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Local Schools Test New Google Technology

Jan 04, 2016 01:39PM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

Sandy - Students in nine Canyons School District schools — five in Sandy — recently had the opportunity to test new Google technology.

Google Expeditions is a new application being launched by Google this school year, and as part of a world-wide tour, students piloted it, taking virtual field trips to experience many places across the globe. 

Canyons School District schools in early December were one of its first stops along the Wasatch Front.

At Sprucewood Elementary, fourth graders were at one moment underwater, checking out fish swimming in coral reefs, the next, seeing the Amazon rainforest and finally, experiencing the moon. Fifth graders went back to see first-hand the battlefields of Gettysburg, which will tie into their core curriculum they’ll study this school year.

Students from second grade through fifth experienced these and other places in the world without leaving their school building. Using the new Google Cardboard VR 2.0 viewers, similar to ViewMasters in the 1960s, students held a viewing machine, with an android phone slipped inside, to see a 360-degree view of 100 sites from London and Washington, D.C. to Yellowstone National Park, which were controlled by the teacher using an application on a tablet. 

The teacher is able to read about what they are seeing, as well as point out spots of interest that will come up on the viewers with arrows to follow.

“This is exciting and a great opportunity for students to visit places they may never get to experience otherwise,” fourth-grade teacher Pam Clayson said. “I grew up in West Samoa, so for me to be able to pull that up and show them part of my heritage and highlight things for them to see, it’s an amazing experience that will broaden their learning.”

Fourth grader Jack Dalleye said he held his breath when they showed images underwater.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I felt like I was right there.”

His classmate Ella Marston agreed: “I felt like I was moving around with the fish.”

Fourth grader Sophie LaMunyon liked feeling like she was in the woods, while classmate Coleman Fisher wanted to move around to see more of the image.

“It’s a fun experience that would be great to learn from all the time,” fourth grader Lauren Simons said.

At Sprucewood, many teachers picked the expeditions based on their current curriculum in the classroom. Some picked historical events, while others explored the world around them. 

“We love being on the cutting edge of technology and having students learn and experience this as they pilot our schools,” educational technology specialist Katie Blunt said.

The trick for many students was sitting still, as those who are prone to motion sickness would need to put the viewer down if they began to get dizzy. They also limited the use to 20- to 25-minutes at a time, Blunt said.

However, most students were excited and began telling each other to check something out in the photographs Google purchased from DSL or 360-degree cameras, Google Expeditions leader Zack Ketz said.

“The students get so loud and so excited about what they’re seeing,” he said. “We see this again and again at all the schools we’ve visited.”

As part of the visit, teachers provide feedback which Google reviews. One suggestion that they’ve already incorporated is to put a search on the application so teachers can directly link to where they want to visit, Ketz said. 

The Google Expeditions visit also included piloting the application at Altara, Canyon View, Draper, Park Lane, Peruvian Park, Sunrise and Willow Springs elementaries.  

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