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3 Free Google Virtual Reality Tools for Learning

3 Free Google Virtual Reality Tools for Learning

By Tatyana Dvorkin

reading too much? Whooos ReadingIt’s difficult to get through a day without using Google for something, whether you’re lost in an unfamiliar area, chatting with a friend, or in a heated argument about exactly which actor was just nominated for an Oscar.

Schools across the United States are no different, quickly realizing that they too turn to Google more often than not. Google Apps for Education, affectionately referred to as GAFE, is quickly becoming as ubiquitous a feature in today’s learning institutions as pens and paper.

Google’s products are not only high quality, but free for school. This is a draw for many, especially for schools and teachers that are just beginning to integrate technology or incorporate blended learning courses.

Thanks to a lack of funding, whole-school buy-in, and administrator support, Google is often the only product that can take hold—allowing schools to benefit from top of the line products without overspending.

Now, alongside the products that focus on helping the classroom run smoothly, Google has begun to break down the classroom walls, virtually. These newer tools are aimed at getting students to explore the world, without ever leaving their seats.

More: 20 Best Google Education Resources

Google Cultural Institute

Google Cultural Institute, launched back in 2011, has been slow to break into the school market. The goal of the project is to make culturally important materials like art and historical archives easily accessible to everyone, while preserving them digitally.

By partnering with museums and institutions around the world, Google is able to bring amazing pieces of culture, art and history to life on school computer screens. For some students, this will be their only chance to experience these places. The best part: Google Cultural Institute can provide value in a variety of core classrooms:

  • Using the Art Project section of the Google Cultural Institute, an art teacher can take her students on a virtual tour of the Modern Art Museum in Manhattan. During the tour, they can view high-resolution images of artwork and “stroll” through the exhibitions.

Google Cultural Institute

More: 5 Virtual Field Trips to Take With Your Social Studies Class

Google Cardboard

In 2015 we were introduced to Google Cardboard, a virtual reality (VR) mobile phone platform that is used with a foldout cardboard mount.

Unlike the expensive commercial VR devices available on the market, Google Cardboard brings immersive experiences to classrooms in an incredibly affordable and simple way. Teachers can buy class sets of cardboard viewers, or even have students fold their own using instructions available online. (The added project of creating and personalizing your own viewing can add a Maker aspect to the project!)

Google-Cardboard

Once set up, viewers place phone with the Google Cardboard app (available for iOS and Android) inside to take off on new adventures.

A few of the things students can experience with Cardboard are:

  • Titans of Space VR, which takes students on a surreal tour of the universe, shrunk down to 1 millionth its size.
  • Discovery VR, which has 360-degree videos of everything from shipwrecks on the ocean floor to the habitats of wild elephants.

More: 20 Best Google Classroom Tips from Google Pros

Google Expeditions

Finally, the most recent educational venture from Google is Google Expeditions. Not yet available to the public, Google Expeditions, is enjoying an exciting pioneer run at a few selected schools around the world and will be available publically after the testing phase.

Expeditions is a virtual reality platform for tablets built specifically for the classroom.

After working with content partners and teachers, Google created dozens of journeys that take students around the world, with the teacher pointing out highlights and leading questioning along the way. If you’re interested in bringing the Expeditions team to your school, you can learn more here.

If the cold is keeping you and your students indoors this winter, consider exploring one of these exciting ways of getting out into the world without leaving the building! To find more resources you can integrate into your classroom, check out the DigitalJLearning Network’s Resource Portal.

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