School No. 4 students using virtual reality viewers during a visit from representatives of Google who introduced them to their Expedition app, which allows users to experience countless trips around the world.
By Gary Miller
Students at School No. 4 took a class trip of sorts on Thursday, Jan. 25 – swimming with sharks, going inside a volcano, touring Italy, and climbing Mount Everest.
These experiences were thanks to a visit from two representatives of Google, who introduced the students to their virtual reality app, Expedition. The app allows users to experience a multitude of journeys around the world – while learning about the places they go – using a smartphone and a special viewer. (Younger children used only the phone and not a viewer as a precaution against eye strain.)
The children let out “oohs” and “ahs” as they journeyed from place to place through the app, with their own teachers adding facts and lessons as they went along.
“This is a perfect example of how technology makes learning more exciting,” Principal Anthony Cataline said as he watched the lesson proceed.
The app is free to download and has settings for guides and explorers, so a teacher can lead a classroom of children through the same expedition.
“It’s so great that Google gave School No. 4 this chance to enhance our students’ education with their cutting-edge technology,” said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi. “The more tools like this that teachers have at their disposal, the better equipped they are to create engaging lessons that boost our children’s love for learning.”
Because of the unique nature of the lesson, a news crew from Fox 5 News in New York was on hand to report on the experience.
“It was an eye-opening experience, because what it does is provide teachers with a resource that will embellish any lessons that are built into their curriculums,” Cataline told Antwan Lewis of Fox 5 News. “It’s a program that will help the kids get excited – they’re more enthusiastic about what they’re learning. And when they see it firsthand, they’re certainly going to remember it, versus looking at it in a textbook or just hearing about it.”
Fourth-grade teacher Gina Divito was using Expedition to teach her students about volcanos and sharks, and said the program was “fantastic” for the children.
“I think technology is up-and-coming [as a teaching tool],” Divito said. “I think it’s important to incorporate it into lessons and the overall curriculum. I think [Expedition] will be beneficial to children in any school, any grade.”
Cataline said many of the teachers were so excited about Expedition that they had already downloaded it to their personal phones and were thinking about how they could use it in their lessons.
“I don’t think we expected that,” he said. “I think we expected to have a nice day and see a little bit of technology that we haven’t seen before.
“But after seeing this and seeing the reactions of our students – and even seeing the reactions of our teachers – it’s something we’d like to explore a little further and look into using Expedition as a resource that we could have here in the school.”
Cataline said many students don’t often get a chance to use technology such as virtual reality.
“This gave them that exposure,” he said. “That in itself was worth a million bucks today, to see their reaction to it, and to see how exciting learning became for them.”