The Virtual Reality-based virtual field trips (VFTs) - Google Expeditions - are aimed at bringing field trip experiences into classrooms to support and encourage outdoor fieldwork.
Google Expeditions (GEs) are guided tours (field trips) of places that students experience on a smartphone through a virtual reality viewer called Google cardboard. GEs are comprised of virtual reality panoramas and are led by a guide or teacher. Using a Tablet, teachers can guide up to 50 students wearing the virtual reality (VR) viewers and point out highlights while referring to editable notes.
Google Virtual Reality Research Award
Our project 'Pedagogical and usability evaluations of Google Expeditions' has received the Google Virtual Reality Research Award. I am the Project Lead and we (at The Open University, UK) are working in collaboration with Dr Steve Tilling and David Morgan of UK's Field Studies Council and in association with UK's Geographical Association (GA) (Rebecca Kitchen and Alan Kinder) and The Association for Science Education (ASE) (Marianne Cutler, Director for Curriculum Innovation, ASE and Dr Richard Needham). Our collaborator in the Google, NY team is Dr. Matt Kam.
Our previous research on the role of VFTs in learning and teaching fieldwork has shown that the high-degree of realism of VFTs in emerging technologies such as in 3D virtual worlds and VR complement the physical field trip experience. In addition, VFTs facilitate experiences of processes and locations that may not be possible or extremely difficult to arrange in real life: draping maps over landscapes, investigating the marine life on the ocean floor, or being able to visit places where physical visits and footfall is highly restricted.
The focus of this Google-funded project has been to investigate the pedagogical effectiveness of GEs, in biology and geography fieldwork – subjects that have a long tradition of physical fieldwork.
The project has been addressing some of these questions: whether virtual field trips can be used effectively to support the teaching and demonstration of fieldwork skills such as experimental design, ecological sampling, recording and analysis of data?; can a VR experience enhance physical fieldwork?; can VR-based field trips support self-directed inquiry-based learning and higher-order thinking?; and what are the perceived barriers, if any, for adoption of VR-based field trips?