Google Expeditions: The Glory and the Glitches!

Today’s Contributor: Amanda BrazielMaplewood

Amanda Braziel is the librarian at Maplewood Elementary. She taught fifth grade for seven years before becoming a librarian 10 years ago. She’s also mom to a second grader and a fifth grader in AISD. She’s inspired every day by working in the field of education and doesn’t want you to be jealous that she has the best job in the world. 🙂

I opened my school email one Saturday morning in September 2017 to find a special message from Google informing me they’d received my May 2017 application to participate in their “Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program” and wanted to coordinate a school visit the following week. WOW!  I felt like I’d won the lottery!  I sprang into action, sorting through their detailed requirements so I could take advantage of this rare opportunity. I watched their introductory video; scoured their Google Doc full of requirements, caveats, and instructions;  and reviewed the list of “Expeditions” offered.

The first thing I noticed was the requirement for two “Points of Contact” . They wanted another adult and me to be available from 6:50 am until 2:30 pm to assist with equipment load-in, shuffling students to and from sessions, and troubleshooting glitches in the app or devices. They also required two large “separate and adjacent” rooms for their visits, where they asked that we schedule 30 minute sessions to run concurrently throughout the day. Finally, they required that teachers pre-select which particular “Expedition” they wanted their classes to experience; and, they wanted teachers to attend a mandatory 30 minute presentation the morning of the visit so they could lead the expeditions by teaching all of the vocabulary and content while the Google Expeditions staff handled the technology. They communicated solely via a shared Google Sheet, which they were frustratingly slow to update.

A parent volunteer provided breakfast tacos to entice teachers to attend the mandatory 7:15am training session. We gathered in the library and learned how our Google visitor would “place” a “virtual object or artifact” in the middle of the room, then teachers would guide students through its exploration. Students would use devices held on selfie sticks to walk around the virtual object and observe it from multiple perspectives. Classes viewed various virtual objects such as volcanoes, the circulatory system, planets, dinosaurs, and tornadoes based on their grade level TEKS. We heard lots of, “oooooh”s and “aaaaahhhhh’s; and, despite several glitches in the app and frozen devices that required rebooting, students were very engaged. It was a great kick-off to our school year focused on blended learning.

The entire process required a lot of planning, teamwork, and compliance with very detail-oriented expectations, but we DID it! I’m glad we pulled it off, but it was admittedly exhausting. Google Expeditions emailed me again last week. This time, I knew what to expect and realized it wouldn’t be achievable on such short notice and/or the week before STAAR testing. If you’re interested in hosting the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer program the next time they’re in Austin, you’ll need to start the process here.





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