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Google Beefs Up Education Offerings
Posted June 28, 2016
Google Beefs Up Education Offerings
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By Dan Heilman. Updated June 28, 2016 11:06AM

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Tech giant Google yesterday introduced a series of tools that it hopes will become staples of classroom learning and interactive experiences. Announced at the International Society for Technology in Education 2016 Conference and Expo in Denver, the four tools for schools are: Google Cast for Education; Quizzes within Google Forms; creative apps on Google Chromebook; and the new Expeditions app.

While Google Cast for Education and Quizzes within Google Forms are free, the creative apps and the gear needed to run Expeditions are not. The latter product is likely to get the lion’s share of attention. Students can use Expeditions to go on virtual field trips with the help of Google’s Cardboard augmented reality goggles. Expeditions includes a set of 360-degree, 3D images of more than 200 locations throughout the world.

Teachers can use Expeditions to guide their students around each location with descriptions, talking points and questions. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and will soon make its way to Apple devices. Expedition can be used by students with the Google Cardboard app on their smartphones or 2D screen mode on their tablets.

Worthwhile?

Schools can buy Expeditions kits from Best Buy Education. Each kits includes 30 student devices and viewers, a teacher device, chargers and a router. The bundle price for the kit from Best Buy is $9,999. The kits are ready for pre-orders and will be shipped by the time school starts in the fall.

Is it worth it? Alexis Macklin, an analyst at Greenlight VR, told us the answer is yes. "Researchers have proven that people exposed to VR have developed longer-lasting memories as they feel like they experienced the content first-hand," said Macklin. "Therefore, for educators, bringing virtual reality to students could have a longer-lasting effect on their learning process than watching a standard 2D video."

In a recent VR (virtual reality) adoption report, Greenlight VR found that full-time students are more interested in exploring both education and travel in virtual reality content than the general population, Macklin said.

"We think bringing this kind of experience into classrooms for free could have a large impact on the long-term interest in VR platforms, particularly as many segments of the general population will not otherwise have the means to experience high-quality virtual reality otherwise," she said.

Other New Tools

The Google Cast app can help students and teachers share their screens wirelessly from anywhere in the classroom when a teacher turns his computer into a Cast destination. Google Cast doesn’t require the installation of new hardware since it runs on the teacher's existing computer. The app is free and available for download to Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS devices.

Using Quizzes in Google Forms, teachers can integrate quizzes into the forms that appear on student devices. Checkbox questions in the quizzes can now be graded automatically, and teachers can provide feedback in the forms as well as send students supplemental links to review materials. Teachers will also get student progress reports that can indicate which lectures need more explanation.

Finally, Google announced a collection of creative apps that can be purchased as a bundle. The company teamed up with EdTechTeacher on Soundtrap, WeVideo and ExplainEverything, programs that Google said help students nurture their skills and creativity. The apps are available at discounts but are subject to annual subscription fees.

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