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LES students experience a ‘virtual reality’ world

Posted on Monday, May 2, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Students at Lynchburg Elementary School take a virtual field trip as they take part in the Google Ex-peditions Pioneer Program recently. LES art teacher Kelly Orr helped bring the tour to Lynchburg. (Photo by Chris Barstad, The Tullahoma News)

Students at Lynchburg Elementary School take a virtual field trip as they take part in the Google Ex-peditions Pioneer Program recently. LES art teacher Kelly Orr helped bring the tour to Lynchburg. (Photo by Chris Barstad, The Tullahoma News)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Students at Lynchburg Elementary School were recently treated to a trip around the world without leaving their classrooms thanks to the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program.

Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and give students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.

According to Google, expedition teams visit selected schools around the world, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Denmark and Mexico. Each team brings a complete Expeditions kit with everything the teachers need to take their students on journeys anywhere.

The team shows teachers how Expeditions works and helps set it up. There is no charge or cost involved in the program.

Lynchburg Elementary School art teacher Kelly Orr is responsible for helping to bring the program to the school.

“I’ve been to a couple of technology conferences and while attending one, I heard about the Google Expedition and decided to sign us up for it,” she said. “That was a year or so ago and they were unable to come at that time.

“A couple of months ago I attended a conference in Manchester where it was mentioned again. I decided to give it one more try and we finally got on the list. They emailed me and let me know they were able to come and we are very excited to have them here.”

For the visit, students in grades 2-6 were able to take a break from their school day to test the program.

Students used a device called Google Cardboard, which is a virtual reality viewer made almost entirely out of cardboard.

Google Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality.

Each student receives a device. Teachers are then able to select a destination and the entire classroom is taken there automatically.

From the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef, students are able to get an up-close view of each of the destinations.

According to Google, the trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360-degree photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sound-annotated with details, points of interest and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.

Agencies such as The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.

Currently, the program is still being tested, with teachers and students having the opportunity to make suggestions for adding features or making improvements.

Orr said it was a very exciting day for both teachers and students.

“We let them know some of the things we thought would make the program more user-friendly and fun to experience,” said Orr. “It’s great to see the students get such exposure to areas they might not ever be able to visit. This opens up their world to what is out there and how interesting that can be.”

—By KALI BRADFORD, The Tullahoma News Lifestyles Editor; Additional information from press releases

 

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