Figure: A teacher showing the Google Expedition of Respiratory System to his Year 11 students. (photo by Shailey Minocha)
Google Expeditions is a Virtual Reality approach comprising of 360-degree photospheres of a location (e.g. a museum, or a city like Rio de Janeiro, an active volcano) along with the description of location, points of interest and suggested questions for discussion. Using a Tablet and via the Google Expeditions App (for Android and iOS), a teacher can guide students. Students experience the Google Expeditions through the smartphones embedded within the Virtual Reality (VR) viewers called Google cardboard.
About the project
The Open University (OU), UK is conducting a school-based research project (funded by Google and the OU) on the potential use of Virtual Reality via Google Expeditions in science and geography in school education.
Role of Google Expeditions in learning and teaching
In our earlier blog-posts, we have discussed about the role of Google Expeditions in learning and teaching and in supporting a variety of pedagogical approaches such as:
- in bridging virtual field trips with physical fieldwork;
- in experiential learning through simulations; and
- in inquiry-based learning - formulating questions for an inquiry in disciplines such as history, science and geography.
There are over 500 expeditions in the Google Expeditions App which could be useful for teachers in enhancing their subject knowledge and for preparing them for their lessons.
Google Expeditions App: A useful resource for educators
These are some observations from the data in our project.
Using the Google Expeditions App, educators can visit locations from tropical rainforests in Borneo to pyramids in Egypt and to Great Barrier Reef to familiarise themselves to diverse habitats. A science curriculum leader commented:
“There may be some [...] benefits, such as familiarising teachers with a range of habitats so that they are able to use different examples when explaining ecological concepts.”
A geography curriculum leader mentioned about how the resources in the Google Expeditions could fill gaps in the knowledge.
“The thing that is springing to mind at the moment is subject knowledge because a lot of trainees are coming… We've talked about having lots of disparate traditions of teaching geography and so geography degrees are very different depending on where you study. Some people are coming into the profession with very strong physical geography subject knowledge, for example, but quite weak human geography and that sort of thing.”
The virtual field trips can help educators to prepare them for physical field trips such as risk assessment, preparing enquiry before the physical field trip and even planning and hazard analysis about how to manage a group of students on a physical field trip.
“ [some teachers] don’t feel confident they understand what they want the children to achieve as a consequence of doing fieldwork outside. So that would be an area I think where teachers would see a direct need for CPD [continuing professional development] and I think that GE[s] [Google Expeditions] could help with that.”
In a subsequent blog-post, we will share further observations from the data.
If you would like to share your experiences and thoughts on this topic, please submit your comments to this blog-post. Alternatively, please send your thoughts by email through the envelope icon at the bottom of the page. Thank you.
THE PROJECT TEAM
Dr Ana-Despina Tudor and Professor Shailey Minocha at The Open University, UK
Dr. Matthew Kam, Research Lead, Google Education Products Team
The project partners in the UK are:
Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr Dave Morgan);
Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and
Geographical Association (Ms Becky Kitchen).