Google Expeditions is an application that allows students to embark on virtual field trips or expeditions from the classroom. The expeditions are focused on a variety of different subjects and curricular areas, including a number of science-based content areas (i.e. anatomy, environmental, ecosystem, space, and so on). Each expedition contains a number of 360 degree “scenes” from around the world for the explorers to view (i.e., “Submarine Science” contains six scenes to view/explore).
Google Expeditions offers two roles: that of a guide (the teacher) or of an explorer (the students). In the “guide” role, each scene contains an introduction to each scene, questions (beginner, intermediate, and advanced questions), and information to guide explorers through each scene. Each scene includes points of interest or important information/artifacts related to the topic, which are represented for explorers by arrows and targets in their view. Many expeditions include stops (scenes) at educational institutes or museums. For example, “Climate Change” takes the explorer to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and “Rocks, Minerals, and Gems” takes the explorer to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Google Expedition “Kits” are available for purchase, but are incredibly expensive. Cardboard viewers are also available, but again cost money that I would imagine many administrators might struggle to rationalize in their school budgets (because they are literally just viewers made from cardboard). Information is provided on the website to explain how teachers can use Google Expeditions in their classrooms without purchasing the kit, and cardboard viewers could be constructed by the teacher/student, although it would take a little time. I have used the app with my tablet without a viewer and feel that this is a possibility as well, although teachers would want to try this ahead of time to see what they think (it does detract from the VR experience). Google Expeditions does require internet access and mobile devices (a tablet is recommended for the guide and phones for the explorers), and specific device requirements must be met.
Google expeditions connects well to our current studies as it provides students with a virtual-reality style environment that can be used to enhance existing curricular topics in science. Google expeditions allows students to experience an environment they likely would not have been exposed to otherwise. It is limited in the fact that while the experience does include 360 degree scenes, students are not able to virtually travel through the scenes and are restricted to viewing from one spot. While ideally, students each use their own mobile device to view each scene, students are all explorers of the same scene at the same time and have the opportunity to orally share what they are viewing/experiencing with their classmates as they explore the scene through their viewers.
Learn more about Google Expeditions: https://edu.google.com/expeditions/#about