Friday, May 4, 2018

When Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program Visits Your School

This letter went out to our families this week:
Yesterday CCS had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. Twenty different groups of students from Kindergarten to 12th grade were able to use augmented reality tools to enhance the concepts they are currently learning in their classrooms through engagement, visualization, and manipulation. This software is not available to the public as Google is perfecting its product, and we were honored to be selected to experience it and give feedback! 
Augmented reality is best described as the process of layering a computer-generated image over a real-world view (think of SnapChat filters). Our students worked in groups of 2-3 using a Google phone attached to a selfie stick to see 3D manipulative visuals ranging from objects associated with a coral reef, to a hurricane, to Da Vinci's inventions! 
The opportunity to participate in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program provided both teachers and students access to technology-based tools that have the ability to bring abstract concepts to life and give students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom. When students have the ability to look at a bumble bee up close and then enter its body to see how it is formed, that sparks questions and enriches learning!
Google created a safe, non-threatening, fully supported culture for our teachers to be trained to use this technology. Then the teachers were able to introduce this new way to enhance the teaching and learning in their classroom with continued support from Google while they piloted the product. It was an excellent experience for everyone involved!

Julie Davis, our Director of Instructional Technology and Innovation, interviewed with WDEF News 12 this morning and explained CCS's participation in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. Click here to watch the interview. 

Now that you know about our experience, I wanted to share my ed tech takeaways from this experience. If you have the chance to pilot a tech tool at your school, do it. It was hard work to get all our ducks in a row on short notice but how often does this type of opportunity come around? Here is why:

  • Empower the early adopters: The teachers that are interested will sign up and it is a great way to get feedback on a concept without sinking straight into it through a purchase. I believe it's important to slide new ideas in the back door so it is less overwhelming for those that are wary of "the next great thing." Let your early adopters have the opportunity to be challenged first. 
  • Effectiveness of tools: In this case, it became immediately evident to me how a good lesson plan can be created around augmented reality by watching teachers in action during this pilot.
  • Explore cost free: There really isn't much risk by trying out something like this. If the product is worth the hype, you have multiple users clamoring for it. 
I hope to be able to find other opportunities for our teachers to try new concepts in a stress free environment. The beauty of the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program is that not only was it introduced to the teachers but immediately they were implementing it. I now have 20+ teachers that have experience with augmented reality in the classroom and have that concept in a tool belt for their future. 

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