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Expeditions across the Curriculum


Upon its launch, Google Expeditions quickly became one of the leading applications for easily implementing VR in classrooms via iOS and Android devices. About a year later and Expeditions is still one of the apps I recommend to educators looking to explore VR in the classroom for the first time.

Why?

  • It’s free

  • It’s very easy to pick up and master

  • It allows the educator to guide the focal point of the students enjoying the experience

  • Each session comes with an on-screen script for the educator to utilise as the guide

  • Expeditions include several linked panoramic images that can tell a broader story

  • It has a growing bank of high quality experiences

It’s this last point that I want to focus on here as not only has the volume of Expeditions grown over the last year but the catalogue of experiences has broadened to incorporate a wide range of subject areas. VR can often be seen as merely a tool for letting students look at distant locations. What Expeditions is successfully demonstrating is that VR can be used across the curriculum to enrich learning. There are so many great Expeditions but here I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites that can be used in different subjects:

GEOGRAPHY: Mount Everest

Naturally there are heaps of Expeditions that can be used for Geography so it made picking one pretty tough! I went with the Mount Everest one as it fits brilliantly with the Mountains topic that our Year 6 students work on. It’s also a great example of a virtual field trip to a place that no student would ever have been to nor would most likely ever visit in person.

This Expedition contains six scenes.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES: Places of Faith Around the World I was tempted to go for the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque one for this since it’s one of the few Expeditions to a place I have actually visited (it’s here in the UAE.) Instead I chose the Places of Faith tour as it covers a broader spectrum of religions and is an excellent way to highlight the similarities and differences between places of worship.

This Expedition contains seven scenes.

HISTORY: Time Jump – Beyond Domesday / World War II

Now most of the historical Expeditions are tours of sites of historical events or museums. Whilst these are great, this Viking/Saxon themed one stood out to me as it cleverly uses panoramas taken during reenactments – which can really give students the feeling of looking into the past in VR. Very clever idea that I’d like to see more of. Surely someone can make a Roman or Greek themed one?

This Expedition contains six scenes.

SOCIAL STUDIES: What Happens to Your Trash and Recyclables?

A socially conscious Expedition from New York’s Staten Island, this tour highlights the process of garbage collection and the important role that recycling plays in the modern world. This is a good example of how a VR trip can get an important message across.

This Expedition contains seven scenes.

PHYSICS: Engineering in the Everglades

There are surprisingly few offerings in Expeditions with a Physics/ Engineering type focus. I chose this visit to the Glasgow Science Centre as it has an informative scene looking at renewable energy and power sources. Hopefully there will be more content coming to support STEM learning.

This Expedition contains six scenes.

CHEMISTRY: Exothermic Reaction

A friend of mine was recently telling me about how scientists value VR since it can allow them to explore potential reactions in a simulated environment without fear of causing a catastrophic event. On a (much) smaller scale, this Expedition allows students to safely learn more about exothermic reactions as they get a close look at chemical explosions, TNT and more. An excellent choice for the Chemistry classroom.

This Expedition contains nine scenes.

BIOLOGY: Human Anatomy - Respiratory System

This Expedition is part of a really interesting series from Vida Systems that take the app in a whole new direction - inside the human body. Using 3D models rather than photographic images, the Expedition gives students an up close and personal look at the lungs and respiratory system as well as highlighting the dangers of smoking. They even get to stand inside a trachea! The nervous and circulatory systems are also available as Expeditions.

This Expedition contains six scenes.

ASTRONOMY: Fly with Nasa – Juno Mission to Jupiter

Space themed VR (and AR) has become pretty common already but this Expedition from NASA themselves is unique in that it focuses on Jupiter. The experience here is that of following the Juno robotic spacecraft on its five year trip to explore Jupiter and also includes a look inside Juno itself to get a better understanding of what it is capable of.

This Expedition contains four scenes.

ENGLISH: Roald Dahl Phizz-Whizzing

I love Roald Dahl so this one was an easy pick. This is a good example of the way VR can be more than people often expect. In this case, what users experience is a virtual reality biography, highlighting Dahl’s life and career by visiting key locations, archives and the Roald Dahl Museum to support the guide’s text. This itself works like a comprehension style exercise suchb as educators would use for guided reading sessions. It’s big too – with eleven great scenes to enjoy. Highly recommended.

This Expedition contains eleven scenes.

MUSIC: Berklee College of Music

Music was a tough subject to find an Expedition for, since the platform does not support audio (though I imagine the syncing of audio during a group Expedition could be problematic.) This new session is a worthy choice though, especially for music teachers working with older students who are interested in seeing the sort of things that go on at a prestigious music college like Berklee. This huge Expedition (14 scenes) take them everywhere from the recording studios and classrooms to the dorms and dining hall, effectively capturing life at Berklee.

This Expedition contains fourteen scenes.

There were two subject areas that I couldn’t find an Expedition for:

MATHEMATICS

There are no Expeditions with a mathematical focus and despite my best efforts, the links I could make to existing sessions were tenuous at best. I think there is potential here though. A session that explores the golden ratio, perhaps done in the style of the Human Anatomy series? Or something looking at angles? The mathematics behind the engineering of a bridge or structure?

MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES

Whilst MFL does not have a dedicated Expedition, language teachers could easily harness pretty much any of them. Learning languages is always bolstered by immersing the learner in a relevant environment and VR experiences like those offered by Expeditions could support this. Have students take an Expedition that supports an area of language learning and allow them to describe what they see in the language they are studying. At JESS Dubai we have already enjoyed some success using this technique with Secondary students learning Arabic.

#VR #iOS #Expeditions

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