By Andrew Cluley
AAPS Communications Specialist
Just before winter break students at Ann Arbor Skyline High School visited the Galapagos Islands, Chichen Itza, Angel Falls, and a number of other locations across the globe. All of these trips were taken without ever leaving the confines of Skyline’s media center thanks to Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. Skyline and Lawton Elementary School were two of the schools to pilot the virtual field trips program that’s not yet available publicly.
Instructional technology teacher Peter Pasque says the program is similar to the Google Cardboard that’s available, but with some added features. “The teacher controlling what the students see, which expedition they’re on, can highlight areas for them to look at, and can pull up notes so they can speak about the places they are taking the students,” Pasque says.
He says it’s just a pilot program now, but already students can be taken on a wide variety of trips. “They’ve got everything from under sea to outer space to career explorations. There are probably 10 to 15 career explorations that they can take the kids on as well as sites all over the world. It’s incredibly immersive,” Pasque says.
Students place the cardboard devices containing a cell phone to their face, then raise and lower their head, and rotate to take them on a 360 degree exploration of a site they may never be able to physically visit. Teachers control the visit from an IPad with the ability to place arrows to guide students to circled items of interest.
Science teacher Dusti Vincent guided her students around the Galapagos Island, sharing some of the exotic birds and other animals that helped lead Charles Darwin to scientific breakthroughs. “The Galapagos is like my dream vacation, so to be able to take them there and this is something we’re going to study when we come back from the break, is evolution and ecology and how that all fits together, it’s neat for them to see that and explore a place that they might not ever go in their lifetime,” Vincent says. She believes the students will benefit from the virtual trip by having a clear image in their head they can connect to when discussing the Galapagos Islands.
Pasque says the virtual field trips proved valuable for all students. “We had a hearing impaired class in here earlier today and they were loving it as well. So we went from AP to self-contained classrooms and both seemed to enjoy it equally which I think is good testimony,” he says.