Using Google Expeditions in the Classroom
Google Expeditions is a free app that is a teaching tool in virtual reality. Think of it as allowing students to take a virtual field trip to any place in the world, at any time in history. It is designed for classroom use, and it permits teachers to act as “guides” to their students in the virtual world.
There is a script for the teacher to use as a guide, so this is not meant to be an experience where students wander randomly, but rather a guided expedition. This makes it easier to correlate the Expedition with instructional objectives. The app can be used on students’ own phones, but to get the full experience, you need a phone with a gyroscope and accelerometer. Do note that only children older than seven are, according to the information in the app, supposed to use Expeditions.
Adult supervision is important since this is an immersive experience. You don’t want students crashing into each other because they are so focused on what they are doing in the virtual world. Some teachers report that students who stand get dizzy and may fall over, so they recommend that students sit while using the Expedition and simply twist their upper bodies to move around.
Students can use Google Cardboard to mimic a VR headset, and while the effect is not identical to that of a state-of-the-art VR outfit, the price is certainly more friendly, with some commercial options costing under ten dollars, as well as an option to make your own. It is also possible to enjoy a Google Expedition on a phone without Cardboard.
The list of available Expeditions is growing by the day. Teachers of any age student and of any subject matter will be able to find something relevant to their classroom. Students can tour the Amazon as they learn about geography, they can visit a national park in South Africa as they study large mammals, or they can visit Rome’s masterworks. Expeditions is a boon to foreign language teachers, who can use the immersive world as a novel opportunity to practice a variety of language skills.
In some cases, they can even enter into a setting in which the target language is normally spoken. Art and creative writing students will surely be inspired by what they see in virtual worlds. Expeditions can also be a great benefit to students who, for example, are unable to attend a live field trip due to health or other concerns.