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Lincoln/Roosevelt School Beta Tests Google Expeditions

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Students in Lincoln/Roosevelt School (LRS) experienced something new on Friday. LRS beta tested a new augmented reality (AR) app by Google called Google Expeditions.

Google Expeditions is an AR experience instead of the typical virtual reality (VR) one. Virtual reality brings students someplace such as the Museum of Modern Art or Paris. In this case, the Expeditions AR uses Google’s AR technology to map the physical classroom and places 3-D objects within that location. Students are able to walk all around the objects, get in close to spot details and step back to see the full picture. AR is when the adventure comes to your current space.

Teresa Rehman, Roxbury’s Director of Technology shared, “Since we use Google so much, we receive newsletters and information regarding upcoming products and services. Ruth and I both signed up for the Google Expeditions test via their website for Pioneer Programs. Ruth was contacted via email two weeks ago about setting up a site visit.”

The site visit and scheduling all took place within that two-week window. “I felt the best grade level to test with was 5th and 6th based on the fact that they could do so many sessions in one day and all students would be able to get through a session.”

Rehman reached out to LRS’ principal Chris Argenziano and he agreed. Argenziano selected four teachers to be trained the morning of and created a building schedule that would allow all 500 students to participate. Groups were split out alphabetically instead of by class or grade level. This allowed students to have an experience beyond their normal peer groups.

Jennifer Hallet, Jennifer Khomyak, Susanna Rodgers, and Jennifer Smith were the selected teachers to be trained and to test pilot this program to the students. The teacher training consisted of being shown how to use the app, tips on the best way to integrate the experience into their existing lesson plans, as well as the ground rules for students.

Prior to Friday, the teachers received about twenty different lesson categories they could choose from and brush up on to show the students during the individual half-hour breakout sessions. Some of the Expeditions included the Solar System, Forces of Nature, DNA & RNA, Circulatory System, World War II Warfare, the Space Race, The World of Ancient Rome, Renaissance Art, Dinosaurs, and more. Topics could be adapted for the age group and curriculum.

For the most part, the teachers all stuck with similar lessons of Dinosaurs, Fish, Forces of Nature, the Ocean Floor, and Phases of the Moon. The students used cell phones on selfie sticks provided by Google to explore. 

Students using the devices shared their excitement throughout their session saying, “Oh my god, that’s awesome!” or “This is amazing! I don’t want to leave!”

Being that this technology is still in the beta-testing mode, the app did crash a few times. Luckily, Roxbury had a few computer technicians on hand to be able to assist with any technology glitches.

Ruth Davis, Roxbury’s Technology Integration Specialist said, “Technicians who were present were able to quickly restart the app on any devices that stopped working so students could get right back to exploring.” 

Students paired up and took turns holding the device while learning. The teachers were able to share information related to the topic or image using the teacher’s device. 

Although this app is currently unavailable outside of the testing group, Roxbury uses another Google Expeditions app for virtual field trips. “This is done using iPads right now, but we have not rolled that out yet. The experience is a little different, but still would be valuable,” explained Rehman.

Rehman added, “I tried to get people to donate old phones so we could use Google Cardboard as virtual reality glasses, but we didn’t get any donations, so we will only be able to do it on the iPad for now.” 

Information about Google Expeditions can be found at https://edu.google.com/expeditions/. 

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