With Expeditions, Google is using it’s Street View technology to create virtual field trips, college campus visits, and career experiences for your students. Think of it as an experiment, and an inexpensive introduction to virtual reality.
To bring Expeditions into your classroom you’ll need the following:
- An iPad or Android tablet for the Leader to manage the process.
- An iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android phone for each participant. BYOD works very well for this. Participants could use a tablet if necessary (see the next item).
- One VR headset for each participant. This is actually optional since Expeditions can be viewed without a headset, but having one will make for a better experience.
- Earphones for each participant, if your Expedition includes sound.
- The free Expeditions app installed on all devices.
- A wifi network that allows a peer-to-peer connection.
That last item could be tricky. Wifi networks in many schools do not allow peer-to-peer connections because of their potential security risks. But if you can’t convince your IT staff to change the network settings, don’t give up.
You can still use Expeditions using just about any stand-alone wifi router. Your tech people may have an old one in their closet or you can find inexpensive new or used models on eBay or other online vendors. For small groups, it’s even possible to use a wifi hotspot on your smartphone.
Google has simple directions for setting up your router or hotspot.
1. On the tablet, open the Expeditions app and choose to Lead from the menu in the top left corner.
2. Find the Expeditions you want to use. Google seems to have them organized by popularity so searching may be a better way to find what you need.
3. Download the Expedition to the tablet by tapping the tile. You should see a download progress circle and a checkmark when it’s finished.
4. Tap anywhere in the tile to open it.
To remove a download, tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the tile.
Once you have downloaded all the Expeditions you want to use, the easiest way to find them again is to tap on the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and switch on Download only. Your files will be shown in no particular order that I can tell.
1. You will need to connect to the wifi network that will be used by the students. If this is the same as the one you used to download the files, then all is ready. If not, you’ll need to change the settings on your device to find the router you set up for Expeditions. Once you make the change, you will no longer be connected to the internet.
3. Open the Expedition you want to lead and tap Play.
4. Have your students open the Expeditions app on their device and choose to join an Expedition.
Once everyone is connected to the Expedition, students will be able to look around the scene that you’ve chosen. Most Expeditions have a short script for each scene and you can direct students to look at a particular area by tapping the circles in the script. Icons on your screen will tell you where each student is looking to help you keep everyone on track.
When ready to move on, swipe right to left on your tablet and tap Play for the next scene.
When finished, exit from the Expedition using the x in the upper left corner. This will also end the expedition for all participants.
That is a very brief introduction to Google Expeditions. There are currently more than 600 Expeditions available with more being added all the time. What seems to be a complete list with descriptions is being maintained in this Google Sheet.
Virtual reality in the classroom is a new experience for everyone, and Expeditions will take a little practice to get the best experience for you and your students. Play with it and have fun.