Google Expeditions is a great app for engaging students and broadening their horizons.
I led my colleagues on a Google Expedition at the NCTIES 2016 conference:
The app is marketed in conjunction with Google Cardboard and Android phones. This is fine but involves lots of moving pieces. The cardboards need to be cleaned frequently, especially during cold and flu season. Additionally, a complete Google Expeditions set for ten students costs $3,999.
The good news is that you can probably lead your students on a Google Expedition tomorrow. And you can do it for free with equipment your school owns if it has any functioning iPads. Google Expeditions runs on iPads in a “window mode” that gives students a 360 view. Having tried this with students, I can attest, they love it. Sure, the cardboard viewers are more encompassing, but no student has complained about not using a viewer.
A Brief Technical Note
To lead an expedition from one iPad to others, all devices need to be connected to the same WiFi network with peer-to-peer sharing enabled. Test this by using two iPads to lead and follow an expedition. If it does not work, ask your IT department about enabling peer-to-peer sharing.
I beta-tested Expeditions with my literacy block. I led them on an expedition of the Empire State Building.
The kids loved it. They were very excited. I could tell they were not listening as I read the narration provided by Google Expeditions. This was a low-stakes beta test but I would have to ensure students would listen when I led expeditions as part of classes.
Since then, I have pulled groups of seven students to lead them on Google Expeditions. Keep the group numbers low if possible. Thirty students in a Google Expedition could become chaotic. Before I hand students iPads, I lay out my expectations:
- Treat the iPads like precious treasure. We cannot afford to have one broken.
- Google Expeditions is awesome. You’re going to go banana and I need you to listen as I explain what you are seeing in each scene.
Making those expectations clear at the start has made our Google Expeditions successful. I have led sixth-grade students on expeditions of pyramids in Egypt, the National Museum of Iraq, the Great Wall of China, the Palace at Versailles, and the human auditory system. My colleague Cristie Watson and I have documented some of these moments with our students.
“Can we just learn like this from now on?” – something a kid just said to me during #GoogleExpeditions.
— Tom Mullaney (@TomEMullaney) December 1, 2016
— Cristie Watson (@CristieWatson) January 13, 2017
Leading expeditions is easy. Teachers need to sign in with a Google account and then simply search for and download expeditions they want to lead. Students open the app and join the expedition, no sign-in required. Students can move their iPad to change their view of the 360 image. They can also use their fingers to change their vantage point. Swivel chairs are ideal but not essential.
Some Resources to Get Started:
- The iPad app
- The Android app (for Play Store enabled Chromebooks)
- Gallery of Google Expeditions
- Lesson plans to use with Google Expeditions
If you would like to share your thoughts with me, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.
Update 7/15/17: I was honored when my colleague Cristie Watson gave me a shout-out for leading her students on Google Expeditions on iPads:
— Cristie Watson (@CristieWatson) July 13, 2017
Update 12/28/17: Play Store enabled Chromebooks can also be Google Expeditions machines for free. Watch as I demonstrate an expedition on my Chromebook. Give it a try with the Google Expeditions Android app!
Update 1/9/18: I was honored when Google for Education included a tweet by my former employer, Gravelly Hill Middle School, of me leading students on a Google Expeditions on the January 9 Google Expeditions Teacher Tip.