Last fall I heard that #GoogleExpeditions were coming close to my school – so I submitted the application! I was so excited to hear we had been tentatively accepted, dependent on scheduling!
After a VERY fast turn around (2.5 days total) I scheduled 2 classroom spaces, 20 classes, 16 teachers and about 600 students into 30 minute spots all day long. We were all set for January 5th, two days after winter break ended and EVERYONE was excited!
A few teachers were nervous – this was unlike anything they had ever experienced before and they wanted all the answers before we started, but I didn’t have answers. I assured them that I would be there to help and we would learn it together.
On the morning of the expeditions, I was nervous too! I knew that our Google Guide would arrive about 7:15 – but I had no idea how I’d know who to help carry stuff in… and then she pulled in.
We quickly wheeled in two rolling tough totes and got started with our teacher training session. The totes each contained 30 Google Cardboard viewers, 30 nexus phones, a wifi router, power cords and extension strips and an android tablet.
Set up was as easy as plugging in the router, passing out the devices and turning on the phones inside. We were good to go! The biggest trouble (and it was very minor) was if devices tried to connect to the wrong room’s wireless network. Easy enough to switch it to the right network and we were back in business!
The staff LOVED this first experience! Kristen, our Google Guide, let us experience what the students would see. The excitement was incredible and they were all anxious for their time slot to arrive so their students can experience this! Next, Kristen led them through the features of the teacher app for Expeditions. This includes the notes, indicators of where students are looking, variety of expeditions and images within each expedition, and how to draw students attention by placing an indicator in their field of view.
The only downside of this training being held immediately before school on the day we experienced expeditions was that many of my teachers wanted more time to browse through the expeditions that were available. We had a list with a brief description, but after browsing through what was available, several teachers found that there were other choices that tied in to their curriculum better.
After a few minutes of break it was time to start the day. We had scheduled classes 2 at a time in 30 minute periods, back to back from 8:10-10:45, an hour for lunch and then the rest of the sessions from 11:50-2:30. Once they started, it was nonstop excitement! Teachers and students loved it! I wish we could have caught the AhHHH moments when students realized how they could turn around, look up and when they saw some of these scenes!
Teachers had access to notes about the expedition that they’ve chosen and they guided their students in learning about these locations that fit right in with what they were learning! I listened as teachers led discussions about
symbolism and battles at Gettysburg, about the history of the Globe Theatre – did you know it had been destroyed twice before? I learned about pitcher plants – the digestive juices in the bottom of this plant were as acidic as stomach acid? I learned how to tell male and female whales apart (shapes of their tales?) They visited Edinburgh Castle to learn where they would set the fight scene they were about to write. Students toured Auschwitz before beginning to read Elie Weisel’s Night. A group of students who have recently arrived from other countries and are learning English visited the new 7 Wonders of the World and were SO excited to see that their countries were featured!
It was fun to watch the students try to tell their classmates where to look – after they realized that pointing didn’t do any good. Afterwards, we plugged these in to charge, packed them up and our Google Expeditions Guide was on her way.
I followed up with teachers and students – words like WOW and FABULOUS and SO EXCITED!!!! were what I heard over and over from everyone. The only negative feedback from any students or staff that I received was that they wanted more time and that they would spread the chairs out a bit more so they didn’t bump into each other when they were turning and pointing. One student commented that he thought someone else sweated on the cardboard viewer before he got it. Really! That’s it!
Our next steps are to figure out how to use this more widely with our students. #GoogleExpeditions app isn’t available yet, at least until they finish this pilot at the end of May. BUT we are trying to work out logistics of buying our own set of Google Cardboard to take advantage of the many youtube videos, images and apps that are already available (most for free). We need to figure out what devices to use inside the cardboard. Students have their own devices, but some of the apps and images that need to be downloaded are so large, they might not fit onto the students’ devices.
Our student services department would like to have some of these so students could visit college campuses virtually. More and more colleges are filming college visits in Google Cardboard enabled formats.
One of our teachers shared this article today from CNN – a surgeon used Google Cardboard to find a way to save a child’s life!
I can’t wait to see what our students and teachers do with this technology!
So – have you experienced #GoogleExpeditions? Have you used Google Cardboard? What advice for the devices do you have? Thanks!