As we enter the final weeks of the school year, I am starting to reflect on where we have gone since purchasing our Google Expeditions equipment. We have traveled to places such as China, Brazil, Washington DC, space, the rainforest, and many more! The students and teachers of Summit Cove have been around the world and back without ever leaving the classroom. "Field trips" have been redefined as a daily occurrence, not just a special event. Content has become meaningful, relevant, and accessible to students no matter their background. We have made the world our classroom, rather than the classroom our world!
Google Expeditions has a profound impact on the students at my school and on my teaching. Students used to create visualizations in their head or create meaning from a 2-D picture. With Google Expeditions, these images now come to life right in front of them. The "ooo" and "ahhs" I hear when students first look into the viewers never gets old. I watch as students eagerly want to apply their learning to what is in front of them. The energy is contagious! As a teacher, Google Expeditions has transformed my teaching. Lessons that used to be sub par, because I couldn't figure out an amazing way to present it, all of a sudden have new life. Some topics I used to dread teaching have become some of my favorite and those of my students too! (they obviously know when you aren't into something). I used to babble on and on about something from my own experience and how it related to what we were learning. Now the tables have turned! Conversation centers around what they are seeing right in front of them. They are truly driving their own learning!
So where do we go next? That is always the question. In terms of moving forward with Google Expeditions personally, this summer (who says teachers have summers off?) I am going to work on aligning Google Expeditions with our PYP Units of Inquiry with the hope that all students will have the opportunity to use it next year. I am also looking how to broaden my current scope of Expeditions with other geo tools that Google has to offer and integrating it into other content areas, specifically math. I've been working with other teachers around our district, educating them about the potential Google Expeditions has in their class with the hope more teachers will utilize this amazing tool. Our district is working on a purchasing a set to be checked out as needed by teachers in our district. Hopefully this will eliminate the lack of resources teachers struggle with when it comes to implementation.
The places we have traveled over the past 6 months are unreal! I can only imagine the resources, time, and cost to actually physically go on these "field trips" with our students. Ultimately, it is unrealistic that we would have ever been able to visit such places with our students. Doors have been opened that were out of reach! So whether you have one device or a set of devices that you can use with Google Expeditions... DO IT! I'll leave you with this.. if a picture is said to be worth a 1,000 words, then what is an experience worth?
The other day as I was driving home from school and I started to think about why I have found VR to be so powerful for my students. I reflected on my love for travel and realized it stemmed from all the trips I took as a child. When I was 9 and 11 my parents decided to pack up our Dodge Grand Caravan for 11 and 9 weeks and drive across the U.S. I remember initially kicking and screaming about how they "ruined" my summer by taking me away from all of my friends and summer activities. Yet, what I experienced in those two summers is something that has stuck with me and even translated into how I teach.
This is the reason I have found VR to be so important for my students. It provides them the opportunity to travel the world when the means aren't there. I can give them the experiences I had growing up as a child (without spending hours stuck in the back seat of a minivan)! My hope is that for those 15-20 minutes when they are using the VR viewer my students are transported to a whole new world. They can experience something new and exciting and make connections that lasts a lifetime. Having the ability to send my students places I could only imagine going as a child is a dream. I hope that even if they are only being transport through the lens of a VR viewer my students walk away with the sense of adventure that going somewhere new has to offer. With that said, that is why I believe every student deserves VR.
Acquiring funding for my Google Expeditions project was the biggest hurdle! I spent hours writing several grant applications to get the devices and the other components needed to execute my vision. I learned a lot in the process of writing these grants. It made me really think and develop my vision. I had to examine all aspects of what I needed and what was the best way to accomplish it. My project was fully funded through two local organizations grant programs, BGV Gives and The Summit Education Foundation. I feel grateful to be supported by the community I live in! The grants funded the purchase of 2 iPads, 25 iPods, viewers, cases, and charging stations to travel the world with Google Expeditions. Honestly, without receiving those two grants it would have been impossible to implement Google Expeditions on a full scale.
