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Pros: These engaging virtual field trips are beautiful and include everything needed to lead expeditions right away.
Cons: Getting enough connected devices and managing a classroom full of VR-toting students can prove challenging.
Bottom Line: With stunning scenes and a flexible delivery method, your students will thank you for journeying together through space and time.
Teachers can use Expeditions to supplement their current curriculum with virtual reality (VR) field trips. While VR classroom kits can be purchased, the app can be rolled out with existing devices or in BYOD classrooms. While teachers can lean on the included support material or rely on their own expertise to narrate each scene, there may be technical challenges to getting everything up and running -- be sure to test your network and technology before rolling this out with a full class.
VR is a new technology that will see increased use in the years to come, making now the time to help students build healthy VR habits. Motion sickness can be a real issue with some students using VR, so be sure to take frequent breaks and remind students that they can take the headset off their eyes at any time. If this is a problem for any particular student, allow that student to participate by holding a tablet or phone and experiencing field trips that way. Google Expeditions isn't designed to be used with children under 7 years old. And it's generally recommended to limit each expedition to 5 to 20 minutes. During that time, there's no reason that students can't remove the headset and look around at the real world briefly. It's also best to have students sit while using Google Expeditions, which will keep them from bumping into something and getting injured.
Editor's Note: Expeditions is no longer available, but much of the content is now embedded in Google Arts & Cultures.
Expeditions offers a series of virtual reality (VR) field trips that teachers can use to supplement their curricula. Each expedition is made up of various scenes that include 360-degree panoramas and 3D images. The content is provided by Google and partners such as WNET, PBS, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Planetary Society. Expeditions can work with any VR headset that holds a phone, including inexpensive cardboard ones (VR classroom kits can be purchased separately). However, a headset isn't required, as students can also hold a tablet or phone and turn and look up and down at the virtual environment around them (which is helpful for students who get motion sickness from VR).
To join an expedition, each participant needs a Wi-Fi-connected tablet or smartphone; teachers push the content to devices on the same Wi-Fi network and can pause, play, or change what students see. By touching an image, teachers direct students to look at a specific part of the scene. Extensive support materials that teachers can read aloud -- such as leveled questions and points of interest -- are provided for each scene.
Expeditions is a fantastic tool for extending the walls of the classroom. Students will love exploring the breathtaking images and learning more about the universe; teachers will enjoy the flexibility. Guiding students through an expedition that aligns with what students are learning will certainly boost the engagement. So many field trips are available that nearly every teacher will be able to find a way to integrate Expeditions with the curriculum. The most obvious connections are with social studies, where students can visit the places they're learning about -- ancient Roman architecture, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Chile, the Nelson Mandela Museum, festivals around the world, and so much more. Odds are there's an expedition available for whatever place is being studied. After using the app, it will become clear that there are many possibilities in other subject areas. For science, students can take a trip inside the human body, check out animals in the zoo, visit the surface of Mars, or learn about earthquakes. In language arts, students can visit the settings of Shakespeare's plays, or Roald Dahl's writing hut and re-creations of important places in his life.
Several colleges are beginning to add tours of their campuses to Expeditions, which is a great way to help students compare colleges. There are also field trips centering on all sorts of careers, such as firefighters, chemical biologists, product designers, metal artisans, and more. In situations like these, students can use Google Expeditions without a teacher guide, exploring their interests on their own. If students are on a self-guided trip, they can also choose to have the computer read text explaining the scene they're in. The people featured in careers and field trips represent different cultures, ethnicities, genders, and lifestyles, which helps to make an inclusive experience for students.