In late September, Google launched an education initiative to send hundreds of thousands of school children on free field trips to interesting destinations around the world and even into outer space. Of course, these are immersive virtual field trips that all take place in the classroom. Google calls it Expeditions, their virtual reality platform for the classroom. The program uses headsets like Google Cardboard and the new View-Master made by Mattel, which can mount a smartphone to special wide-view lenses. Today the company has announced a further expansion of cities it will bring Expeditions’ Pioneer Program to. Fifteen new cities have been added, including Alexandria, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and Washington DC in the US, as well as Toronto, Denmark, and Singapore.
So far, over 100,000 students have experienced some of the 100 different Expeditions Google has collaborated on with teachers and content partners across the globe. Expeditions have included virtual journeys to Antarctica, rainforests, museums, and even into outer space. On top of this, teachers get to lead their students on the tours themselves while Expedition team leaders are on hand to answer questions. After training with the program members, teachers will receive classroom kits that include a tablet they use to guide the lesson.
Beyond field trips to mars, Google Expeditions has other ideas how this immersive technology can improve schools. They can allow students to experience what “A day in the life” of people with certain potential careers is like. Another use case is exemplified by a partnership with Michelle Obama’s Higher Reach initiative, allowing high school students to take virtual tours of prospective colleges. In the future, Google envisions teachers eventually being able to create their own content for Expeditions based virtual lessons. In the meantime, teachers can sign up at Expeditions website to learn how to get their school on the list of those the Google teams are traveling to. For schools not chosen, but are located in the region of the cities listed on the program’s tour schedule, Expeditions teams will also be hosting demos at community centers, after-school programs, and local events.