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Wayland Academy students’ virtual reality trips with Google Expeditions

Students at Wayland Academy Norfolk were transported from their classrooms back in time and to far-flung places as they experienced immersive, virtual reality trips with Google Expeditions.

Year 7 and 8 students saw the curriculum in history and geography come vividly to life as they visited Amazonian rainforests, tropical coral reefs, active volcanoes and pivotal times and places in history, including World War I trenches, thanks to Google Cardboard (a virtual reality viewer).

While nothing replaces getting out on a school trip, students had an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning.  The expeditions allow students to explore everywhere from Mars and the Great Barrier Reef to the inside of Buckingham Palace without ever leaving the classroom, bringing the impossible to reach or difficult to understand to life.

A box arrived with everything needed to travel: a tablet for the teacher, and Cardboard viewers and phones for every student.  Next, the teacher selects a destination, and the entire classroom jumps there automatically.  In order for teachers to seamlessly include these Expeditions within their lessons, Google has partnered with Twig and TES to tailor this content to the UK curriculum with easy-to-use lesson plans.

The impact of Expeditions has already been seen across the United States where students have experienced the magic of virtual field trips. Now launched in the UK, teachers from across the country can sign up to have the roadshow visit their school.

Wayland Academy Norfolk student Alfie Thurston, 12, who is in Year 7, said:

“It’s been really good.  We’ve been learning about the history of the First World War and also all of the different biomes in geography.  It’s phenomenal that technology has come so far to become that realistic.  My favourite part was how realistic it was, it’s really cool.”

Fellow Year 7 student Anna-May Bell, 12, added:

“We have used the headsets and we’ve learned about all the trees in the rainforest and we looked all around the world at all the fish and all the corals in the sea.  My favourite part has been looking around the sea.  The most interesting part was learning about all the different animals that live in the coral. I would definitely do it again.”

Tim Read, Subject Leader for Geography, Wayland Academy Norfolk, reflected on a valuable learning experience for the students, saying:

“It’s been a chance for our students to use new this technology and deepen their awareness about units they have been studying in history and geography.  With decisions coming up for Year 8 students about what to study at GCSE, this sort of experience is also helpful for informing students’ subject choices.”

Mr Read says that the benefits of this virtual reality experience extend beyond the requirements of the curriculum, adding:

“Understanding key moments in history, like World War I, and about what our great grandfathers went through to preserve the freedom we enjoy, that’s a really important life skill.  Similarly, seeing the different parts of our planet in this way, and the rich diversity of habitats, encourages students to ask: don’t we want to preserve that?”