Google Expeditions allows students to be transported to far away places without leaving their classrooms! Using a tablet and Expeditions Teacher Dashboard, teachers can control what students see and are provided information to about key features of each Expedition tour location. Peering into the low-cost Google Cardboard students can see panoramic images displayed on the smartphone held inside the Cardboard Viewer. Kids have the freedom to turn their heads and even their bodies to virtually explore each 360 degree image. When students in my home district of Lynnfield, MA participated in a preview of Google Expeditions, their response was nothing short of giddy! See for yourself:
Expeditions’ Student and Teacher Interface
Teachers were equally thrilled with Expeditions’ instructor-friendly interface that they controlled from a tablet. All of the students views differed slightly based on where their heads are turned, however, teachers could quickly and easily direct students to look at a specific area of the panoramic image by pressing and holding on a spot, which created a circle around the focus area. Regardless of where kids are looking, they could see a white arrow (2) on their display to guide them to the focus spot the teacher wants them to go to. Teachers were able to “see” where kids were located in the virtual field trip because each was represented by smiley face icons (3) on the teacher tablet.
Teacher Guided Tours
The Teacher Dashboard also includes a sidebar (1) that contains key facts about each location, discussion questions – scaffolded, no less – and even points of interest, that when pressed are highlighted on the on the image. Expeditions is completely visual and meant to be teacher-guided experiences that supplement the curriculum. Our teachers took to this format readily and did a great job of allowing kids a good mix of self-directed exploring combined with teacher-highlighted areas and guided questions for students to respond to as they toured different areas.
Expeditions Hardware Requirements
Schools will be relieved to know that Expeditions does not require wireless internet service. All student viewers are controlled by the teacher tablet connected over it’s own local Wi-Fi network using a basic wireless router, so there was surprisingly no lag time loading and refreshing the images for students. The Expeditions app is free and available for iOS devices on iTunes and on Google Play for Android devices. Schools would need to purchase Google Cardboard, a single teacher tablet (Android or iPad) and smartphones (no phone plan needed) for student viewers. Some schools are asking parents to donate their old smartphones when they upgrade. Keep in mind the minimum requirements for devices that will run Google Expeditions.
Potential for Many Curricular Areas
New Expeditions are continually being added but some of the places our kids visited included Landforms, The Moon, Coral Reefs, Desert Habitats and a music recording studio. For a complete list of Expeditions, click HERE. Based on our preview, Lynnfield teachers and students are already asking when they can use Google Expeditions again! Expeditions is much more than an “neat toy”. It allows students to have an immersive experience and make visual connections to taught curriculum.