Virtual field trips arrive at Decatur

Derek Walker

Teachers have the option to take their students to the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Rainforest, the moon, and much more. Various classes participated in Google Expeditions Pioneer Program, an initiative by Google to bring the world to the classroom.

Google Cardboard box with phone without the phone in the back. The phone would project an image for each eye and adjusts to simulate a virtual reality, giving a 360 degree spherical view of an image. Google Cardboard is available for consumer use with compatible apps.
Wikimedia
Google Cardboard box with phone without the phone in the back. The phone would project an image for each eye and adjusts to simulate a virtual reality, giving a 360 degree spherical view of an image. Google Cardboard is available for consumer use with compatible apps.

With a simple piece of folded cardboard, a phone, and an app, students are taken on a full virtual reality field trip. The teacher can guide students using an iPad app that connects to the phones in their cardboard viewers.

Google Expeditions provided their service to schools that applied, free of charge. Decatur High School registered themselves to be a part of the pioneer program along with Renfroe Middle School.

“Initially we were excited about seeing images of faraway places that are unreachable by school bus,” Sandi Dennis, a Decatur High School librarian, said, “We were also intrigued by the career expeditions such as airline pilot and chef.

She sees the virtual field trips as an effective and novel education tool.

“The students were engaged and actually gasped several times when the scenery changed on their tours,” Dennis said. “They asked questions and talked about traveling to some of the places they saw on their Expeditions.”

Sebastian Fernandez takes a virtual reality tour of the Great Barrier Reef using the Google Cardboard Viewer.
Sebastian Fernandez takes a virtual reality tour of the Great Barrier Reef using the Google Cardboard Viewer.

After taking a trip under the seas to different world reefs, sophomore Sebastian Fernandez sees the service expanding to full- fledge simulations.

“It can be used for job training, trying out different careers,” he said.

Despite its capabilities, the experience is still in its early stages, and does have its drawbacks.

“It can  be a little disorienting after a while,” Fernandez said.

Nonetheless, there may be a future in virtual reality education.