Google has always been a strong supporter of education with creation of teacher productivity tools, apps and classroom content, a lot of it free. Now the company has taken it further with the creation of the Expedition virtual reality platform built specifically for the classroom.
Now in a pilot (or pioneer, as the company calls it) program, Expedition is being tested in schools in five countries (including the U.S.) at no charge to the school. Classes are provided with kits for each student containing a smartphone and a cardboard viewer (reminiscent of the old school View-Master), a tablet for teachers, and a router for off-line viewing.
Once the Expeditions app is downloaded, the adventure can begin. Content takes the form of immersive, 360-degree panoramic views that are created from photographs strung together from Google’s Street View technology. Currently there are more 100 trips that were developed in collaboration with teachers. Locations include the Great Wall of China, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
Although the views are static, the platform is interactive. Students can view the entire panorama at their own pace. The teacher can highlight certain areas of the view and ask questions of the students (using provided editable notes) without the start-and-stop of a traditional video.
The program is being tested in ten regions of the U.S. To apply to be part of the test, a minimum of six teachers are required with one serving as the point person to help with scheduling the school visit and coordinating the day of the experience. Schools with the most interest have a better chance of being selected.
Eventually the company will charge schools for the equipment but the projected cost per student has not been determined. Google hope to expand the program to include opportunities for students to shadow professionals in a variety of career tracks.
To learn more and sign up, visit Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program.
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