Virtual field trip fun at M-W schools

on December 6, 2017

Just another day at Monroe-Woodbury…wait, what?

It wasn’t a typical day in some of our middle school and elementary classrooms. Not for the students, and not for the teachers. Some students were looking into the eye of a hurricane. Others were swirling above a spinning tornado. Others were getting an in depth view of the human circulatory system. Or visiting Ancient Greece. And it’s not every day students get to call themselves Google testers. Yup, not typical at all. Yet it’s just another day at Monroe-Woodbury.

The Google Expeditions Augmented Reality app, tested by approximately 1100 Monroe-Woodbury elementary and middle school students, allowed them to experience the world in ways they normally wouldn’t within the walls of the classroom. And, if the excitement and laughter coming from the classrooms was any indication, it’s a lot more fun than turning the pages of a textbook.

According to the Google Expedition website, “Google Expeditions enables teachers to bring students on virtual trips to places all over the world. Expeditions are collections of linked virtual reality content and supporting materials that can be used alongside existing curriculum.”

What’s a beta tester anyhow?

And the coolest part for the kids (aside from seeing natural disasters first hand and exploring inside the human body?!), was that they actually served as beta testers. The Google Expedition app isn’t available to the public yet; M-W was among those school districts that tested the product for “bugs” before its official release.

Field trips at the touch of a finger

Instructors began each session by explaining the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual Reality is defined as “the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment.” When students view virtual reality, they are experiencing  a completely different reality than what’s actually in front of them.

Augmented reality is defined as “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to add digital information on an image of something.” Examples of augmented reality include Pokemon Go and Snapchat.

With the use of cell phones and selfie sticks, elementary students spent time exploring natural disasters; middle school students had the added experience of an in depth look at the human body and a visit to Ancient Greece. Teachers “managed” these virtual field trips with the click of a button: they simply clicked a button to switch from a hurricane to an erupting volcano, for example.

“Google Expedition’s augmented reality was an awesome experience for our students.  Whether they were exploring a virtual tornado, seeing inside the chambers of the heart, or experiencing WWI warfare from inside a trench, it engaged them on their level and got them excited about learning. If our goal is to inspire students to become lifelong learners, then this is a tool that can help us get there,” said North Main librarian Rob Elser.

Back to reality (actual reality)

The hardest part about this interactive lesson? Returning to a “regular” classroom the next day!


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