Google Expeditions is revolutionising the classroom and giving students an opportunity to explore places from around the world that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.
I was lucky enough to work on the Google Expeditions Programme in the UK, where I visited over 100 schools, trained over 2,000 teachers and worked with over 40,000 students.
The response from teachers and students was overwhelming; teachers found the software easy to use and relevant to their scheme of work and students were completely engaged in the topic, showing curiosity and a desire to want to learn more.
Is this the future of learning? Does standardised teaching (using textbooks) need to change? I believe so.
I’m no expert in teaching and learning. I’m a qualified secondary school teacher but I’m a long way from being a guru on the subject. However, one factor I am aware of from my teaching experience is that students who are not engaged will not learn. In a secondary school, students will move classrooms up to five/six times a day, sitting in the same seat, staring at the same four walls and more often than not, use the same textbook.
When you are learning about topics you have no experience of, you often rely on your imagination from looking at a picture in a textbook or watching a video clip on YouTube. Although this helps, it doesn’t give you a sense of being there. VR software, like Google Expeditions, can fill this void.
Google Expeditions currently have over 600 different expeditions, ranging from underwater in the Galapagos Islands to an aerial view of the Great Wall of China.
The possibilities are endless.
Google are partnered with various organisations that help them to create the VR content, from National Geographic through to the Space Station Museum. The VR software also appeals to a wide age range; whilst working on the programme, I visited primary schools all the way through to sixth form colleges.
My main piece of advice for schools that are using Google Expeditions is don’t overuse it.
This is a complimentary learning tool and won’t replace excellent teaching. Use it as a starter activity or as a plenary to fuel students’ imaginations.
If you overuse VR in your classrooms, it will become predictable and may dilute that awe and wonder that it originally set out to create.
After finishing my contract on the Google Expeditions Programme, I started a company called, PrimeVR, that offers experience days and learning subscriptions to schools.