Recently, our middle school librarian information specialists, Andrea Trudeau and Sheila Shiffrin, joined me on a visit to Hillel Torah in Skokie, Illinois to experience Google Expedition. The Instructional Technology Director of Hillel Torah, Beth Pollick Burke, happens to be DPS109 parent, and she graciously extended the invitation to the three of us to experience this exciting new technology in action.
Google Expedition is a virtual reality experience that uses a special viewfinder and Android phone that create a 360-degree panorama view of some part of the world. Controlled by a tablet, the teacher can take students to places around the world that students could never feasibly visit on a typical field trip. The students at Hillel Torah used Google Expedition to visit the Roman Coliseum, coral reefs, and Galapagos Islands. Students shrieked with delight each time they looked through the viewfinder to explore a virtual world.
This type of technology can extend learning by allowing students to be transported virtually to a new location and explore details that go beyond textbook reading. Teachers guide students throughout the expedition so that they know what to look for and how it applies to the learning within the classroom. While we thought this was a very exciting idea, I fear that the novelty may wear off rather quickly. There is no student choice in these expeditions since the teacher controls the entire journey. I also found that while the 360-view was pretty cool, there is only so much one can see. In my opinion, this first iteration of virtual reality field trips is fascinating, but as emerging headset technologies continue to develop, the experience may ultimately be more worthwhile when students can choose their expedition, explore more deeply in the expedition, and interact with the virtual environment. We probably won’t be rushing to purchase these devices, but we were grateful for the opportunity to see Google Expedition first-hand.
Special thanks to Beth Pollack Burke for the invitation!