Google is taking classroom learning to a new dimension — literally.
The service Google for Education is aiming for a more "seamless" and "immersive" learning experience than ever before, with the introduction of Google Cast for Education, improvements to Google Forms, and the arrival of new three-dimensional content for Google Expeditions.
Now, teachers and students alike will be able to access the same tools, share screens, hold quizzes and provide feedback, and even go on a virtual field trip to places on the planet that might not normally be included in a regular educational tour.
Teachers can make use of simultaneous casts on the projector and the student's device; quizzes integrated into Google Forms; and, best of all, exciting VR content compatible with Google Cardboard.
1. Easy Screen Sharing On Google Cast For Education
Google Cast for Education lets teachers direct the flow of class discussions as they share their screens with students and grant permission to anyone who would like to view the presentation.
The teacher simply launches Google Cast on the main computer and connects that computer to a projector. A simultaneous cast then runs on the students' devices where the app is installed for a more interactive discussion. Students can also share their screens using the same app.
As a Chrome app, Google Cast supports both audio and video content and allows teachers to retain control even as viewers join in the presentation. The app is free and compatible with Google Classroom. A beta version is available for the Mac, Windows and Chrome OS.
2. Improved Google Forms For Quizzes And Feedback
Teachers can now also give paperless quizzes to the class, thanks to updates to Google Forms. While the platform has proven useful in collecting feedback, many educators have reportedly asked for quizzes to be integrated into Forms. With easy-to-design tick-boxes and multiple-choice questions, teachers can immediately check students' answers.
3. New VR Content For Teachers: 3D Field Trips
The most exciting announcement, however, has to be the advent of VR in the classroom.
By using Google Expeditions, an entire class can easily go on a trek in the great outdoors or instantly visit famous museums and historical landmarks without having to leave the classroom.
Google has teamed up with TES, a portal where teachers can access digital tools, among them some nifty VR content that suits the inexpensive Google Cardboard. Other 3D assets are free and easily downloadable.
"The new portal offers TES users a seamless experience with Google's suite of tools," says Emma Fish, a program manager for partnerships at Google for Education.
But the question is: just how "immersive" is Google's virtual field trip (and can it replace an actual visit to a site)?
For now, it can feel like you're standing "in the middle of Google Street View," writes Margaret Rhodes of Wired. Only that you could be looking at the Lincoln Memorial instead. And it might not replace the real thing.
The fact, however, that it can take a whole class immediately to far-off places (with others a little more difficult to access than others) already makes this Expeditions initiative groundbreaking for kids. Plus, it certainly beats staring into a textbook.
Since the program's launch in September 2015, Google has created more than 200 expeditions.