Friday, February 26, 2016

Indiana Students Walk on the Moon

Today's blogger, Katie Reel, teaches 6th and 7th grade digital learning at Clay Middle School. You can find her on Twitter @ReelMission.

Scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea. Climbing to the Mount Everest summit. Walking on the moon. These one-in-a-million experiences that we all dream about became a reality for my 7th Graders within the walls of our own building. What was to be a normal day in dreary January proved to be a thriller through Google Expeditions.

Google Expeditions is a virtual reality platform built specifically and effectively for the classroom. GoogleEx takes students on journeys to places they may never encounter in real life and explore geographies and experience history in ways we only hope to cover in our lessons.

As a teacher, goal one is to provide my students with relevant activities that enrich lessons, engage learners, and align with standards. While the use of technology has consistently helped, finding the right digital resources among the vast available is difficult. The implementation may be time intensive or sometimes cost prohibitive. However, this one is a game changer.

I work to engage my students in every lesson. Technology is the content and I believe I reach most of them daily, but I work to reach all of these students, not most. I want my students to come away excited to share their explorations with a student in the hallway or at a dinner table how the class impacted them. I want students ready to learn to enter and inquire about what’s on queue for the day.

That happened January 27th. There was a buzz in the hallway as students entered the classroom after seeing a snapshot of what the daily lesson encompassed. The anticipation grew as each student was handed a viewer. Then, amazement took place, with the click of a button I took them half way across the world. Immediately they stood trying to touch what was in front of them, prompting others to look left and right. I had lost them in the depths of their own learning. This was true engagement. I had every student asking for more, inquiring about the locations in front of them, disappointed when the lesson was over. I can definitely credit the tech that they held in their hand as one point of engagement. It was new and the wow factor was prevalent, however at my core I believe the relevance of this lesson was what hooked students. Technology remains the tool, while the lesson and delivery captivates.

Google Expeditions for the classroom exceeded our expectations. The program has approximately 100 journeys ready to explore with more in development. Google’s partnerships with teachers and content providers have allowed them to detail each journey so that teachers can share intricate details with the students as they explore. I urge you to check this out as a resource for your classroom!

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