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Travel Virtually Anywhere with Virtual Reality in your Classroom

 I'm so excited to share an engaging way to bring the world into your classroom with virtual reality! With VR goggles your students can explore the world through a unique experience that makes them feel as though they're actually there. From the International Space Station to the Galapagos Islands to ancient Mayan ruins, the destinations for virtual field trips are practically endless. When students explore with VR goggles they get a 360 degree view of the destination, creating a one-of-a-kind travel experience without even leaving the four walls of your classroom. 

To get started in your classroom you'll need one pair (or more) of virtual reality goggles, a smart phone, and a tablet. I also like to use a Virtual Field Trip Passport for students to document their fun travel experiences! The smart phone is placed inside the VR goggles, and the tablet is used by the teacher or student leader to navigate the field trip. (A second smart phone could be used to navigate in place of the tablet.) I recommend View-Master Virtual Reality Goggles from Mattel because they're versatile, durable, and affordable. Next, you can explore a variety of compatible apps and virtual experiences. I recommend a fantastic Google app called Expeditions (available on the App Store and Google Play).

With Expeditions, there are two roles: Guides and Explorers. When you open the app, you'll be prompted to select one of those two roles. As a Guide you can control where you'd like your students to travel and important facts about the destination appear on your screen. Explorers (students) view the different scenes with their VR googles. Most Expeditions include between five to eight different scenes. Each scene provides a 360 degree view and teacher prompts to read aloud to students. For example, the Mount Everest Expedition includes the following scenes: Base Camp, Khumbu Ice River, Climbing Everest, Gokyo Valley and Lakes, Helicopters, and Edmund Hillary's Suspension Bridge.

Explorers are prompted to view the scenes from their Guide. Little smiley faces are displayed on the Guide's screen to show where Explorers are looking. I love this feature because it allows my students to explore with some boundaries. For example, if we are looking at sea lions underwater at the Galapagos Islands, I can tell if all my Explorers are actually looking at the sea lions or if they're "swimming away" to somewhere else ;) This is particularly helpful when doing VR in small-group so I can be sure that we're all on the same page and ready to move on to other scenes.

Many Expeditions have discussion questions embedded throughout the guided prompts. I like to pause a few times in each "scene" to allow kids a chance to discuss what they saw. After the Expedition, they reflect in their Virtual Field Trip Passport. These are easy to prep (just print & fold) and are a great way for students to keep track of the places they go.  If you really want to amp up the excitement, you may also like to include boarding passes and these free travel itineraries to make it even more realistic for your kids. 

Expeditions are fun for your students, but if they are new to VR, be sure to allow plenty of time for routines/procedures, modeling, and discussion. Since VR is a distortion of reality, it's very important to go over safety procedures. To start off, I have my kids sit on stools that allow them to turn 360 degrees without standing and bumping into each other.

If you're interested in trying Virtual Reality in your classroom, I recommend purchasing one pair of goggles or a small-group set. My school has a set of seven goggles, so I use the set during Daily 5 (centers) as a station. It's an awesome way to integrate science and social studies in a fun and engaging way! Here are some helpful tips from Google regarding the tech-specific details about setting up VR at your school.

For more ideas on virtual field trips, visit my blog and TpT store. Let me know if you choose to try this with your class. I can't wait to hear how it goes! Happy exploring :)