Taking a class on a field trip to Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China or Yosemite National Park without leaving the classroom? This is what Expeditions Pioneer offers: this pilot programme developed by Google can take users on virtual tours of over 100 places, ranging from monuments to ocean beds and Mars.
The way it works is fairly simple: using cardboard viewers – a cardboard kit which can be either purchased or made in class, with a smartphone inserted in the back – the class can go on virtual tours with 360° views. The teacher, meanwhile, acts as a tour guide and can add comments to photos.
A LESSON ON Romeo AND juliet IN THE MIDDLE OF VErona
Jennie Choi, an English teacher at an elementary school in Chicago, recently took her class on a tour of Verona to see the setting of Romeo and Juliet. The six-grade students were thus able to explore the façades of ancient buildings, including the one known as “Juliet’s House” and the tomb where the fictional character could have been buried. And all this was done without crossing the Atlantic: the class explored the Italian city using Google Expeditions and their cardboard viewers, whilst Choi guided them around the city using a special app designed for teachers.
In an age when students are used to having instant access to information using effective digital tools, just lecturing them isn’t enough to engage them, Choi explained to the New York Times. This immersive experience with the virtual reality headsets helped the class understand Shakespeare’s work.
Chichen ITza, manhattan oR THE MOON: JUST ONE CLICK AWAY
The 360° views enjoyed by students are produced by assembling Google Street View photographs and 3D images from a 16-camera virtual reality rig.
The Expeditions Pioneer programme is currently being launched in the US, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The web giant is also planning to launch kits including the Cardboard viewer, Asus smartphones, a tablet for the teacher to run the tour and a router that allows Expeditions to run without an Internet connection.
So what next? There are plans to deploy the project in other countries and offer new services, such as helping students find out about future careers by showing them a virtual day in the life of a vet or a computer scientist, and working with Michelle Obama on her Reach Higher initiative by taking students on virtual college tours.