NEWTON, NJ – Students at the Halsted Middle School were able to travel around the world and out into space without leaving the building. When Google offered to bring their Expeditions for Teachers program to local schools Newton happily applied.
The students met in the library and in a classroom for the experience. They were each given a cardboard version of a Viewmaster to peer through. This was not their parent’s Viewmaster, however. Inside of the cardboard goggles was a phone.
Using the Google Cardboard app, teachers from all grade levels were able to choose from 100 possible Expeditions topics. They chose topics that supported what they were teaching in their classrooms. A fifth grade class was looking at the Milky Way. An eighth grade class took a Literary Tour of London and went under the sea, and explored geological rock formations in Australia.
The teacher controls the lesson from an iPad. Jean Perrier, eight grade language arts teacher pulled up King’s Crossing Station on the iPad. Icons displayed on her screen, telling her were her students were looking as they saw historical railroad station through the Google Cardboard goggles. In addition, Perrier had annotations on her screen describing and discussing the sights.
Jenn Reynolds, Instructional Coach at Halsted Middle School explained teachers could use the notes provided or load their own. “Many of the expeditions are geographical, science or social studies based. There are a lot of ‘day in the life of’ options as well that show what it’s like to be an engineer, a pediatrician, a veterinarian, a social worker. There are many to choose from,” said Reynolds.
The students in the library were engaged in the lessons, seemingly without realizing they were being taught. There were exclamations of “Oh my gosh,” “This is so cool,” “I want to go here.”
Newton school district has embraced Google Apps for Education. “Our principals and Superintendent have been forward thinking,” said Reynolds. “Google has made our lives easier. There has been great feedback from teachers and students.” She explained that the administrators use Google Apps for reports and information management and it is used in most classrooms.
Reynolds said, “Many of the Language Arts classes are completely paperless. Teachers even give use the voice system to give feedback to students.”
Each of the Newton schools will be getting a visit from the Google Expedition people, who bring with them boxes of Google Cardboard. Some of the Expeditions the high school students will be taking are the Tour of Barcelona, Tour of Angkor and Tour of Mexico. Theater classes will see TV Sets and Studios, History class will see the Founding Fathers. The Tour of El Capitan will be experienced by the Social Psychology class as part of a unit on risk taking, said Reynolds.
Each school has a Google point person. In the high school it is Principal Jeff Waldron and at Merriam Avenue School it is Linda Salerno.
“Gone are the days of sitting in rows and in a quite classroom. And we like it,” said Reynolds.