Thanks to Google, students at Kipp Central City Academy were able to visit the seven modern wonders of the world as well as Colonial American churches – all on Wednesday.
Kipp was one of a handful of schools around the world to host a demonstration for Google Expeditions, a new app that will enable teachers to take their kids to places all over the planet, even underwater or outer space, said Jennifer Holland, program manager at Google.
“We have over a hundred fifty different expeditions on different topic areas,” said Holland, “and they’re annotated with descriptions and questions so the teachers have a baseline to be able to integrate it into their curriculum.”
The virtual technology uses cardboard viewers – think old-fashioned 3-D glasses, but stronger and without the red and blue shades – that serve as mounts for simple smart phones that the students wear, creating a 360 degree panorama. The teacher uses a tablet that allows them to direct their students to different places within the app, said Holland.
“What we see is that the teacher is really able to bring those abstract concepts to life and engage students in a far different way than they would with a traditional textbook or video,” Holland said.
Students will even be able to tour colleges and potential jobs with the program.
“One of the things we want to do is make it really easy for kids to explore to get them excited about what’s outside their classroom,” said Holland. “We think that field trips are fundamentally so important and really part of the learning experience, but often field trips don’t happen as often as they should, so we wanted to provide teachers with a way to be able to bring those place into the four walls of the classroom and really create a dynamic learning experience for the kids.”
All of a sudden, “kids that historically haven’t been able to travel or have never been to some of these remote places, they all of a sudden have a chance to visit,” said Holland.
Expeditions can focus on cultural and artistic experiences as well, Holland said. “We’re working with a number of different types of content partners – historical sites, museums, arts and entertainment as well.”
Already up and running is the Google Cultural Institute, which works with museums to bring different exhibits online. “So if the kids wanted, they could go with their teacher to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. We have three different exhibits from that museum.”
Expeditions runs on a peer-to-peer network, so it doesn’t require the internet to use – important for schools, said Holland. “Schools usually have limited bandwidth or connectivity, so we didn’t want to take away from those precious resources.”
Expeditions is about a year into its pioneer program. Along with KIPP and a couple of other schools around the country, Google has brought kits to Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the U.K. and Denmark. Holland said more U.S. cities and Canada are on the horizon. “Schools sign up and, based on their interest, we bring the kits to those schools.”
For more information, visit www.google.com/expeditions.