Google’s Virtual Reality Comes To Rockland
Michelle Downey and Brianna Peppino, Veritas Staff
On Tuesday, March 8, Google Expeditions representative, Kristen Thomas came to Rockland’s Rogers Middle School to give 6th grade students what they refer to as a 360 degree virtual reality experience. Two high school classes also had the opportunity to participate.
Richard MacAllister’s U.S. History class spent their class period taking a virtual reality tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park. Mr. MacAllister said that the students seemed to be really excited about this immersive way to learn about the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. This is the largest battlefield site in North America where 160,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought. Mr. MacAllister said, “It’s a unique way to view history, allowing the students to be able to engaged and immersed, creating a stronger learning environment.”
Joanne White’s Pathways students were able to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world and one that is visible from outer space. They also explored the Grand Canyon and many other habitats.
Virtual viewers, made out of a smartphone and a cardboard cut-out, were given to each student during their half hour session to take them on a trip to different and often hard to reach destinations. Lead teachers received a tablet that allowed them to guide their students on their “trips.”
In the morning 6th graders had visited the library where they were led on their Google Expeditions of the Tolbachik Volcano in Russia.
When first looking into the devices, students reacted with audible “ooohs” and “ahhhhs,” filling the library.
Sixth grader Callie Gillian said, “It’s amazing; [it’s] nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Sixth grade student Dar-Rentz Bernard said, “The experience is pretty different. It’s like taking a field trip, but we’re still in the classroom.”
According to Thomas, that is exactly what the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is trying to achieve. With each of these cardboard viewers students take a virtual reality, panoramic trip to places such as the Tolbachik Volcano in Russia, the pyramids in Egypt and the Grand Canyon. In each of the 20 half hour sessions, teachers were able to guide each student and explain different aspects of the places that students wouldn’t be able to see by just looking at a textbook.
Sixth grade science and geography teacher, Mara Carey said, “The students are so engaged and so into it. The enthusiasm is great.”
Lisa Ryan, RMS technology teacher, said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to travel anywhere in the world or even in space and learn about it. There’s dozens of different expeditions already available, so there are many ways that it can be integrated in every part of the curriculum.”
She also said that this virtual explorer could be included in a variety of classes and further help students learn about certain subjects and landscapes. Thomas said that the program will be available in the fall for schools to purchase.
Google will be returning to Rockland on April 1 when 4th and 5th graders will be participating along with several more high school classes.
Below is a photo gallery of some of the classes taken by Hannah Boben and Michelle Downey