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Google Brings A New Learning Perspective to Brentwood Students

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Think back to your favorite classroom during your school days and what you loved to learn about while in it. Now, imagine that same classroom had the ability to provide a 3D, lifelike view of something that really captivated your interest. It could be a dinosaur or a shark, one of Michelangelo’s best inventions, a volcano or tornado, the moon and the planets, or a World War II tank or plane. You could see the object up close or from farther away, to both see intricate details and also gather a big-picture understanding of its size, shape, and features.

Thanks to a new pilot program called Google Expeditions Augmented Reality (AR), a sneak peek of that experience was brought to the classrooms of Brentwood Elementary on October 13.

Expeditions AR is a currently unreleased feature of Google’s Expeditions app, which is used to access and view these special lessons. The program allows teachers and students to first map their physical classroom, and then place virtual 3D objects (for example, a volcano getting ready to erupt) into the classroom environment via a special viewing device. The image is entirely computer-generated as opposed to being a physical, tangible model, allowing users to view large digital objects in smaller, real-life spaces. Using a viewing device provided by Google, students are able to view their object, both close-up or from a distance, to get a better visual understanding of the subject at hand. Teachers can highlight specific points of interest on the object and incorporate it into their lessons.

Brentwood’s Learning Resource Center Teacher, Ann Sullivan, was seeking out online information about AR programs and saw an article about participating in a demo view of Google’s program. She immediately sought to get the school signed up to participate. The demonstration was entirely free, with Google providing all the needed equipment and a trainer to work with school staff. Google is piloting the technology in school classrooms to provide teachers and students the opportunity to try it and in turn receive valuable feedback on potential developments and improvements. The schools that are involved in the pilot get firsthand experience on how to incorporate a new way of learning into the classroom.

Sullivan was quick to point out all the ways the AR experience enhanced student learning, aligning well with CCSD59’s goals. “Students needed to think critically about what they were viewing to analyze the information being presented visually,” she said. “They needed to communicate and collaborate with peers to gain a deeper understand of their observations as the teacher provided guiding questions. Many lessons also deepened their thinking on civic and global responsibility, as students viewed objects such as forces of nature and considered the impact of such events…especially this year, when there has been an abundance of real-world events students are aware of.”

On October 13, a Google pioneer program associate came to Brentwood to facilitate the program’s use at the school. Participating teachers had selected a lesson on one of twenty-two different topics Google currently has available in this pioneer program. The teachers first participated in a half-hour training program with the associate to view the experience and decide how to best incorporate it into their lesson plans. Eighteen different classes at Brentwood were able to view a half-hour interactive presentation of the Expeditions AR program during their classroom discussion.

I wish we had this for EVERYTHING in our books!

First Grade Student

Many of Brentwood’s teachers selected “Forces of Nature” as their topic, which had virtual, interactive models of a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami, a volcanic eruption, and an earthquake. Depending on the student’s current curriculum, some teachers also selected the AR lessons on WWII, dinosaurs, phases of the moon, and probability. Many classes had the opportunity to view multiple lessons. No matter which lesson was being viewed, the student reactions to the virtual models were the same: surprise, wonder, interest, and excitement. Exclamations like“Wow!” “That’s SO cool!” and “It’s a TORNADO!” could be heard in the demo classrooms over and over again.

One first grade student exclaimed, “It’s like I’m in a rocket ship!” when viewing a virtual asteroid belt in one of the lessons about space. Over and over children of all ages wanted to ask the teacher questions about the things they saw in the modules.

“Experiential learning is incredibly powerful and effective,” said Sullivan. “I love the idea of providing these types of experiences that increase our students’ excitement for learning right there in the classroom.”

Another first grader agreed with her wholeheartedly: “I wish we had this for EVERYTHING in our books!”

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