Google Expedition Pioneer Program comes to BFA

This week BFA students had the opportunity to venture off on virtual field trips using Google Expeditions. Expeditions is a new digital resource that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.

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Technology Integrationist Rhonda Siemons applied to the program in January and BFA was one of a few schools to be selected. Google Expedition provided BFA with all the necessary materials. A box arrived with everything the class needed to travel: a tablet for the teacher, and Cardboard viewers and phones for every student. Next, the teacher selects a destination and the entire classroom jumps there automatically.

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Various teachers in Grade 2-12 participated in this unique opportunity. There were 20 sessions that ran throughout the day where students were able to virtually visit Borneo, London, the Grand Canyon, Ocean Safari, National Parks, Machu Picchu, and even WW2 sites. These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used by BFA teachers. The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.

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Each teacher selected from a multiple rich virtual adventures for their class to participate in. Then they directed their students using the provided tablets to explore using the Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is a virtual reality viewer made almost entirely of actual cardboard. Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality. There have been more than 5 million Cardboard viewers shipped since they were announced in 2014.

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While nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, Expeditions provide an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning. Google Expeditions illustrates how technology can support flexible learning environments. This experience found students highly engaged in interacting with this innovative technology.

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Throughout the day, the positive energy could be seen and felt. The experience allowed for the content to come alive for the students. Most students commented on how real the content was for them. It allowed for rural Vermont students to experience “real” caves, hot air balloons, and much much more.

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Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments – FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation and personalized learning opportunities for all.

Action Steps – (1) Increase access to resources for all students. (2) Provide students with access to content, resources and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. (3) Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferable skills in authentic settings.

Indicators of Success – Staff, students and the community embrace digital, social, mobile learning styles. (2) The school calendar and definition of the school day is flexible and responsive to the needs of students. (3) Students engage in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings. (4) Flexible learning environments are the context for collaboration and extend beyond the classroom.

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