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Google Expedition

I am quite happy to admit that I am a bit of a techno-phobe. I am not a natural at blended learning and I really need to be convinced by the usefulness of an app before it becomes an embedded part of my classroom. I still think sugar paper rocks and I make no apologies for this!

So, when my name appeared on the timetable for a Google expedition session, I was certainly intrigued but mainly a bit worried about what it would entail. It was going to take me very firmly out of my comfort zone.

So, what is Google Expedition? According to Google:

“Expeditions is a revolutionary tool that teachers can use to make lessons truly immersive. With the use of Virtual Reality headsets; pupils can view an exciting variety of 360° photo spheres and 3D images including The Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Forest and even outer space. The teachers are able to see the images annotated with details, highlights, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.”

I have to admit, I was a little sceptical. I duly downloaded the app and had a look at the content and it seemed fairly good, but I wasn’t absolutely blown away by it. It didn’t seem to be any more ‘immersive’ than watching a video clip. However, I hadn’t factored in this:

“While Expeditions can be used on devices already in the classroom, they come alive with Google Cardboard. Our Pioneer Program kit is a collection of all the hardware needed to go on Expeditions — a tablet for the guide, VR viewers for each student and a durable box to transport, charge, and store it all.”

Or this:

“Expeditions are accessed and viewed through the Expeditions App. Teachers can choose an Expedition and lead a group of students through a virtual fieldtrip, selecting the content they’re viewing and pointing out specific points of interest along the way. Teachers are able to pause trips to get the class’s attention, keep an eye on where individual children are looking and even let students explore on their own.”

Wearing the headsets did truly make it an immersive experience for the students. It was fascinating watching them look at around the environment they were exploring and they loved it.

Using the app, as a teacher, I could guide them through the environment, asking questions and pointing out key features. With my Year 9 class, we explored the inside of volcanoes, the Pacific Ring of Fire and different types of volcano. I was able to point to specific features, question the students about them and pause the expedition to bring the class back together for discussion. The app comes loaded with information about each expedition and a range of possible questions that you could ask your students if you need inspiration!

I definitely left the session with all scepticism firmly gone and I do think that this would be a great addition to any curriculum. The students were incredibly positive about the experience after the session too; they thought it was fun and left them wanting to learn more. One student went as far as to say it was the most ‘sick’ thing he had ever done – high praise indeed!