Expedition Through The Eyes

New tech allows students exposure beyond the class

Noah Sacco, Sports Editor

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Imagine yourself strolling through the ancient ruins of the Colosseum, venturing through the depths of the coral reef, or gazing up at Michelangelo’s intricate paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Though these destinations are miles away, the new Google Expedition technology allows students to explore these landmarks and many more without leaving the room.

In February 2016, MN, along with other Millard schools, participated in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. Google’s mission was to share this new virtual-reality technology with schools across the country. During the program, several MN teachers were able to bring their classes to the computer lab to try the Expedition “goggles”. At the time, the goggles were made out of cardboard rather than hard plastic. Nonetheless, there was a great deal of excitement by both students and teachers for the virtual reality experience.

Millard Public Schools currently has one kit but will be purchasing a total of four kits. Assistant principal Susan Marlatt describes what the kits contain and effect they have on teachers.

“The kits contain 30 virtual reality headsets and an iPad for the teacher to provide the guided tour. Over 500 Google Expeditions are now available around the country and allow teachers to provide a virtual reality experience to connect and enhance class curriculum,” Marlatt said.

Google Expeditions allow teachers to take their students to nearly any place in the world. Classes can be lead on specific Expeditions with 360 degree panoramic views and 3D images with annotated details about specific highlights.

Sophomore Jon Sherman explains the Google Expeditions’ enhancement to the learning experience of students and how he felt during the virtual-reality tour.

“Classroom and textbook oriented curriculum often neglect the more visual aspects of learning and apprehension. However, a Google Expedition draws you into settings and cultures much more effectively. The actual device and program felt very similar to VR headsets and it was awesome to see the increased participation between students and teachers. Studies often correlate images and meaningful experiences with higher memory retention, which Google Expedition surely accomplishes. It’s very interesting to see MN take interest in non-traditional learning experiences which can improve student satisfaction, attention, and memory,” Sherman said.

This year, many teachers brought their classes to the Google Expedition training on March 1. One of the teachers included AP U.S. history teacher David Diehl.

“It’s pretty compelling to experience an event than to be told about it. For instance, we used the Google Expeditions and the learning devices to teach about World War I. We got to tour a WWI battlefield, experience a trench and examine World War I weapons. Instead of just having me ‘tell’ students about these items, we actually get to ‘experience’ it,” Diehl said.

Once students learn about a certain geographical location or landmark, the teacher can lead the class on an “expedition” through the location in order to help them truly grasp what they’re learning. Multiple teachers are looking to implement the Google Expeditions into their curriculums this upcoming May.

One of the teachers who intends to use this technology includes English teacher Elizabeth Reisbig. She plans to use the Google Expeditions with her class after reading Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible.

“I think it will be a huge asset to my students as we read the play because they can picture the setting more clearly in their minds having ‘been’ there. I think it will also help them to understand the context of the story and the lifestyles of the characters much more,” Reisbig said.
Additionally, other MPS faculty members are looking forward to these hi-tech devices for their students. District technology director Kathy Smith believes the inclusion of Google Expeditions can greatly impact students’ learning experience.

“What I love the most from students experiencing Google Expeditions is the organic curiosity and questioning that I see and hear. Research has shown that the best learning occurs when students are the ones asking the questions as that demonstrates a high level of engagement and critical thinking,” Smith said.

Junior Nithya Mudgapalli talks about her enjoyment of the new technology within her learning environment.

“These Expeditions gave me the ability to experience rather than just read, listen, and take notes. It seems like our classes today are about grades more than they are about learning and it was nice to feel as though I was learning, not for a grade, but just to understand,” Mudgapalli said.

Through a pair of glasses, teachers can take students on immersive, virtual journeys regardless of the time of day. With Google Expeditions, students and teachers have the capability to explore the world through a first-person viewpoint without leaving the classroom.

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Expedition Through The Eyes