IGNITE Spring 2017 - Page 4

FIELD TRIPS THE FUTURE Google Expeditions allows Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Catholic School to bring lessons to life To learn about geology, the students of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Catholic School gather in a classroom. They put on the appropriate headwear. And then they go right into the gaping mouth of an active volcano. Thanks to the virtual reality app, Google Expeditions, and the efforts of the school’s faculty, students can also join Paul Revere on his midnight ride. Or explore outer space, the ocean floor, and the organs of the human body. Ultimately, the students get to experience their lessons live and in person — no buses or brown paper bags required. “The kids are ecstatic,” says Jonathan Fox, technology teacher and classroom coordinator. “Each time we go to a new location, as it loads into their headsets, there’s just this shocked noise across the room. ‘Whoa!’ ‘Cool!’ The room explodes with voices. Instead of just watching the content, they feel as though they’re a part of it.” Google Expeditions is a free app that lets students explore virtual reality panoramas and 3D images of places around the world — and beyond. At Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, classes use virtual reality headsets that track their motions so students 4 can look up, down, and all around in each location. Teachers guide and narrate the tours, using the technology to teach practical lessons across all subjects. “The students don’t even realize they’re learning, because to them, it’s fun,” says Principal Denise Judge. “And that ties in to our mission to make it enjoyable, to make it meaningful, to make it real.” Mary, Mother of the Redeemer adopted the program in the fall semester of 2016. Fox says one of the biggest draws of the technology is that it is fully adaptable. A virtual trip to the Great Wall of China, for instance, can be used to teach lessons on history, geography, architecture, and math. And the app can be used on a range of devices, from advanced headsets to more affordable Google Cardboard viewers. Younger students and students prone to motion sickness can view tours on everyday smartphones or tablets.