Traveling beyond the Classroom Walls with Virtual Reality

Think back to when you were a student. Remember how excited the class would become anticipating a field trip? You and your friends would do anything (including completing all of your delinquent assignments) if that guaranteed your inclusion in the out-of-classroom adventure.

Since then, the educational landscape has transformed dramatically. For many of today’s students, there are few (if any) opportunities to travel beyond the school premises… physically, that is. In 2016, HMH partnered with Google to develop content that supports curriculum-based virtual reality (VR) field trips. With these immersive 3D experiences, students now have the opportunity to learn by exploring virtual reality environments that transport them across space and time.

These HMH Field Trips, powered by Google Expeditions, exploit the affordable VR viewing technologies cached under the umbrella of Google Cardboard™. Within two years of its initial release, this platform opened the floodgates to the development of a contemporary type of educational experience—virtual field trips. Not only are these experiences engaging, motivational, and self-directed; they also provide students with the opportunity to travel outside of classroom walls.

The nuts and bolts of guiding a virtual field trip
Each student actively engaged in an HMH Field Trip requires both a viewer and a “mated” cell phone that is connected wirelessly to a local router. These students assume the role of “explorer” as they follow the cues and engage in the VR experience as constructed in real time by a teacher or “guide.” The guide has access to a flat screen on which she decides what is sent to the router-synced cell phones for the students.

Typically, an HMH Field Trip will consist of several theme-related 360° panoramas. On the guide’s screen, the teacher can move through each hemispherical projection with finger flicks. If the teacher wishes to bring attention to a specific region of the screen, he or she taps the screen at the desired location. In response, crosshairs appear at that spot on the guide’s screen. At the same time, students will see an arrow indicating which way they need to look in order to see the guide’s highlighted point of interest.

On the guide’s screen, “happy face” icons indicate where each student is looking. That way, you can keep track of the entire class, as you insure that your followers remain on track. You’ll also have the opportunity to access a scripted description of the panorama, as well as selecting from a range of questions.

Once a panorama has been explored, the guide accesses the menu bar appearing at the bottom of the screen. From here, he or she can select (in any order) the next experience to broadcast to the student viewers.

In addition to the displayed teacher notes, HMH Teacher Guides are available for expeditions tied to our social studies, science, and world languages curriculums. Accessed through Online Teacher Resources, these supplements offer lesson plans that present additional information about each field trip. Sections include additional Background, Objectives, Classroom Activities, Teaching Strategies, and Wrap-up and Assessment. For science, there’s also a correlation to HMH Science Dimensions™ along with an NGSS* connection, profiling the appropriate Standards and Performance Expectations.

With over 20 destinations developed for teaching science and social studies, check out the real possibilities of virtual field trips. Request an HMH Field Trips Teacher Guide Sampler here.