My 5th graders and building staff have had the opportunity to use the Google Expeditions set. When I wrote these grants, I wrote them with the intention to have all grade levels be able to access them. I think this is a powerful way to learn and therefore should not be limited to a set of students. If you have a project in mind, think about the impact you can have not only on your students, but your school or even district. In education, money is always an issue, but where there's a will there's a way! Find opportunities to fund you passion. Dream big because you never know what is possible!
Check out my interview about my Google Expeditions project with The Summit Education Foundation!
Never ever underestimate the power of real life experiences! I have no words to describe how I felt yesterday. I am literally speechless!
Today I saw a level of engagement, joy, and enthusiasm that is indescribable. This past weekend I listened to a keynote speaker who said, "make every week like shark week." As I've tried to make everyday this week like that, I felt that yesterday was my shark week! As much as the students craved more, so did I! I didn't want our time to end!
Yesterday, was our first Google Expedition! I didn't tell the students we were doing it as I didn't want to create too much hype, in case it was an EPIC failure. Fortunately, it was a wild success. While we didn't have the typical internet connection issues, we did struggle with some uncharged devices, due to a faulty charger. Devices lasted just long enough for all 32 of our students and a slue of other teachers to experience several expeditions. Teachers popped in and out hearing about our expedition in progress and they were just as inthralled as the students. This included my principal, 1:1 paraprofessional, special ed teacher, and one of our 1st grade teachers.
We explored a variety of human body systems using the Google Expeditions app. Students used knowledge that they learned in our recent unit of inquiry to make sense of the systems they were viewing. They were able to make connections and inferences to create understanding of what they didn't know. I was blown away by their ability to reason and make sense of new and unfamiliar material.
I have had questions of how VR is relevant in the classroom. My response is always... how is it not? Yes, VR is fun and students enjoy it, but some teachers wonder how can it be brought beyond of the oooh and ahhh of looking. Today was evidential proof that students can move beyond that looking stage and start relating to what they are seeing and what they already for an authentic learning experience.
Apparently... I HATE WAITING! I thought I was a patient person, but as it turns out... NO!
After submitting a purchase order for 24 iPods and 2 iPads the week before our winter break, the devices were finally delivered our first day back. I have been patiently (or impatiently) waiting their arrival as they were sent to district offices for cataloging. Guess what... THEY ARE HERE! They arrived last week Thursday and it felt like Christmas all over again. I shrieked with excitement when they were causally dropped off by our media specialist. I spent most of the day Friday setting devices up with the help of our district tech coach and my principal.
In preparation to receive the devices, I spent time ordering charging stations, cases, and VR viewers. It is the little things you don't think about! I have hit a little bump in the road with ordering the View-Master viewers as Amazon has a limit on three per account. I am seeking alternative routes to acquire that final 21 viewers. I have also been collecting resources on how to use VR (virtual reality) in the classroom. Join my G+ community (https://goo.gl/MTCROK) to look at all the resources I have found.
I hope to run my first Google Expedition sometime this week as we wrap up our unit on body systems. Fingers crossed it goes off without a hitch! Also, I am off to Vegas this weekend to present at a conference and hopefully gather more great resources.
I've recently was awarded close to $7,000 to buy materials for Google Expeditions! I am thrilled to bring this experience to my students and school. I wanted my students to be able to experience places beyond the four walls of our classroom! In doing this, I hope to create a global audience for their learning and understanding of the world we live in. As I embark on this adventure I wanted to share my experience with others. Follow me for tips I learn along the way and other exciting adventures with my 5th grade students in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado!
A little background...
I have been teaching 5th grade for the past 4 years at Summit Cove Elementary and before that I taught a slew of other things! My school has been 1:1 for the past three years which has led me to become a tech nerd! With students having access to their own devices it has made many opportunities for myself and my students!