an Android tablet and Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) viewers.
Google’s Expeditions allows a teacher, using an android tablet, to download and setup Expeditions, which then allows students to experience 365-degree views of incredible places like the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, or even outer space. Students can independently explore the immersive environments that have been set up by teachers or other third parties. Expeditions also allows teachers to add notes and attached them to objects that display when students are looking at them. Teachers have the ability to act as a guide, using their tablet, and show students what to look at or blank the screens when they want to bring the class back together for a discussion.
The Google representative at NCCE said the system is designed to work with minimal impact on bandwidth. In fact, one of the examples he used was a classroom in Africa that uses the system with a mobile data plan on the teacher’s cellphone. Everything is loaded on the teacher’s tablet and each phone or tablet in the Google Cardboard connects to the teacher’s tablet and pulls all the content over a wireless connection.
Google is currently beta testing Expeditions, and more than 500,000 students have participated in testing the system. At the moment if you want to be an early tester you can sign up here to get on the waiting list. You will need an Android tablet for the teacher, a Google Cardboard headset, and phone/mini tablet for each of the students. Below are some articles about Google Expeditions, a 365-degree tour of Buckingham Palace that can be used as an expedition, and a video introduction to Google Cardboard.
For further information on this amazing new program be sure to check out some of these articles and videos.
Buckingham Palace Expedition (use the controls in the upper left corner to control the camera)