Google Virtual-Reality System Aims to Enliven Education

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Virtual-Reality System Aims to Enliven Education.

Google detailed its Expeditions project back at I/O, and now the company is looking to get schools more involved. Earlier this year at its I/O developer conference, Google announced ‘Expeditions,’ an app that lets teachers create synchronized virtual school trips using the company’s Cardboard virtual reality viewer.Google is today introducing the Expeditions Pioneer Program, a new initiative to help teachers and students use virtual reality in schools around the world.As part of a class last year on “Romeo and Juliet,” Jennie Choi, an English teacher at Mariano Azuela Elementary School in Chicago, took her sixth-grade students on a tour of Verona, the Italian city where Shakespeare’s play transpires. Choi asked her class to examine the variegated facade of a centuries-old building, known on tourist maps as “Juliet’s House,” where the family that may have been the inspiration for the fictional heroine once lived.

This kit includes Asus Zenfone 2’s, a tablet for the teacher, Cardboard or Mattel View-Master viewers, and a router that allows Expeditions to run offline if necessary. Google wants to deliver the kits to thousands of schools, initially in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. “Although nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, we see a ton of potential for virtual reality as a powerful tool for teachers to engage their students,” Googler David Quaid — the developer of the Stereogram app for Google Cardboard — wrote in a blog post on the news. Google has partnered with content providers like the American Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian, The Planetary Society, the National Museum of Korea, Frontiers of Flight Museum, Alchemy VR, PBS, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and others to create virtual reality experiences for students.

In case you’re wondering how much educational material is out there for Cardboard and View-Master headsets, well, it turns out that some is available. “Teachers can choose from a library of more than a hundred virtual trips to transport students to places like Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China,” Quaid wrote. Choi’s students tried out virtual-reality viewers — composed of cardboard and a cellphone — while their teacher used an app to guide them through stereoscopic vistas of the Italian town. “It doesn’t work to stand in a class of 12-year-olds and just lecture,” said Ms. Choi, explaining that many students already had access to devices like smartphones, laptops and gaming systems and thus were accustomed to obtaining information immediately and visually.

You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you. Choi jumped at Google’s offer to collaborate on a virtual excursion to Verona for her students. “I think they gained a deeper understanding of the story,” Ms. The introduction of Google’s virtual-reality kits for classrooms highlights the growing importance of the education sector to major technology companies — and the mounting competition among them.

In 2006, for instance, Google introduced Apps for Education, a bundle of cloud-based email, calendar and document-sharing products available free to schools. Some leading tech companies have recently made a decision to focus on designing products specifically for classroom use, rather than simply modifying their existing consumer or enterprise products and then marketing them to schools.

Some teachers have for years used Microsoft’s Skype videoconferencing service to take students on tours of important places or to invite outside experts to virtually visit their classrooms. As part of the program, Hector Camacho, a 12th-grade economics teacher at Saint Francis High School, a private Catholic school in Mountain View, Calif., created a “Great Recession Tour” of Manhattan. It takes students to the former headquarters of Lehman Brothers and the offices of Goldman Sachs and federal regulators involved in the fiscal crisis of 2007-8.

But he said he wanted to visually immerse his class in places that played important roles in the crisis to give them a more concrete feel for the potential impact of fiscal and monetary policies.

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