Tag Archives: Google Expeditions

A field trip to the polar bear capital of the world

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is authored by Julene Reed, director of Polar Bears International’s Tundra Connections program, which connects scientists and educators in the field with students in remote classrooms 

An incredible journey takes place every fall when hundreds of polar bears migrate from the Canadian tundra to the shores of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba — a northern town known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” The polar bears congregate there, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over. Once the ice forms, the bears are on the move again, roaming the frozen bay during the winter months and hunting for seals. It’s an extremely rare opportunity to experience this amazing migration first hand, and it’s something to behold. But, it’s not easy to travel there. There are no roads to Churchill, so your best opportunity to see a polar bear there is to fly north from Winnipeg and hop on board a Tundra Buggy for a bumpy trip along the coastline.
A screen capture from the Google Expeditions tablet, of a polar bear roaming the tundra imagined with the Street View Trekker, providing educators with context and information for what the students are seeing through Google Cardboard

But now there’s a way to experience the tundra these bears call home without packing a parka. In celebration of International Polar Bear Day on February 27th, Polar Bears International and Google are launching new Street View imagery and two new Google Expeditions: “Polar Bears and the Arctic Ecosystem” and “Churchill, Manitoba: Life in the Far North.” Using Google Cardboard and customized curriculum, students in classrooms around the world can now travel virtually with Google Expeditions and Google Street View to view polar bears and learn about the impact climate change is having on this unique ecosystem.

By tapping on the screen (left), teachers can guide students to specific aspects of the imagery they want to highlight, such as the Tundra Buggy and research tower, imaged with the Street View Trekker. Students view the imagery in Google Cardboard (right).

The stunning imagery highlighted within these Expeditions is the result of a long-term partnership between Polar Bears International and Google. The Google Maps team travelled to the Churchill region two years ago and then returned last fall. Over time, by returning to this ecologically–sensitive location and collecting Street View imagery and geospatial data, Google Maps users will have a virtual front row seat to witnessing the impact of climate change on the polar bear’s habitat. A Tundra Buggy collecting Street View imagery outside Churchill.
A Tundra Buggy collecting Street View imagery outside Churchill

These Expedition modules, developed in association with Polar Bears International, provide an opportunity to understand the consequences of rising temperatures in the Arctic. With the sea ice forming later every fall and melting earlier every spring, polar bears have less time to hunt, breed, and den. Google Expeditions offers students and teachers the opportunity to explore these issues and the polar bear’s fragile domain using Cardboard’s immersive 360° technology.

By bringing this virtual field trip to classrooms thousands of miles from the Arctic, we can offer a greater understanding of global warming and the plight of these majestic creatures.

Take a school trip to Buckingham Palace and the Great Barrier Reef

Great teachers posses a special sort of magic - they can transport the most distant places right into the room while revealing hidden secrets in the most local of things. For many of us, nobody has conjured more of this magic than the great Sir David Attenborough. Today we are bringing Australia's Great Barrier Reef into classrooms around the world using Google Expeditions in an experience designed and produced by Sir David Attenborough and Alchemy VR. With guidance from the world-famous broadcaster and naturalist, students at Barclay Primary in London were able to dive deep into the warm tropical waters to discover what life as a clown fish looks like (colorful!) and how it feels to be surrounded by a school of young snapper fish. As Sir. David Attenborough says:
“The Great Barrier Reef is a wonder of the natural world and I’ve been fantastically privileged to visit twice, most recently for my BBC1 TV series Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough. Through virtual reality, I’m lucky enough to be able to share my experiences with audiences of all ages to allow them to explore and learn about these diverse ecosystems in a more immersive way.”
Over 500,000 students around the world have already taken a virtual trip through the Expeditions Pioneer Program since it began this past September. When we ask what locations students would like to visit, we get lots of far-flung suggestions - outer space! the bottom of the sea! the Pyramids! But all over the world we’ve consistently got one special request - Buckingham Palace! Today, thanks to the Royal Collection Trust, we are able to make that request a reality and are releasing an Expedition of Buckingham Palace so schools all over the world can virtually visit the Palace and learn about its historical significance. The Palace has also worked to produce a YouTube 360 video, so that anyone with a smartphone can be taken on their own private tour with the Paintings Curator for Buckingham Palace.
Fancy going on your own expedition? We’re happy to share the next locations of the Expeditions Pioneer Program on our website and we’ll be continuing to add more cities and countries throughout the spring. Today, we’re also announcing a beta version of the Google Expeditions app for select schools and educators that sign up to participate. You’ll be able to download the app to your own Android phones and tablets, use it in class, and provide us feedback about what features and places you would like in the future. For more information about the beta, you can sign up here.

