Below are 8 Tips for a Google Expeditions Pilot from Heather Kilgore, an Instructional Technology Coordinator for Commerce ISD in Commerce, Texas, where she shares the lessons learned from their Google Expeditions pilot program. As we all begin to find ways to bring Google Expeditions, Google Cardboard, and other virtual reality experiences to our classrooms, I thought it was important to share this first-hand experience with you. The first time we try anything, we always learn a lot of lessons!
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We also put these tips into an infographic that you can download here (PDF).
This is a guest post written by Heather Kilgore.
The Spark: The Google Expeditions Explorer Program
My name is Heather Kilgore, and I am the Instructional Technology Coordinator for Commerce ISD in Commerce, Texas. One of my passions is bringing the latest and greatest in educational technology to the teachers and students in my district. This is what led to our venture into the world of Google Expeditions. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed one day when I noticed a local school district Tweeting pictures of their students using the cardboard devices in the Explorer Program. Virtual reality had intrigued me, but I couldn’t grasp the classroom connection until I saw what Google was piloting. I knew that the students of Commerce ISD needed to experience this!
Our Commerce ISD Google Expeditions adventure began in the spring of 2016 when the Google Expeditions Explorer Program came to Commerce Elementary School. When I saw this student reaching out to touch the fish and the coral in her scene, I knew that this was something that all of our students needed to experience!
Tip #1: Get Administrator Buy-In
It is always important to get buy-in and support from your administrators and teacher leaders. Our early adopters in the district were quick to reserve the devices, but we needed the support of the campus administrators. At the end of a principal’s meeting in December, our campus and central office administrators went on an Expedition of their own! Many emails to teachers went out that afternoon from principals encouraging the use of the devices and expressing their excitement.
Tip #2: Explore Alternative Funding Options
Since the kits weren’t available for purchase at that time, I took pictures of the Google Expeditions kit that Google brought for the Explorer program. The pieces were available for purchase on Amazon so I priced the kit out. With the pieces that I chose, I estimated that two 30-device kits would cost $6,600. This was beyond my budget capabilities, so grants were my only option. Every spring, the Commerce Schools Educational Enrichment Foundation accepts grant proposals for innovative classroom projects. I wrote the grant and was awarded $6,600 for 2 sets devices, travel case, iPads, and router to run the application.
Funding pilot programs can always be a struggle. Be sure to explore all of your funding options, grants from foundations, DonorsChoose.org, etc. There is money out there if you are willing to dig a little and do the work.
Tip #3: Research Devices Carefully
Do your research and select a device that meets the minimum specifications for the Google Expeditions application. If you want the full effect of 360 Expeditions, be sure you buy devices with the accelerometer and gyroscope capability. If you buy them individually and not from a company, be sure and test a single device before purchasing them in bulk.
The components of the kit were ordered in the new budget year and they started arriving in July 2016. Everything was unpacked, custom stickers were designed, and we were ready to set up the devices. This is when I found the problem. Did you know that there is more than one model of the ASUS ZenPhone 2? When I took the pictures of the Explorer kit, I didn’t realize that there was more than one model of this device. The phones that I had priced on Amazon were around $79 each, but they lacked the accelerometer and gyroscope are that are required to make the Expedition app function correctly. This was a huge hiccup in the rollout of these devices since my grant money was spent on 60 wrong devices. The correct devices are around $229 each and I was able to find a company that would sell me 30 of the devices for a discounted $6000.
My Technology Director was just as passionate about this project as I was so he graciously funded the new devices for this project. With the new devices in, we were finally up and running in November 2016.
Tip #4: Preview the Expedition and Plan Your Lesson
There is a lot of content in each Expedition, including a teacher guide and script. View all of the scenes in the Expedition prior to the lesson in which you will use them. Not all of the information is applicable to your standards or grade level. Take the content and make it your own. Decide which scenes to cover, where to pause, and how to connect it to your learning goals.
Tip #5: Test with a Small Group of Students
Before you do your first Expedition with a full class, test will a small group of students first. They can help you find what doesn’t work but on a smaller scale. You never know what little things you may want to tweak with the devices, and you want to get in a little practice leading your first expeditions.
Tip #6: Adjust the Device Settings
Our first Expedition was with a small group of seven fourth-grade students who weren’t able to attend the annual trip to the State Capitol in Austin. Instead, these students were my guinea pigs with the Expeditions kit. This was a great learning experience for me. By the time all of the devices were set up, the first phone went to sleep. They are all set to stay awake for 30 minutes now. Of course, the students were in awe of the new technology and learned a lot about the University of Texas at Austin.
There may be other things you learn during your test group that can help you tweak the device settings to better fit your needs and the needs of your students.
Tip #7: Model Best Practices and Processes
Model Use of the Kits for Teachers and Students
Because these devices are fairly delicate, I travel with the kit on the first trip to a new classroom. I show the teachers and students alike how to handle the devices and how to work the program. My hope is to create a culture of respect for these devices to ensure their longevity in our district!
Have Students Sit, Not Stand
Have the students sit, but twist in their chair to view the Expeditions. Standing is dangerous as the students can get dizzy and fall over.
Let the Kids, “Ooh,” and “Ahh!”–Noise is Okay!
Let the kids “ooh,” and “ahh,” over the experience! I explained that they needed to keep the viewer up to their eyes and listen to their teacher read the content from the scene, but that I wanted them to enjoy the Expedition. Complete silence wasn’t expected!
Tip #8: Share the Journey
You want the enthusiasm to spread like wildfire in your school, so take videos, pictures and share with your campus and beyond. Share your tips, successes, failures, and more to help other teachers learn from your mistakes.
- Our first teacher-led Expedition was a first-grade classroom. They visited the Solar System and covered their TEKS over the sun and the moon. While they were there, the students learned a little about the planets and the Milky Way galaxy.
- Our next Expedition was to the North Pole with a Kindergarten classroom in December. Mrs. Stephanie Pullen took her students to see the actual North Pole with all of the snow and ice. This gave them a real frame of reference to pull from when thinking about where Santa lives! After they visited the real location, they visited the Santa’s Workshop Expedition to visit Santa and his elves plus see the toy workshop in action.
- Another first-grade classroom also went to visit the Solar System. Dee Dee Harris does a wonderful job leading the students through the Expedition pulling prior knowledge that they learned in class and adding the content embedded in the application.
Connect with Heather Kilgore
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