Sunday, November 8, 2015

Our Day with the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program

After successfully stalking the Expeditions Pioneer program for the last 6 months, my partner and I were able to get signed up in time to be one of a limited number of stops on their internationl tour. This last Friday, the Expeditions SUV (driven by my new friend John) rolled up to our 6th grade campus and rolled out 3 travel cases with 90 Google Cardboards and the same number of ASUS phones to slip inside.

Google recommends having three dedicated classrooms to keep the Expeditions in all day, so we decided to run them through our three Social Studies classes, which meant every one of our 503 sixth graders would get a chance to take an Expedition. They're wrapping up a unit on South America, so what better way to take a virtual field trip than to take them to the 2014 World Cup?

We planned our Social Studies lesson with a focus on how customs, traditions and events (like the World Cup) can unite diverse cultures in a multicultural society. We started with a quick video on the World Cup, then led into a discussion about how sports can bring people together. There was some great sharing going on as kids made the connection that even though sports are competitive, the World Cup brings together people who would typically not be together to celebrate.

After that conversation, it was time to take our Expedition. We passed out the Cardboards and gave a quick set of directions. Then the kids put them on.

Bam. Totally hooked.

Our day with Google Expeditions

I have never seen students so engaged in my 12 years in education. Once they realized that they were actually in Brazil, they were tapping each other on the shoulder and pointing, sharing goggles with other students to try and show them what they were seeing, and (loudly) narrating what they saw as they toured stadiums and streets during the World Cup.

With Expeditions, the teacher uses a tablet that's linked to all 30 goggles to control what students are looking at. They takes students through various scenes, and within those scenes, students can explore by looking around, up and down through the panorama. Another nice characteristic of the teacher side is the information that you can pull up on the right-hand side and let students knows exactly what they're looking at (just in case you're not intimately familiar with the names of the native Brazilian artists who created works for Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro).

When it was time to come back together and put up the goggles, there was a palpable sense of disappointment. They wanted to go to other places, see other cities, and talk about what they saw. Students who had glazed over in days previous were vigorously tapping the person next to them to talk about how cool the experience was. It was awesome.

Of course, anything that's a prototype is going to have its hiccups: the World Cup Expedition wasn't on two of the routers, a few of the phones kept dropping their connection, and Google's Cardboard has a slight design flaw where the phone you put in will just slide right out the side when you pick it up.

But our awesome Social Studies team rolled with it. They took students on another Brazil Expedition that worked equally as well with our lesson (if not better). We got the phones reconnected. And starting second period, we just showed the kids how to hold their Goggles so as not to lose the phone (in fact, the only person who had a phone hit the floor was a teacher who had stopped in to try it out).

It was an amazing, chaotic day, and totally worth it. It's experiences like this that students never forget. A huge thank you to Google for giving our students (many of whom have never been outside of South Dallas) the chance to travel 5,220 miles away and have their eyes opened to an entirely different world than what they've ever seen before.


  1. Are these Expeditions available if I have only a couple Cardboards and phones? Maybe I could use as a center of some type.

  2. Google has not yet published anything about how to obtain 'Expeditions' outside of their worldwide tour.

    1. So sad. :-/ I imagine one day it will roll out. One day.


  3. Hopefully once they're done with the tour, they'll tweak it and make it available. It's too good to keep to themselves...