Google brings educators, startups and researchers together in North Carolina

Editor's note: We're going across the U.S. to shine light on the great things schools are doing with technology at the statewide level, with North Carolina up first. North Carolina is a strong Google partner. From the rollout of broadband infrastructure to the adoption of Google for Education, Google for Work and Google Cloud Platform in schools, nonprofits, labs and startups, Google technology is helping to liberate learning, empower employees and give researchers tools that can help solve real world problems.

North Carolina’s Research Triangle has a rich tradition of fostering quality education, research and entrepreneurship – prime areas for investment and innovation. In fact, Google is now laying thousands of miles of state-of-the-art fiber optic cable that will expand internet connectivity in the area. In the spirit of building next-generation technologies, the Google Cloud Platform and Google for Education teams hosted an inaugural Innovate with Google event at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill.

Startups, researchers and educators come together to innovate 

The event brought together more than 200 educators, startup executives, life science researchers and others who are innovating with Google. They’re building new teaching models, services and scientific advancements designed to improve lives.

Attendees heard from Jonathan Rochelle, Google’s director of Product Management, who discussed innovation used by billions of people. He gave the example of his own XL2Web startup that became Google Sheets and Expeditions, which allows teachers to take students on virtual field trips.

A panel of educators, students and entrepreneurs shared stories of creating change with technology. Brittany Wenger, Duke University student and Google 2012 Science Fair winner, shared her experience of teaching herself how to code and building a platform powered by Google App Engine that predicts breast cancer with 99 percent accuracy. Dr. Valerie Truesdale of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools talked about the district’s Chromebook program (83,000 devices across 168 schools), which began with researching what age group most needed the devices. Sarah Noell of North Carolina State University discussed how faculty and students are working together to design engaging lessons that inspire creativity.

Learning, building and scaling 

Attendees chose from breakout sessions in genomics, startups and education. In the education track, teachers and school administrators shared how they’re rethinking traditional teaching and learning methods with help from Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. Teachers also got hands-on with tackling current educational challenges with a 10X Design Thinking workshop. Jamel Mims of the Urban Arts partnership led a challenge on how to align pedagogy with art and culture to engage students. He shared his approach of teaching history through rapping. Ellie Gamache of American Underground led a group on how to foster community between local schools, universities and startups to drive innovation and embrace diversity.
Attendees worked in small groups with tools like pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, construction paper and Play Doh to brainstorm ideas to solve different educational challenges.

The genomics breakout sessions appealed to attendees whose work with big data uses the very same cloud computing platform that powers the Google backbone and services like Search, Maps and Google Genomics. The non-profit organization Autism Speaks, for example, discussed how they’re sequencing 10,000 whole genomes and building the world’s largest private collection of autism-related DNA samples. They shared how they already uploaded nearly 100 terabytes of data from more than 1,300 genomes onto Google Cloud Storage and how they make this genomic data available to researchers for free via the Google Cloud Platform, searchable through BigQuery.

The future looks bright for students, teachers, scientists and entrepreneurs in North Carolina. From research on Autism to creating new companies to enabling students to collaborate on projects remotely, Google tools are providing the building blocks people need to turn their big thoughts into reality and build a better tomorrow.

We’ve heard great stories from many of you about how you’re using technology to do amazing things in your schools, so we're going across the U.S. to see for ourselves! North Carolina was the first state we visited. Check out the map below to see where we’ll head next. We’d love to hear what’s happening in your state, so please share your story on Twitter or Google+ and tag us (@GoogleEdu) or include the #GoogleEdu hashtag.

