Saturday, February 20, 2016

Immersive Virtual Field Trips? Rock on!

I got to experience - well, actually watch others experience - Google Cardboard at the #TCEA16 conference in Austin, TX. The reaction of those individuals participating in the immersive Mt. Everest expedition was enough to sell me. My favorite part was when the participants all jumped at once as they all looked over the edge of a cliff that the rest of us couldn't see. That's when I knew I had to have it! I went straight to Amazon and purchased a Google Cardboard for about $17.

If you've never heard of Google Cardboard, it is similar to the old Viewfinders we had as kids. The Cardboard housing is different because it is simply folded cardboard with special lenses. You put your phone in the cardboard and run one of the free Google Cardboard or Virtual Reality apps for an immersive and engaging experience. I will share the apps I use below.

Move forward 2 weeks. Now I'm at school with a group of 4th graders taking a field trip to the Alamo...without leaving the school! We were learning about the Texas Revolution, so the Alamo experience was a meaningful connection. They were able to stand in the middle of the plaza and see ghost walls superimposed over the current plaza to get the feel of the actual size of the Alamo. They were also able to actually look down at their feet to see the possible location of the "line in the sand" drawn by Col. William Travis. This was on the DiscoverVR app.)

Half the fun was honestly watching the kids as they were engaged in the immersive experience. I wish I had a video to share. Below are comments from students about the trip:
It was so cool! I think this can influence and make you dig down deeper because it is fun! It feels like you are really there. It wasn't you talking to us, it was the tour guide people so we were having to listen and think for ourselves. We should do more of this because everyone likes it. Thank you for letting me have this experience. ~J.S.
I liked the Alamo field trip. I liked how you could see everything so it looked like you were actually there. In the video I saw the ghost walls where the borders were.  ~A.S.
Once students experienced the Cardboard, they went home to share the experience with their parents.
A drink holder is a handy device too.
The parents then bought their own Cardboards! Now we have several students who can bring their cardboard/phone setup to school for the next virtual field trip.

Now for the apps. I have used several so far and am in the process of searching for more. The interesting ones so far are:
  • Cardboard, 
  • RollerCoaster, 
  • YouVisit VR, 
  • Street View, 
  • Discovery VR. 
All of these apps are free. I will add to my list as I try new ones. Please let me know of any great ones you find! Additionally, Google is creating some amazing virtual trips called Google Expeditions specifically for educational purposes. Go to the Google Cardboard website to find out more and sign up. I can't wait!