“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” —Bill Gates

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Google Expeditions Pioneer Program

Google for Education will soon make available to the public a new educational tool. It's called Expeditions Pioneer Program. For now it's in beta, but for the last months Google for Education has been piloting this program with select schools around the world.

When the call for participants launched a few months ago, my school immediately signed up. We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance education, and this seemed like a great opportunity we couldn't miss. Well we were lucky enough to be selected as one of schools to test the program in Mexico.

What is the Expeditions Pioneer Program? It is a virtual reality platform designed for schools. It's an Android app that works together with Google Cardboard. The Expeditions app is preloaded with approximately 150 different places to visit. No internet required. These places are locations on Earth such as landmarks and museums; in outer space such as the Moon and Mars, and it even includes journeys inside the human body!

You might be thinking what's so special about this, when we can already visit places through the Google Street View app, or other apps designed to work with Google Cardboard. The unique characteristic about the Expeditions program is that it includes a teacher dashboard, in which with the help of a tablet or a cell phone, the facilitator can send the expedition to the students' device. The teacher is also able to point at a certain place, see where students are "facing", read or edit the side information, turn on and off the devices, and set the devices to pause.

We scheduled 8 classrooms to test the Expeditions with students ranging between Grade 1 to Grade 9. At each and every single time we witnessed how students can still be surprised. The following video is a collection of the students' reaction to when they saw the expedition for the first time. Take a look at all the "aha" moments! This was my favorite part in each of the sessions I saw. The kids were very excited and right away mentioned numerous places they'd like to visit.

It's amazing how you could easily integrate this tool into your lessons and make them come to life. You can create meaningful lessons in which students can in fact "be there". Imagine how many conversations, discussions, inquiries and curiosity can spark by visiting places that otherwise would be almost impossible.

Stay tuned in the fall for when the Google Expeditions Program will be made available in the Google Play store. You and your students will have a blast!

(Did I mention it's free?)


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