Three hundred Northview School students craned their necks Friday as they participated in beta testing for Google Expedition, a 3-D, 360-degree virtual learning experience modeled after Google Maps that uses a phone application and cardboard goggles.
Two classrooms at a time filed into the library at Northview where Google Expedition guide Danii Roundtree facilitated the test.
The students immediately engaged with the technology. After putting on the goggles, the students were looking in all directions while they "explored" one of the 160 landscapes the program offers, including underwater scenes and Mayan ruins.
“I thought it was really cool,” said seventh-grader Brianna Freese, who explained that the virtual tour was “kind of like going there,” and thought the technology “would be a step up for education.”
Student Dylan Gearhart said visualizing and seeing something helps students understand it, which was the case when his class viewed the Mesoamerican ruins they were studying.
Northview Principal Sheila Jenkins said she hopes the school will be able to implement the technology in the future.
“The students get to go on virtual field trips and see the things that teachers talk about in class,” Jenkins said. “This can enhance the learning experience in all content areas.”
Roundtree said the goggles help to make the experience accessible to everyone.
“Kids in wheelchairs, or who can’t afford a traditional fieldtrip, are now able to experience it,” Roundtree said. “Teachers also should be able to manipulate lesson plans for students who aren’t on grade level.”
After the students looked through the goggles, Roundtree asked for feedback to give to Google for its final development stage, which hopes to incorporate video and sound along with the photographs. The students had both positive and negative comments, mostly relating to the comfort of the goggles.
Jenkins said the school filled out an application to be a part of the beta testing process.
“The kids are so technologically advanced, so this is right up their ally,” Jenkins said. “We knew it was going to be great.”
Jenkins said she is unsure what the cost would be of implementing the technology into the classroom, but thinks that since most of her students already have smartphones, the cost might be more manageable.
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