Field trips are a great way to bring kids into the worlds they hear about in the classroom. But for students in the Bronx learning about Aztec ruins in Mexico, that was easier said than done. That is, until Google tested their new virtual reality technology at the Bronx Latin School in New York City, giving students the chance to scope out the view from atop Chichen Itza and study ancient carvings at Tenochtitlan—all without ever leaving their school.
The test run was part of the Google Expeditions initiative, which aims to bring free virtual reality field trips to students in the U.S., the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil. The technology uses a smartphone inside a cardboard viewing shell that displays images from Google Street View. The pictures move when viewers turn their heads, creating the illusion of a 3D environment.
Teachers interested in bringing of the program to their classrooms can apply at Google Expeditions' website. Spots are limited, and Google says they plan to only visit schools where at least six teachers have signed up. Kits include everything the teachers need to conduct their virtual field trips, including cardboard goggles or Mattel View-Masters, ASUS smartphones, and a tablet for teachers to organize trips.
The materials are relatively cheap to produce, and the kits could one day become a fixture in classrooms around the world. Studies have shown that virtual reality forges a deeper connection between pupils and the material that’s being taught than traditional learning alone. With access to virtual reality in the classroom, students can look forward to tours of Independence Hall, the Great Wall of China, or even a casual trip to Mars when they walk into school each day.
[h/t: Wall Street Journal]