Woodard ES Students Learn Globally Through Google Expeditions

October 2, 2015

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Woodard Elementary School third-grade students Tyler Craven, left, and Ayden Avant test out the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program while using Mattel View-Masters that turn phones into virtual reality headsets.

Oct. 1, 2015—The song that Woodard Elementary School Principal Susan Brenz played over the morning announcements on Sept. 30 would serve as the ideal lead-in for the transformative experience her students had later that day through the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program.

“We played Waiting for the World to Change, and we’ve asked our students before, why are we waiting for the world to change?,” Brenz said. “We should be sitting in the driver’s seat and we should be changing the world. When we empower our kids to think creatively, they can impact decisions of the future. We’re starting that right here and right now.”

Google for Education representatives made CFISD their third stop in Texas to introduce Expeditions, an engaging virtual field trip program. Students used “kits” consisting of ASUS smartphones, a tablet for the teacher to direct the tour, a router that allows Expeditions to run without an internet connection and Google Cardboard viewers or Mattel View-Masters that turn phones into virtual reality headsets.

The Woodard students and staff were amazed as they experienced trips to Yosemite National Park, the Great Barrier Reef and even a NASA space station.

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Woodard Elementary School teacher Eric Milliren shows third-grade student Krista Hernandez some of the available  virtual reality environments to visit in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program.

“A lot of the students can’t physically go places like they can virtually through Expeditions,” said Becky Cook, CFISD director of instructional technology. “They may not be able to go to the beach or have ever seen a coral reef. This almost levels the playing field for those who have not had those experiences.”

Virtual college visits and job shadowing are also on the radar for the Expeditions technology, which is currently geared for ages 7 and up and offers approximately 40-50 “destinations.”

Kevin Hodges, the Google for Education regional manager for Texas, said he anticipates the technology to balloon throughout the school year as more students experience it.

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Dr. Linda Macias, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction and accountability, shares the Google Expeditions experience using Google Cardboard with Woodard Elementary School fifth-grade students Tobi Adefusi, left, and Emalie Goleman on Sept. 30.

“As a company, we are very education focused,” Hodges said. “We want to keep schools collaborating and thinking outside of the box. The virtual reality is meant to keep kids excited about their potential. What problem do they want to solve when they grow up? An Expedition today could be something real for the future as they have the opportunity to see something they may never see.”

Brenz said that Google provided the perfect avenue for the school to keep students excited about science and technology.

“The students thought it was awesome. They’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “For me, I think being able to take trips to the ocean floor and explore all the elements of the ocean has been powerful because I don’t plan on going into the ocean to experience that anytime soon. I’m terrified of sharks, but I can get up close and personal through the viewfinder.”

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Woodard Elementary School instructional specialist Shannon Gillpatrick shares the Google Expeditions application with teacher Carol Wilson.

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Kevin Hodges, Google for Education regional manager, shares the Google Expeditions program with (L-R) Roy Garcia, associate superintendent of school administration and leadership development; Donna Guthrie, assistant superintendent of elementary school administration; and Susan Brenz, Woodard Elementary School principal.

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