• An Alvarado Intermediate School student takes a virtual field trip with Google Expedition last week.
    Google Expeditions

Students take 'virtual trips' with Google

Alvarado ISD students, some who have never ventured outside the state of Texas, recently took field trips to outer space, the Great Wall of China and a coral reef, all without leaving their library.

Students at Alvarado Intermediate School and Lillian Elementary participated in Google Expeditions' Pioneer Program that sends students on virtual reality fieldtrips in the classroom.

“Google Expeditions are a complement to our existing methods of taking students on virtual field trips through video conferences,” said Julie Holland, AISD's director of technology. “While video conferences take place at scheduled times and typically limit the number of participants, Google Expeditions are on demand. This eliminates scheduling issues and can be used with multiple groups of students.

“We can’t travel all over the world with our students, but it is becoming increasingly feasible to immerse them in these unique experiences. Google Expeditions gives students and teachers the power to travel at a moment’s notice to places of which, until now, they could only dream.”

Using a tablet, a single teacher can guide up to 50 students who are wearing virtual reality viewers. The teachers are able to direct learning in each journey by having students find something or pointing out highlights. Google Expeditions is free for schools this year, but a fee will be charged to continue use in the 2016-17 school year.

“We are thrilled that we are able to be on the front end of this exciting new program,” Holland said. “Google not only sent the Google Expeditions equipment, but they also sent a representative to train teachers in its use and get feedback from teachers and students about what could be done to improve the system before it becomes widely available to schools.

“We look forward to the system’s release, and anticipate that it will be a valuable tool for Alvarado teachers at all grade levels.”

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An Alvarado Intermediate School student takes a virtual field trip with Google Expedition last week.