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Technology brings field trips to the classroom

Students from across the school took science lessons with a difference this week as we welcomed a team from Google to help deliver a morning of virtual trips to far away lands through the Google Expeditions programme.

Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.

On the morning of Wednesday 1st March part of the school’s science timetable was dedicated to these extraordinary lessons, with over 450 students having the chance to experience Google Expeditions.  The teachers were briefed by the Google staff at the start of the day on how to use the equipment:  a tablet for the teacher, and Cardboard viewers and phones for every student.  Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) viewer made almost entirely of actual cardboard. Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality.

The equipment is handed out to the class, then the teacher selects a destination, and the entire classroom jumps there automatically through the VR headsets. Destinations used on the day included the human digestive system, the solar system, the process of photosynthesis and prehistoric earth. 

Safia Kauser, Aspiring Lead Practitioner for Science who organised the activity said: “When this opportunity was presented to us it was too good not to follow up.  These lessons show the role that technology can play in education and the lessons give the students opportunities to experience science in a way they have never been able to before.  It is a really inspirational tool for teaching and learning which I am sure the students and staff enjoyed using.”

Gill McFadden, Head of Science said: “We were delighted to welcome the team from Google to deliver Expeditions here at Grange.  Students across the range of abilities really engaged with and learned from the activity, which not only caused some excitement, but more importantly provided a unique insight into the subject.” 

The trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.  The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.  While nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, Expeditions provide an unparalleled opportunity for  supplemental learning.

The event also attracted press coverage in the Telegraph & Argus.  Read their coverage here.