Google is getting a lot of attention from educators.
Google has been courting the school market for some time now, both with Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom. Since Classroom’s launch in August 2014, Google has released more than 50 updates. Some of these updates add a minor feature, but others have made Classroom more useful and efficient in school settings such as the Classroom API that allows administrators to provision and manage classes at scale, and lets developers integrate their applications with Classroom.
Google has attracted numerous partners who have integrated their products with Google Apps for Education and publishers and developers, including Alma, Gale, Knovation, Nearpod, Sycamore Education, and Whooo’s Reading have announced integration with Classroom.
At ISTE, Google’s big news was making Google Expeditions available to everyone. Google Expeditions is an immersive experience that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips using Google Cardboard viewers and virtual reality content accessible through mobile phones or tablets. Google launched a pilot – the Expeditions Pioneer Program – last September. Since that time, the company says that more than a million students from 11 countries have taken one of its 200 virtual reality trips. As of today all teachers will be able to download the Expedition app to the set of devices they plan to use and choose the VR experience they want to use. The app is currently available for Android and Google says it will be available for iPhones and iPads soon.
Already companies are announcing collaborations with Google to support or expand the Expeditions’ VR experience. Pearson plans to have its first set of Google Expeditions ready for back-to-school 2016. ISTE attendees could get a sneak peek of Pearson’s VR content by taking a 3D tour of the London Transport Museum including voice-activated “hot spots” in the tour when they wanted to go deeper or change direction. zSpace will work with Google to create an end-to-end virtual reality classroom experience that combines zSpace’s interactive Screen VR technology with Google Expeditions, Students will be introduced to learning content through the Expeditions followed by in-depth exploration opportunities in zSpace. TES and Google are working together to make it easier for teachers to access and share digital resources, and create lessons to accompany virtual reality field trips using Google Expeditions. Tes.com is home to the world’s largest online community of teachers, with over 8 million registered users, downloading 1 million classroom resources every day across its global marketplace. A new Google portal on Tes.com will house lessons showing how to use Google Expeditions field trips in the classroom, Google’s training center, and featured teachers who are sharing their lessons.
It’s the simplicity of this solution that holds great appeal. The VR experience does not equal that of more high-tech immersive technologies like Oculus, but Expeditions work with devices widely available in the schools along with Google Cardboard viewers. It’s not intimidating, there is a good supply of content (and one that is likely to continue to grow) and it’s relatively inexpensive to implement. Google has focused on keeping things simple and gained a lot of teacher buy-in as a result. It’s actively supporting its solutions and its users and there’s the undeniable appeal of free or mostly free. The combination seems to be working.