Two schools in the Chicago area, one in Aurora and one in Naperville, were chosen to participate in the new Google Expeditions program where technology brings kids on extraordinary journeys. Google Expeditions brings their Expedition Kits to the selected school where a handful of students get to use the learning tools Google provides the students and teachers. In this case Google Expeditions relies heavily on Google Cardboard, the Chicago Tribune refers to Google Cardboard as;
“cardboard virtual reality headsets that look much like old View-Master stereoscopes.”
We wouldn’t expect the mainstream media to actually know what Google Cardboard was but I digress. You can actually buy your own Google Cardboard or even make one with the dozens of DIY projects on the Internet. Google took 31 randomly selected students on an hour long adventure using Google Cardboard, Android smartphones and Android tablets. The first school to have the adventure was Georgetown Elementary School in Aurora, IL and the second and third were Cowlishaw Elementary and Hill Middle School in Naperville, IL.
The Google Expedition program allows the teacher to be interactive with the students while they experience the lesson in a virtual reality setting. The program can easily be setup to teach just about anything but virtual reality is a stimulating experience so what better way to demonstrate than with adventures through nature.
The idea for bringing Google to the school came about through Andy Fekete, an instructional technology specialist in District 204. Fekete said he is active with Google Apps For Education and got to experience Expeditions at a conference this summer. When Google, approached him about coming into District 204, he said he jumped at the chance. “I knew who cool it was,” Fekete said.
Allan Davenport, director of instruction technology for the district, said the district strives to give all students access to the same opportunities. “Some students might never have the opportunity to visit these locations,” he said.
Davenport said not only does the virtual adventure enhance learning and make students future-ready, it helps them become more globally aware and understand their role in the world. “Discussions after their expedition become much richer,” he said.
Google is working on bringing Expeditions to more schools and hoping that school districts will see the value in these tools and possible invest in them. Right now Google Cardboard itself isn’t that expensive but the Android Phones needed to go inside of them aren’t cheap. Though as Android devices continue to become more affordable, eventually so will this idea.
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