Google released a string of announcements today, many of which are aimed at the education of our youth. Using a Google Cardboard viewer in combination with an accompanying Expeditions app, students will be easily transported to far away lands, prehistoric times, truly anywhere the imagination can venture, so can Google. This will give students the opportunity to learn in new and exciting ways, bringing together textbook information and video viewing into one interactive experience. Can you imagine a group of ten year olds waiting in line for their turn with a virtual reality headset? I imagine giggles and excitement no matter the subject.
Since launching, over a million students in 11 countries have gone on these virtual reality field trips, says Google. In addition, the destinations have grown to over 200, including those made by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and soon Pearson, two established educational providers. Google says they are making the Expeditions program available to everyone. All that is needed to participate is a Google Cardboard device and smartphones, or tablets in 2D full-screen mode. The Expeditions app is currently available for Android, but will have an iOS counterpart according to Google. Best Buy Education will also be making Expeditions kits available for schools to purchase, including a tablet, VR viewer and router.
In addition, Google also announced a free Chrome app called Google Cast for Education, which works with the Google Classroom service. The app works to give teachers more built-in controls, running on the teacher’s computer so no additional hardware is needed. Teachers run the Cast for Education app, and students can share their screens using the the existing “Cast” feature in the Chrome browser. How cool is that? There are also a trio of new apps coming for classrooms that use Chromebooks, such as the interactive whiteboard, Explain Everything. Google also will release a music and podcast maker called Soundtrap and a video project tool called WeVideo. Although in my personal opinion, I don’t see these making it across all schools, rather I predict the Google Cast for Education app getting the most buzz.
Lastly, Google announced a new feature in Quizzes in Google Forums which will let teachers grade multiple choice tests and checkbox questions. Rather than just marking answers wrong, teachers can add review materials, explanations and supplemental websites when an answer is marked wrong, to give a little clarity to why the answer is incorrect. As highly requested, Google now allows teachers to disable a setting that lets students send themselves a copy of their responses.
I think Google is trying to be first in line for the education market… and I’m all about it. Lets see if schools can afford to get on board. Cheers to VR field trips!
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