Getting Started with Web-Based Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions Lives!

In November 2020, Google announced the Google Expeditions app would go away in June 2021. The app is gone, but 400 or so of the 981 Expeditions are now available on Google Arts and Culture’s website and mobile app (Google Play) (Apple Store).

Expeditions on the web means this content is always available to students using any device with an internet connection. Students can no longer use VR headsets for expeditions but now they can see them on any device with a web browser.

Warning: This May Be a Work in Progress

As of July 6, neither Google for Education nor Google Arts and Culture have tweeted about Expeditions in Google Arts and Culture. The Keyword has not posted about it. The number of expeditions has fluctuated between 410 and 421. I sense there may be more expeditions added and more updates to the Arts and Culture UI before all is said and done.

Finding Expeditions in Google Arts and Culture

One concern I had about Expeditions moving to Google Arts and Culture was the disorganized Arts and Culture website. Unfortunately, that is still a problem. This is the path users take to find Google Expeditions on the website:

  1. Start at the Google Arts and Culture homepage.
  2. Click Themes in the three-line menu in the upper-left.
  3. Click Learn with Google Arts and Culture.
  4. Click “View” under “Take all the field trips.”
Take all the field trips
Click “View” to see all Google Expeditions.

That brings you to a page with all 400 or so Google Expeditions including a search that only searches for Google Expeditions. Bookmark that link and the following depending on what you teach:

In the mobile app, Google Expeditions are harder to find. There is no path to take besides searching for a topic and viewing results. In this search, expeditions are mixed with other Google Arts and Culture content.

Viewing Expeditions

The front page of an Expedition is pretty useful. Users have several options including:

  • Save by clicking the heart. Teachers: do this for any Google Expeditions you plan to use. That way, you only need to click on “Favorites” to access them. “Favorites” is accessible in both the web and mobile versions of Google Arts and Culture.
  • Copy the URL to your clipboard by clicking the link icon.
  • Share on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Share which includes options such as email and Google Classroom.
Buttons on the first page of a Google Expediton:

Save by clicking the heart. 
Copy the URL to your clipboard by clicking the link icon.
Share on Facebook or Twitter.
Share with options including email and Google Classroom.
Buttons on the first page of a Google Expedition.
Share options in Google Expeditions. Choices include:

- Facebook
- Twitter
- Pinterest
- Email
- Tumblr
- Vkontakte
- Google Classroom
- The URL with a button to "Tap to cioy the link."
Google Expeditions sharing options. Notice the “Share to Classroom” button.

Viewing expeditions on the Arts and Culture website involves a lot of scrolling. Advance scenes by scrolling down or clicking the down arrow in the bottom center. A progress bar keeps track of progress so viewers see how far they have advanced. Explanatory text is visible in the bottom left of the screen. This is the narration text from the Google Expeditions app:

The text, progress bar, and advance arrow in a Google Expeditions scene. The text reads:

"What is a Volcano?
A volcano is formed by a crack in the crust of the Earth from
which hot magma and gases from deep within the Earth erupt."
Text, progress bar, and advance arrow in a Google Expeditions scene.

Accessing the back arrow can be tricky. It does not appear by default. Touch a Chromebook trackpad with two fingers or use a mouse scroll wheel to make the back arrow appear at the top center of the screen.

A magma chamber scene in the Volcanoes Google Expedition. There is an up arrow at the top-center and a down arrow at the bottom-center. The text on the screen reads:

"Magma Chamber

Magma is melted rock deep inside the Earth."
The up arrow at the top goes back. The down arrow at the bottom advances.

The expeditions are mostly 360° scenes with some 2D images as well. Web-based expeditions do not use a device’s gyroscope. The only way to look around 360° scenes is to click the screen to change the view or use a finger on a touchscreen device. Touchscreens make the experience very tactile. Author’s Note: This paragraph applies to my experiences using a Chromebook and iPad. Expeditions in Arts and Culture used the gyroscope on my Android phone in both the Arts and Culture app and the Chrome browser.

Images that teachers could make pop in Expeditions are now embedded in the scene. An example of this is the Photosynthesis expedition.

A pop up image in a Google Expedition. The pop up is a close up of carbon dioxide becoming oxygen in photosynthesis. The text reads:

"Oxygenic Photosynthesis

The type you can explore while observing plants, algae and cyanobacteria, it supplies the air with oxygen and is most common in nature. It functions as a counterbalance to the carbon dioxide produced by all breathing organisms."
A pop-up image in a Google Expedition. The image is just there. It no longer pops.

For more information on using Google Expeditions in Arts and Culture with students, have a look at the expedition Google created:

Using Expeditions with Students – Expeditions is Now Student-Centered

The new web-based Google Expeditions will work best as the mobile-app Google Expeditions worked best: in small groups. Use the Share to Google Classroom button to share with students. Invite them up in small groups to guide them around the expedition and point out specific things. Design accompanying activities such as questions, prompts, or group tasks as you would for any digital resource.

After meeting with students in small groups, they can review and read the content at their own pace. While it is not as immersive as VR headsets, Google Expeditions has switched from teacher-centered to student-centered. That is a win for students. Any teacher who insists on controlling what students see in an expedition can project it on their classroom display screen. That is the beauty of anything available on the web. If you do that, please use Share to Classroom afterward so students can look around and explore for themselves.

What This Is and Isn’t

Please understand that Google Expeditions are now pages on the World Wide Web. No more. No less. There is no downloading or leading tours as there was with the Google Expeditions mobile app.

Also, note there is no creation tool to make your own Google Expeditions in Google Arts and Culture.

As mentioned before, there is a Google Arts and Culture mobile app. It is only for finding and viewing expeditions. There is no way to guide a tour or cast it to other devices.

Pros and Cons

Expeditions look beautiful on the web and are more accessible. But, moving them to Google Arts and Culture is a somewhat mixed bag. I hope some improvements are coming. Here is a rundown of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Student-centered.
  • Narration text is now visible for students to read.
  • The Share to Classroom button is very helpful.
  • Students can view expeditions at their own pace.
  • Tactile experience on touchscreen devices.
  • Teachers can display expeditions on their classroom display screens.
  • Click the heart icon to save an expedition to your Google Arts and Culture Favorites.

Cons:

  • Expeditions are difficult to find on the Google Arts and Culture website. Be sure to bookmark the links in the Finding Expeditions in Google Arts and Culture section of this blog post.
  • Not as immersive.
  • There are no URLs to specific scenes, only the beginning of an expedition. Teachers would benefit from being able to link to specific scenes.
  • Expeditions do not embed in websites. I hope this feature is coming in the future.
  • Fewer expeditions. Only 400 or so of the 981 expeditions made it to Google Arts and Culture. American History teachers won’t like search results for a founding father whose reputation has been whitewashed in recent years.

What to Do with Expeditions Kits

If your school bought Google Expeditions kits, there is plenty to do with them. My first suggestion is YouTube 360° videos. Vera Cubero created a Wakelet of resource with suggestions:

What do you think? Will you be using web-based Google Expeditions with your students? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school need professional development to make the most of Google Expeditions and educational technology? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s