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8 tips for your best Google Expeditions VR pilot

Virtual reality is becoming more commonplace in classrooms across the nation-here's how to take advantage now!

As recently as the 2016-2017 school year, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of schools responding to a survey said they have tested virtual reality solutions, and while that number could certainly be higher, it’s an indication that the technology is expanding.

These days, virtual reality has moved from a hypothetical in vintage sci-fi movies to a legitimate learning tool that, when used correctly, helps students increase both engagement and achievement.

That same survey also noted that almost two-thirds of schools said they are somewhat unsure or not sure their IT infrastructure can currently support virtual reality technology, and some schools also mentioned a lack of available virtual reality content.

But as companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony expand their virtual reality tools and content, the technology’s use in education is becoming more and more real.

With so many educators hopping on the Google Expeditions bandwagon, classroom virtual reality seems like it’s within reach.

Google Expeditions are collections of virtual reality panoramas–360° panoramas and 3D images–annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools. They help teachers bring their students on virtual field trips to places like museums, landmarks and outer space.

In an eight-step infographic, Heather Kilgore, an instructional technology coordinator for Commerce ISD in Commerce, Texas, shares the lessons learned from her district’s Google Expeditions pilot program.

(Next page: 8 steps to your best virtual reality pilot)

1. Secure administrator buy-in: This important step can help get admins and teacher-leaders on your side. Don’t neglect other stakeholders such as classroom teachers, parents and students, though.

2. Explore alternative funding options: Funding pilot programs can be a struggle. Be sure to explore all of your funding options, such as grants from foundations,, etc. There is money out there if you are willing to dig a little and do the work.

3. Research devices carefully: Do your research and select a device that meets the minimum specifications for the Google Expeditions application. If you want the full effect of 360 Expeditions, be sure you buy devices with the accelerometer and gyroscope capability. If you buy them individually and not from a company, be sure and test a single device before purchasing them in bulk.

4. Preview the Expedition and plan your lesson: There is a lot of content in each Expedition, including a teacher guide and script. View all of the scenes in the Expedition prior to the lesson in which you will use them. Not all of the information is applicable to your standards or grade level. Take the content and make it your own. Decide which scenes to cover, where to pause, and how to connect it to your learning goals. Here is a list of all of the Google Expeditions in a Google Sheet.

5. Test with a small group of students: Before you do your first Expedition with a full class, test will a small group of students first. They can help you find what doesn’t work, but on a smaller scale. You never know what little things you may want to tweak with the devices, and you want to get in a little practice leading your first expeditions.

6. Adjust the device settings: There may be other things you learn during your test group that can help you tweak the device settings to better fit your needs and the needs of your students.

7. Model best practices and processes: Model use of the kits for teachers and student, and let the kids “ooh” and “ahh”–noise is OK!

8. Share what you’ve learned and spread details about your experience.

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Laura Ascione

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