Year 11 students going to Moscow in VR

Last week students at Sydenham High were able to travel millions of miles in minutes to see Mars, the Moon and more earthly wonders such as Machu Picchu – all without leaving the school.

This was no elaborate Britain’s Got Talent magic trick; Sydenham High’s students were in fact amongst the first in the country to try out Google’s latest innovation: the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme.

As well as exploring space, students from Year 7 to Year 13 used the virtual reality programme to tour the Palace of Versailles, visit the Galapagos Islands, go inside a volcano and take an anatomy class.

Google Expeditions allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing them in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving them a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.

The Google Expeditions pack includes everything needed to travel: a tablet for the teacher plus a phone with a unique viewer for every student. The teacher selects the destination and the entire classroom jumps there automatically.

Each trip is a collection of virtual reality panoramas – 360 degrees photo spheres, 3D images and video with ambient sound – annotated with details, points of interest and questions so that they can be easily and quickly integrated into the curriculum.

The expedition viewer is a breakthrough in itself; literally made from cardboard, it allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality.

The programmes have been created in collaboration with a number of organisations including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Planetary Society and the American Museum of Natural History.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to be amongst the very first schools in the UK to test out this amazing new technology,” said Mathew Llewellin, Digital Learning Co-ordinator and physics teacher. “Whilst nothing is going to replace taking students on an actual field trip, the Google Expeditions Programmes gave our students a unique opportunity to visit distant places on demand to enrich their learning experience using the very latest VR techniques.”