The Expeditions Pioneer Program is coming to 15 new cities

More than 100,000 students have used Expeditions in their classes as part of the Expeditions Pioneer Program, which launched in September. Now, we’re bringing the program to new cities. In the U.S., we’ll be in Alexandria, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and Washington DC. We’ll also be adding three new countries: Canada, where we’ll be in Toronto, as well as Denmark and Singapore.

Our partners at Subaru are helping us to bring the Pioneer Program to schools in each of the regions we visit. Schools get an Expeditions kit, with everything they need for an immersive adventure: ASUS smartphones, a tablet for the teacher, a router and viewers that turn phones into virtual reality headsets. Some kits include Mattel’s new View-Master virtual reality viewers, others include Google Cardboard. Teachers can choose from more than 120 tours of places such as Antarctica, the Acropolis or the Borneo Rainforest – and the list keeps growing as we work with our content partners to create more.

Expeditions was designed to enhance the in-classroom learning experience, so we love hearing that educators consider it an impactful tool. “Teachers were amazed at the things they could do and the places they could see with their students,” said Michelle Guzman, a special education teacher at Dartmouth Middle School in San Jose, California. “Several are continuing lessons that developed from the field trip they experienced. I know that it will change the way I help my students adapt and learn.”

The response from students has also been overwhelmingly positive – and punctuated by lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs.” “It is always a great day when you hear multiple students say, ‘This is the best thing I have ever done!’” wrote teacher Hope Mulholland of Mansfield Middle School in Storrs, Connecticut.

Beyond just increasing engagement, Expeditions is helping students gain a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom and imagine endless possibilities for their future roles within it. “Students left school today with an everlasting memory of the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Fuji, the Borneo rainforest, the moon and many other eye-opening locations on our glorious planet,” said Andriana Aguilar-Lapoint, a teacher at H.W. Schulze Elementary School in San Antonio.

Interested in bringing Expeditions to your class? Head over to our website and sign up your school.

Bring virtual reality field trips to your school with Google Expeditions

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog.)

At the Bronx Latin School in New York City, teacher Katrina Roman says the topic of ancient history doesn’t usually set students abuzz. But this week, they took a field trip to ancient Aztec ruins using Google Expeditions, a virtual reality teaching tool built with Google Cardboard. Normally, their assignment would involve poring over photocopied photographs, but instead, they stood at the top of Chichen Itza, then examined detailed carvings at Tenochtitlan. Amid “oohs” and “aahhs,” the students shouted out details they noticed and shot hands up to answer Ms. Roman’s questions.
Katrina Roman's class at the Bronx Latin School fills out their assignment after visiting Aztec ruins with Expeditions. The class is part of a history and geography pilot with New Visions for Public Schools.

Starting today, we’re bringing this experience to thousands of schools around the world with the new Expeditions Pioneer Program. During the 2015/2016 school year, we’ll be bringing “kits” containing everything a teacher needs to run a virtual trip for their class: ASUS smartphones, a tablet for the teacher to direct the tour, a router that allows Expeditions to run without an Internet connection, and Google Cardboard viewers or Mattel View-Masters that turn phones into virtual reality headsets. Although nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, there are some places that are just out of reach (hello, Chichen Itza!). Virtual reality gives teachers a tool to take students places a school bus can't.

To help teachers learn how to use Expeditions, we’ll be visiting thousands of schools around the world and bringing the kit for teachers to use in their classes for the day. Up first: Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S., followed by more locations as the school year progresses. At each school, our team will show teachers how Expeditions works and help set it up before class.

Right now, teachers can choose from a library of 100+ virtual trips to places like Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China. But we’re constantly adding more trips with the help of partners like PBS, educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, British documentarian David Attenborough and his production company Alchemy VR, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. We’re also working with The Starfish Foundation to help students explore future careers by showing them a virtual day in the life of professionals including a veterinarian and computer scientist. And to help students achieve those career goals, we’re working with First Lady Michelle Obama to support her Reach Higher initiative by taking students on virtual college tours.

And if you see one of these cars on the road, that's us! The folks at Subaru, who invest in education as part of their Love Promise initiative, have created a fleet of Expedition Pioneer Program rides that we'll be using to bring kits to schools.

If visiting Mars, trekking on the Great Wall of China or exploring what it’s like to work at a veterinarian’s office sounds like something your class would be interested in, head to the Expeditions Pioneer Program site and sign up.