Google Expeditions brought its 3-D magic to Episcopal School on Dec. 2, said Jason Hubbard, associate head of schools.
Expeditions consists of Google cardboard viewfinders paired with a smartphone app that presents visual media stereoscopically, allowing the user to step into a new world and look around — literally — to explore environments like a volcano, a coral reef and a Hawaiian atoll, by turning their heads.
Teachers instructed the fourth- and second-grade students to hold their viewfinders carefully, “with one hand on each side,” before starting the program, which began with an island off the coast of Florida.
When they got the signal to look, they gasped, then sat, mouths agape, turning their heads in every direction, and sometimes jumping when they saw something unexpected.
“Hey, look below you,” one student told another, and a third warned his neighbor of a shark behind them.
Since all the viewers were presenting the same 3-D environment, they could all see the same things if they were looking in the same direction.
Cris Newsome with Google Expeditions brought several cardboard viewers, complete with smartphones and apps, and the tablet computer used to control the experience.
Google Expedition has a variety of tools that allow teachers to use the app in pretty much every subject, including art.
The visit was free, as is the app if the school decides to add Google Expeditions to its classrooms, which Hubbard believes to be important.
When he signed up to be considered for a school visit, Hubbard was thinking not just of the novelty, which piques students’ interest.
Programs like Google Expeditions represent technology that they will likely be expected to know long before they graduate.
“We’re looking at acquiring the apps for educational purposes, of course, but we want to teach our students to take that one step further, and learn how to produce their own content,” Hubbard said.
It’s impressive technology, he said, that uses another cell phone app to take multiple pictures of an environment and paste them together to create the 3-D world, so they could conceivably make their own 3-D environments.
The images used are static, Hubbard said, because students focus better when they are looking around a still world, though immersive video is becoming more common.
About 300 students got a chance to use Google Expeditions, Hubbard said. He hopes to move the school toward use and creation of interactive still images and video.
“It’s the way this technology is moving, pretty quickly,” Hubbard said.
For information on the program and other uses for the viewers, visit www.google.com/cardboard.