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Virtual reality goggles take Berlin students on journey

By Kara Hallissey | Nov 30, 2017
Members of the Worcester County Board of Education try out Google Expeditions virtual reality goggles during their monthly meeting on Nov. 21.

(Dec. 1, 2017) If seeing is believing, then students at Berlin Intermediate School have been learning quite a bit via their sightseeing trips to places far removed from the classroom, even though they never left their seats.

Courtesy of the technical revolution, they have been taking virtual reality field trips using Google Expeditions, a free app that can transport the mind, if not the body, around the world.

Teachers download the program on a tablet that feeds a virtual reality headset that can take students to historical places, college campuses, occupational areas and scientific settings.

The virtual trips can be matched to the classroom curriculum, as was the case with fifth graders who recently toured Pioneer Village in Salem, Massachusetts as part of their studies of the colonies.

To set up the program, Google Expeditions creators worked with colleges and museums such as the Smithsonian to gather and compile information, fun facts, explanations, lesson plans and pictures of the scenes.

“When we first looked, there were 200 field trips,” said Nancy Stearns, a media specialist at Berlin Intermediate School. “When I looked recently, there were 600 field trips. They are high quality and more are coming out all the time.”

More than a year ago, Berlin Intermediate School employees were able to secure grant money from a parent teacher association and the Community Foundation to buy a set of the Google Expeditions goggles.

“When we secured the grant, we wanted to make an impact on students and do something for the whole student body,” Stearns said. “The virtual reality goggles take you on a field trip without actually going there.”

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