Students at Dixon Road Elementary received a visit from Internet giant Google on March 21.
Students took part in a virtual reality field trip via the company’s Expeditions Pioneer Program. Jackie Tingen, technology facilitator at Dixon Road, applied for the free program, which has visited select schools all over the world.
“I actually was just Googling ideas to do with the kids and technology and I came across Expeditions,” Tingen said. “I filled out the form for them to come, and two weeks later, I got an email that said, ‘Congratulations, we’d like to come to Johnston County Schools.’ ”
Patrick McClanahan, a classroom team leader for Google, brought a Expeditions kit with everything teachers need to take their students on journeys anywhere around the world.
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“We had goggles, and our teacher controlled where we were going,” said Violet Whoolery, a third-grader in Angel Beaman’s class. “It looked really cool. When we went under the sea, there was a whole bunch of fish and sharks.”
The app takes its inspiration from the classic View-Master slideshow toy. Students use a smartphone, the Expeditions app and cardboard goggles to create the virtual reality experience. The Dixon Road students were immersed in outer space adventures, jungle explorations and undersea voyages.
“A lot of people won’t see much of Mars or outer space or Africa, and I did that in class today,” said Clara Smith, a third-grader in Hilliary Williams’ class.
In all, Google visited six Johnston County schools. The others were Glendale-Kenly, Micro-Pine Level and East Clayton elementary schools, Archer Lodge and North Johnston middle schools and Johnston County Early College Academy.
“It’s not something that everyone can experience right now, so it’s an honor to have us be able to participate in this,” Tingen said. “To have people from Google come and let our kids experience this technology hands-on is amazing.”
The free app is in the beta testing phase and is available only to schools selected to take part in the Expeditions program. A public version is scheduled to launch in December.
“The fact that it’s even available and they’re working to improve it so kids who live in Willow Spring can go to Egypt and see the pyramids and expand on their knowledge is amazing,” Tingen said.
The Expeditions’ imagery is annotated with details, points of interest and questions to assist with curriculum integration. Teachers can control what the students are seeing and pinpoint certain areas for teaching examples. Google also provides questions specific to the areas provided in the program.
Tingen hopes to make Expeditions a permanent learning resource at Dixon Road Elementary.
“This program was much cooler than learning out of a book” said Tug Barnett, a third-grader in Michelle Taboas’ class. “I’d like it if we could learn like this all the time.”