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How You Should Use This Summer to See if Virtual Reality is Right for Your Classroom

How You Should Use This Summer to See if Virtual Reality is Right for Your Classroom

After more than one million students in 11 different countries tried out Google Expeditions through its pilot program, Google announced last week the full release of the virtual reality system via an app available to any Android device (with an iOS app for Apple products to follow).

The app, which turns into a virtual reality experience when coupled with Google’s corresponding cardboard viewing finder, comes with over 200 virtual field trips to distant lands that most schools don’t have the budgets to physically send students to. Add in the fact that big names in education are working to develop their own virtual reality field trips and corresponding lesson plans and it seems pretty obvious that VR experiences could very well be the next big thing in education.

Which is part of the reason why you should be using this summer to familiarize yourself with the technology and how to integrate the experiences in your classroom.

Here are some resources that will help you seamlessly make this possible- and undoubtedly be a leader in your school by taking such initiative.

 

1. Get your materials ready.

Before even checking out corresponding lesson plans and reading reviews on how implementation is going, first thing is first. Get started getting familiar with Google Expeditions by simply downloading the app (if you don’t have an Android device, you’ll have to wait for the release of the iOS version, although it’s unclear when exactly that will be).

The app, called Cardboard, is available for free download here. You need a Google cardboard viewing finder to make the experience meaningful, but you can purchase the most basic (and recommended!) model for just $15 here. Well worth it to find out if the product is educationally relevant for your classroom, we think. 

 

2. Now, give it a try.

Summer represents a great opportunity to use downtime to give Expeditions a try.

This means becoming familiar with all of the corresponding resources that are at your fingertips. For instance, last week Google announced a partnership with TES Global that will provide teachers free access to resources, discussion questions and teacher-made expeditions.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the fact that the partnership also provides access to training on how to best use Google in the Classroom. If you’re not confident in your ability to navigate the intricacies of Google’s classroom tools, gaining confidence through these free training materials can’t hurt.

Training even includes device training of both Android tablets and Chromebooks. If you’re an iOS user who is switching over to Android for the purposes of using Expeditions, this training is basically made for you. See the training resources available to you here.

 

3. Engage your peer community.

 

After you’ve trained yourself to get comfortable with the kit and the resources available, engage your peers that are doing the same.

Having a solid professional learning network is critical for many aspects of the teaching profession, and it’s no exception here. Use your PLN to discuss how Google Expeditions can be an engaging tool for the classroom. Share your ideas with these peers and listen to the ones they have. For this exchange of ideas to happen even before the school year begins means you’ll be in pretty good shape come September to start implementation if you so choose to.

 

4. Start shopping.

Has your testing led you to believe that your classroom would benefit from Expeditions kits? See if the kits are within reason of your school’s budget by looking at bundled price points here. 

Kits (which are based on class sizes) are available through Best Buy Education and start at $3,999. According to Best Buy’s site, those interested in learning more about the kits (which come with both student devices AND viewfinders) have access to a personal account manager "who will empower you and your students with the learning resources you need.” Check out Best Buy Education here. 

And of course, share with us! Let us know how your experience with Google Expeditions is going after you start testing the waters.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

7/5/2016

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