Teachers looking for an entry point into VR often land on Google Expeditions. Technically, if VR headsets aren’t used, it’s not VR, but I’m not going to derail a teacher’s interest in creating more immersive experiences for their students. Used solely on an iPad, with no VR headset, Google Expeditions still provides students with a platform that allow students to interact with their world. This is where the “sticky learning” happens. Students aren’t going to forget the experience once they’ve moved on to something else.
Of course, the potential for a truly immersive VR experience also exists with Expeditions. Something as inexpensive as Google Cardboard can provide students and teachers with an entry point into VR. I’m super excited about the prospect of standalone VR headsets which are coming to big box stores everywhere in the very near future. These headsets are positioned perfectly to bring VR to the masses, and that includes our classrooms. No expensive computer rig required, and no need to place cell phones into headsets. This technology will push VR past the tipping point, bringing it to the masses and increase its prevalence in classrooms.
I’m writing this post to show everyone how they can get started with Google Expeditions, regardless of hardware. These instructions are only for using Expeditions with iPads. With a few iPads in your classroom, you’re ready to go! Let’s get started.
Note: These instructions are only for Expeditions VR, not Expeditions AR.
Launching the App: The first time students and teachers launch the app, users may have to accept the user agreement, and they may also be prompted to sign in to their Google account. It’s only necessary for the Guide (teacher) to sign in, not the Explorers (students).
Discovering Expeditions: Teachers simply need to tap on the Discover icon to find the perfect Expedition. Expeditions are also grouped by category to make finding content even easier. Once the desired Expedition is found, it needs to be downloaded by tapping on the thumbnail image of the Expedition. Downloaded Expeditions will be moved to the Saved section in the app which can be located in the lower menu bar.
Launching the Expedition: Tap on the downloaded Expedition to get started. If promoted, tap on “View Full Screen” because we’re only using Expeditions on iPads, not with VR headsets.
Connecting Students: Once the Expedition is launched, tap the orange Start icon on the first scene. Each Expeditions contains a different number of scenes and you will need to tap the Start icon on each scene in order to make the new scene visible to students. If the Start option isn’t present, it’s likely because you’re not in Guide mode. To remedy this issue, tap the button on the top right that looks like an iPad with the WiFi symbol on top. Please see photos below.
Let’s Explore: The other day I was in a teacher’s classroom demonstrating Expeditions. The teacher asked me how I knew all the information about what the students were viewing. The answer was simple. The Guide is presented with a significant amount of information for each scene. There is an introductory paragraph, a series of questions, as well as information on several points of interest in each scene. If the Guide taps on any of these points of interest, students will be presented with an arrow on their iPad pointing to that point of interest. Here is a scene from the International Space Station Expedition from the Guide’s perspective.
Other Tools: As mentioned above, when the Guide taps on a point of interest, an arrow will appear on Explorers’ iPads showing them where to look. However, the Guide also has access to a drawing tool located in the upper right corner of the screen. Like the points of interest, this tool is helpful for calling attention to key elements in each scene. In the upper right corner of the screen, the Guide will also see the number of Explorers who are connected at any given time.
Conclusion: Google Expeditions is an excellent tool to facilitate bringing the world into your classroom. It provides students with an opportunity to discover places that they may never be able to visit in real life. If you teach older students who have personal mobile devices that they can place in a VR headset, like Google Cardboard, go for it! Although using iPads is great, the VR element makes the experience much more immersive for students. It will be an activity they won’t soon forget!