From Mountaintops to the Moon, Students Take A (Virtual Reality) Tour

Google brought its Expeditions program to Project Extra this week, where students tested the technology and offered their feedback. Not that the “oohs” and “aaaahs” and “wows” weren’t evidence of engagement, but Google reps wanted to know how students envisioned Expeditions enhancing their learning.

Expeditions uses virtual and augmented reality tools that instantly transport users to remote places where they can learn about almost anything imaginable. Using Google “cardboard” (cardboard binoculars fitted with lenses and an Expeditions enabled smartphone), the students viewed coral reefs and great white sharks in lifelike 360 degrees, visited the dinosaur exhibit at Berlin’s natural history museum and peeked over the rim of a Hawaiian volcano, among other jaunts.

In the room next door, students were beta testing Google’s education-oriented augmented reality program where the expeditions were even more out of this world than Dr. Seuss could have imagined when he wrote Oh The Places You’ll Go. Students zoomed in on the surface of the moon, dove inside a spinning tornado, and flew over our own blue globe to see the earth as it appears from space. The augmented reality technology also uses a smart phone but unlike VR, AR brings the image into lifelike view within the environment, as if the tornado, strand of DNA or magnified bacteria cell were in the classroom.

Kevin Kiprovski, the expeditions associate from Google, was impressed with the students’ knowledge (several informed him that Venus is, in fact, hotter than Mercury despite Mercury’s closer proximity to the sun). He asked students for their input on the technology’s benefit for learners. Here are some of their answers:

“It’s better when it’s 3D because you can view it from all sides,” said Michaela Ressegger.

“Some students are visual learners and can take away so much more when they see things than when they only read about them in a text book where the pictures are small and a lot of times they’re not even in color,” said Dylan Denenberg.

Madison Johnson was all about the scientific method, and posed a hypothesis as to whether the five layers of the hurricane she had just viewed via the augmented reality tool might be related to the five categories of storm classification.

“It’s fun,” Riley Rugolo opined, “so it makes you pay attention and remember it better.”

After each demonstration, students swapped rooms so that they could test both tools. Kindergarten and OHS Castleton students also visited for their own demos.