Google Expeditions Virtual Reality – The Real Life Magic School Bus

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Last school year, I was extremely excited when I learned our classroom was receiving a grant from the Mozilla Gigabit Community in the amount of $10,000.  Mozilla awarded ten $10,000 grants to various schools and entrepreneurs in our city.  Some of the grantees hoped to develop virtual reality classroom experiences for their foreign language students.  Others wanted to develop robots that would allow teachers to observe other classrooms and transform the collaborative process among their teacher community.  For our grant, we hoped to bring virtual reality into our classroom and also connect with museums, scientists, and other amazing outlets to take our students on virtual field trips.

Google Expeditions is a classroom virtual reality set that allows a teacher to direct and lead students on a virtual field trip that can take them virtually anywhere in our entire solar system.  Teachers are no longer bound by their classroom walls and the opportunities they have available in their own communities or within their reach.  We are now able to create experiences for our students that were before unimaginable and even unattainable, at times.  With hundreds of virtual reality lessons to choose from, the teacher is able to conduct the field trip from the comfort of their own classroom using the Google Expeditions kit.  For my Life Science classroom we will travel to the Galapagos Islands when we discuss Charles Darwins’ finch observations.  We will travel inside an animal and plant cell and take a look inside organ systems when we learn about the human body.  As we cover biomes, we will take our students to a tropical rain forest, underwater on a scuba diving expedition to a marine ecosystem, and to the very top of Mount Everest as we see an alpine tundra firsthand.  To see what the full list of all of Expeditions available follow the link below:

Google Expeditions List

Before I tell you how much a classroom set of Google Expeditions costs, know that I provide options for as cheap as $15.00 to bring virtual reality into your classroom later in this post (so keep reading)!  It is also important to know that one set can be used by an entire school.  The Google Expeditions kit is in a travelling case that is easy to take from classroom to classroom and can be used by almost any and every teacher in your school.  It is possible to have technology bought out of Title One funds and one set could serve the entire school.  Other possibilities include creating a DonorsChoose or applying for grants to provide this for your school.

A classroom set (30) for Google Expeditions is roughly $10,000.  There are options to purchase a set of 10 and 20 as well, for a fraction of the price.  The kit comes with 30 virtual reality sets (phones, viewers, chargers), a teacher tablet that allows you to direct the Expedition, a wireless router for everything to connect to, and a rolling case that everything can be stored in that makes this a travelling set.  With relative ease, the teacher can search through available expedition lessons and each lesson downloads in a matter of seconds.  The teacher clicks on the Expedition they would like to direct and presses play on each scene.  Students follow along on their virtual reality set as the teacher guides and directs them through the lesson.  The teacher is able to see on their tablet the scene the students are viewing, along with information to share to the students about each scene.  The teacher can direct students to specific areas in each scene and is able to see what each student is viewing represented by a smiley face.

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Without fail, my students get so excited each time I bring out the virtual reality set in our classroom.  When I launch each lesson, the classroom explodes with excitement.  The students are able to travel to places around the globe, explore foreign lands, see microscopic organisms and even go inside the human body.  Google Expeditions not only gets students excited about learning, but provides a visual understanding of many complex topics.  Currently, I am teaching the human body systems unit in our Life Science class.  As we finished discussing the cardiovascular and respiratory system I was explaining to students how these two systems work together to get oxygen into the body and delivered to each cell in the human body.  It is one thing, to teach students, but an even better feeling to show them exactly what you mean.

With Google Expeditions, I was able to transport my students into the human body and show them how oxygen is transported from our respiratory system into our cardiovascular system.  We were able to view the inside of the lungs, where capillaries wrap around the alveoli and the exchange takes place.  The Expedition goes even further by taking you into the alveoli itself where you can view the oxygen molecules moving into the bloodstream.  There is zero doubt in my mind that my students have a much greater understanding of and appreciation for the amazing machine that is the human body after seeing it at work, first hand.  I always feel like Mrs. Frizzle taking our students inside the human body, except there is no Magic School Bus–only a Google Expedition set.

The exciting part about Google Expeditions is that it applies to all subject areas.  There are amazing lessons for all types of teachers.  Social Studies teachers can take their students to the Great Wall of China, to view Mosques of the Middle East, to ancient and modern wonders of the world, or to live as refugee for a day.  ELA teachers can view Shakespear’s roundhouse or take their students to a unique location and have them write about the setting, describe other cultures, or simply set the stage for a story that connects to one of the Expeditions.  There are career explorations, college tours, and all sorts of other neat experiences you could incorporate into a variety of classrooms.  As we have been realizing how adaptable these Expeditions are, other teachers have been using this in their classrooms.  Because it is a case with rolling wheels, it makes it very easy for the entire school to use as a traveling set.

Whether or not you would like to have a set for your school, even one virtual reality set could be a great addition to your school or classroom.  Cardboard viewers are available online and are relatively inexpensive.  Cardboard viewers allow you to place a smart device (phone, ipod touch, etc) inside and create a virtual reality experience.  Simply download apps in your app store, many of which are entirely free, and launch the app in your cardboard viewer.  This could be an excellent option for teachers to use for enrichment, rewards, or even a rotating station in your classroom.  For students in middle or high school, they can place their own phone in the viewer.  For elementary school teachers, you could simply use your personal phone or find an extra smart device that someone has retired to place in your cardboard viewer.  These options would all give you the virtual reality experience in your classroom at a relatively inexpensive price.  The link below is the official Google Cardboard Viwer sold on Amazon for $15.00:

Google Cardboard Viewer on Amazon

Cardboard Viewer

I hope that you get to provide your students with this experience and witness the incredible learning opportunities that stem from this engaging and exciting virtual reality experience.  If you have any questions or need help getting started, please message me.  I would love to hear from you if you are using this in your own classroom and hear your experience!

2 thoughts on “Google Expeditions Virtual Reality – The Real Life Magic School Bus”

  1. I had seen this very briefly demonstrated at a conference by a “tech expert” but he was not a teacher so I wasn’t really sure how it could be implemented in the classroom. It does seem to have some pretty amazing applications in education. I doubt my school would have the budget for the proper kit but I might get myself a cardboard viewer or two and see what I can come up with for my German language students. Two posts in and you’re crushing this whole blog thing, keep it up!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! I always share hoping that it will help another teacher. I wasn’t sure how we would be able to use these when I first heard about Google Expeditions, but I am SO glad that we tried it because we learned how many possibilities there are to incorporate VR in the classroom! 🙂

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