My school had the unbelievable good fortune to get selected for the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program and it was AMAZING! Here is how our day went.
First, it can never be a bad day when you go out to the parking lot and there is a Google car waiting for you.
Natasha was our Google Expeditions Coordinator for the day and she was fantastic. Energetic and quick on her feet; she was able to solve any problem we had throughout the day. She brought with her 3 sets of 30 Google Cardboard along with Asus phones, and a teacher tablet pre-loaded with all of the Expeditions. I arranged for classes to rotate throughout the day into each of the classes in 30 minute sections. While all of the teachers picked their Expedition in advance, they were free to change as the need arose because all of the locations were pre-loaded and we didn’t need an wifi connection.
The students took to Cardboard very, very fast, as was to be expected.
Of course, our Principal and Superintendent needed to get in on the action, too.
I think the best part of Expeditions is the material that’s pre-loaded for each location. As you can see in the following photo, if the teacher was unsure of what she was looking at, she could swipe to the left and all the information was right in front of her.
Included was an overall description of the location and some guiding questions for the teacher to ask the class. The teacher could tap on the photos and arrow would appear on the screen of the students’ devices to direct their attention to something specific. Smiley faces were on the screen of the teacher’s tablet showing where each student was currently looking so she could tell who was engaged in the lesson. The students loved going into the rainforests and any Expedition that brought them underwater, especially swimming with the sharks. Some of my personal favorites were seeing Jane Goodall’s home in Gombe, following the Museum Photographer from the Museum of Natural History, and standing on top of a building in Rome.
I think the best comment of the day was from a senior who said, “We’re in the freakin’ Colosseum but we’re really in a library in NJ!” I think that was the best part of this experience: showing the kids parts of the world that they have never or may never experience. We spent more of the day just having fun than actually linking it back to the curriculum, but I think that’s ok since we gave them an experience they will never forget.
So, where do we go from here? Actually, anywhere our imagination can take us. My Principal and I were talking and just in a couple of minutes we said: have teachers record vacations or locations from around the world and develop lessons with them, video ours of our school, walking tours of colleges, and a Google Street View walkthrough of our Art Show. Once the video and sound capabilities are included, Google Expeditions will become an amazing learning opportunity for students all over the world.