Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom allows students to experience places and things they otherwise would not experience. Students can travel on virtual field trips ranging from models of animal cells to ancient Greece, or undersea tours of the Caribbean and even trips to outer space! Imagine the experiences VR can provide for your students...

The only source of knowledge is experience.

by Albert Einstein

We use Google Expeditions to facilitate our Virtual Field Trips. Google has produced hundreds of ready-made virtual field trips. All you have to do is set up your class with equipment and the field trips are available for free.

Finding Virtual Field Trips for younger students is tricky. However, you do want them to experience new things as much as possible. Try some of these suggestions for K-2. 3-5 is much easier to find.

Here are some ideas on subjects to incorporate with your classroom.

Kindergarten

  • Astronomy
  • Birds
  • Biomes
  • Habitats
  • Pollination

First Grade

  • Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
  • Birds
  • Biomes
  • Habitats
  • Color
  • Photosynthesis

Second Grade

  • The Teepee
  • Astronomy
  • Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site

Third Grade

  • The Florida Seminoles: Life of the Florida Seminoles
  • Crow Fair: Native Americans
  • Meet the Dinosaurs
  • Extinction
  • Fossils
  • Dinosaur Walk at Melbourne Museum
  • Lost Creatures: A journey through the fossil record of Queensland
  • Rocks, Minerals, and Gems
  • Habitats
  • Jamestown
  • Adaptation

Fourth Grade

  • America Expands West
  • Historic Philadelphia
  • Founding Fathers
  • Space Museum
  • To the Moon with the Google Lunar XPRIZE
  • Solar System
  • Spirit: The Life of a Robot
  • The American Revolution Begins
  • U.S. Elections
  • Clouds
  • Habitats

Fifth Grade

  • Volcanoes from Around the World
  • Volcanoes
  • Tolbachik Volcano
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Gettysburg National Military Park
  • The Civil War
  • The Lincoln Assassination at Ford's Theatre
  • America Expands West
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield
  • Earthquakes
  • Thomas Edison National Park
  • Immigration and Cities
  • World War I
  • Reconstructing World War I Trenches
  • The Great Depression
  • World War II
  • World War II war monuments
  • Artifacts of the Tuskegee Airmen
  • D-Day Invasion
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Tuskegee Airmen
  • The Vietnam War
  • Into the Cell
  • Korean War
  • Holocaust Memorial
  • Borneo Animal Adaptations
  • U.S. Elections
  • Women's Suffrage in the United States
  • Slavery in America
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • The Space Race

Miscellaneous

  • Mount Everest
  • Sharks
  • U.S. Monuments
  • America's National Parks
  • From the Stratosphere
  • Machu Picchu
  • Coral Reefs
  • Ocean Safari
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Chichen Itza
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Six Wetlands
  • Greece
  • Hydrosphere
  • Respiratory System (also see other systems)
  • Career Expedition: (numerous fields included)
  • University Tours (search by name of university)


Set Up Virtual Reality in Your Classroom!

Equipment Needed

  • Virtual Reality Viewer
  • Smartphone
  • Router

In our Innovation Lab, we're using Mattel View Master Deluxe viewers with Apple iPhone 5. In order for this to work, all devices have to run on the same network. Not every device would work on our school network, so we made our own. I took an old router and set it up with a basic password. It's not connected to the internet, it's just broadcasting a signal to network whatever devices connect to it. Each device had to have the Google Expeditions app downloaded beforehand. Due to our firewall at school, the devices had to be set up at home before coming to school. This includes downloading the "tours" at home before being needed. We run the "leader" on an iPad with Google Expeditions pre-loaded with tours. One note: all devices for the viewers do not have to be the same. Just make sure the devices are listed as being on the same network.

Costs

We spent on average $30 per viewer and $150 on smartphones. Our goal is to have a class set at 30. Our cost would be $5,400. However, we only bought a handful of smartphones and the rest were donated. If you watch Amazon, the price of viewers will drop and you can snatch up a few for less than $30. It may be effective to start with small group sets of the cardboard version, then work your way up.

About the Viewers

We use the Mattel View Master Deluxe viewers. We tried the cheaper non-deluxe viewer, but the latch came open too easily. The deluxe has a push button opener and also has a headphone connector if needed (we haven't needed it yet). We also tried other brands, but this is the most reliable we found (both in availability and in performance). The cardboard version works and is cheap, but it takes a beating and wears down fairly quickly.

About the Smartphones

The smartphones are the most costly portion of this whole set-up. The phones do not all have to be the same type or brand, they just have to all have the Google Expeditions app and they must fit into your viewer. Viewers require a certain screen size. The Mattel View Master viewer we use is compatible with iPhone 5 and up, as well as many newer Android phones. Don't worry about storage size on the smartphones either. You'll only need to download the Google Expeditions app, so space is not a big deal and therefore may help you get a better price.

From our lesson learned - your device must have an accelerometer and gyroscope (there are cheaper smartphones without these). Also, check the requirements for the Google Expeditions app. Also our lesson learned, some older smartphones have operating systems that are not compatible with the app.

It's possible to buy used smartphones without a SIM card to use strictly on wireless networks. You can get a cheap ($.01) SIM card on Amazon just to set the phone up without having to purchase a service plan.

About the Router

I upgraded my router at home, so I took our old router and followed the instructions about setting up a network. Basically, you just name the network and set a password. In theory, it doesn't need a password because you're not connected to the internet, but I don't want to worry about anyone else accessing it.

Connect all your devices to the network after you've downloaded the Google Expeditions app.

About the Google Expeditions app

The app is free and so are the tours. It runs on iOS or Android. Again, your devices can be mixed type. The app has to be on every device, but the tour only has to be on the "leader" device. I run the "leader" off of an iPad so I can see it better.

To run a Virtual Field Trip

  • Make sure Google Expeditions is pre-loaded on each device.
  • Make sure all devices are connected to your same network.
  • Open the apps and start "leading" on the "leader" device.
  • Click "follow" when prompted on the "follower" devices.
  • You're now leading a virtual field trip!

  • If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line for any help or advice!