Learners at Blue Ball Elementary in Eastern Lancaster County School District were recently given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a Google pilot program for new technology. Mr. Adam Geiman, former Blue Ball Elementary teacher and current ELANCO elementary technology coach, applied to the Google Expeditions Augmented Reality Pioneer Program, which allows Google to visit a school and present new technology to the students. Out of thousands of applications, Blue Ball Elementary was selected as a participant.
Google visited Blue Ball Elementary on January 31, 2018. Students and teachers in grades 2 through 6 experienced Google Expeditions, which transported them from the limits of the solar system to the depths of the Caribbean through virtual reality field trips. Teachers led the field trips, created by Google, through the use of a guided lesson plan and content-related notes on a tablet. Students used virtual reality goggles and monopod to travel to places they may never have experienced in their lifetime. The teachers, who had volunteered for this opportunity, were excited at the potential applications for their classrooms through this new technology. Mr. Arena a 4th grade teacher at Blue Ball says, “This new technology is a fantastic educational tool which helps create excitement and engagement for a vast amount of topics.” The district welcomed technology coaches from other area school districts to observe this pilot program. Many left with new ideas to bring back to their schools. “I loved seeing the excitement in each student and hearing the wows over and over again from class after class. Students were wowed by what they saw and experienced! Talk about bringing the real world into today’s classrooms. These expeditions provide students with virtual opportunities to travel to places they might never have the experience to see in reality” says Ken Zimmerman, Instructional Technology Specialist at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.
The learners were thrilled at the chance to travel into the solar system, go under the blue waters of the Caribbean, observe volcanoes, visit historical monuments as they learned about the American Revolution, watch dinosaurs in their natural habitat, and fly through the clouds. “My experience using virtual reality was breathtaking. When I was standing on hot lava looking at an erupting volcano, I knew that I was part of something special! This revolutionary technology has enhanced my learning beyond extent. Being able to explore where George Washington once stood without getting out of my seat is unimaginable. With virtual reality my learning has become more fun and impactful” says Jackson Custer, a 5th grader at Blue Ball Elementary. The visit from Google enhanced and contributed to the district’s global initiative.
Google is not yet done at Blue Ball Elementary. The innovative tech company plans to revisit Blue Ball Elementary later in the school year to pilot yet another new technology program – augmented reality. Stay tuned for another update!