Sunday, January 17, 2016

360º Cameras & VR in the Classroom


     I have always been a fan of technology.  I believe that technology can and must be integrated into the classroom for our students.  During my 2014-2015 winter break I was preparing for IMPACT! a project that would look at Mount St. Helens and its impact on people and society in Washington state.  As I was playing around on Google Maps, I saw that it was possible to put 360º images up onto Google.  I was EXCITED!  I had taken one from the summit when I climbed it the previous year and wanted to put that out for the world to see.  I had used the iOS app 360 Panorama, and was not able to load it.  I needed to see how I can load 360º images to Google.


      That is when I came across the Google Photosphere program, which has since been updated to the Street View program.  I saw that you could take a 360º image using the Street View app, for either iOS or Android, and then upload to Google Views and Google Maps.  Then I came across a section that showed a new camera that allowed a user to take a 360º image with the click of a button.  I showed the Ricoh Theta camera to my principal and she was blown away.  I purchased one and began to think about the possibilities of using the camera in my social studies classrooms.  

      As I played with the camera and took pictures and videos on my travels.  I began to load images (Mount St. Helens, Vancouver Art Museum, Evergreen Air and Space Museum, and New Orleans) to Google Maps and was thinking of ways to link them together.  I began to think about how I could have my students take these pictures and create a tour for other students and people to experience.   


      I immediately thought of taking my studnets to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.  I began scouting the site on my own, and then made contact with the the park historian and museum curator.  We met and began our collaboration.  We tried to make the project fit into the the end of last school year, but that was unreasonable.  We decided to push the project back to this school year (2015-2016).  Pushing back the project allowed for other applications to be developed that will help us create our final product.  During the time, the web application Holobuilder came out and now we have our way to connect the different images and create our tour.  The fantastic thing about Holobuilder is that not only is it easy to use, but the tours can be embedded on a website and be viewed using VR devices like Google Cardboard and the View-Master.  



A sample tour I made using footage from the climb of Mount St. Helens some colleagues and I did over the summer.  



I am getting excited about this upcoming project and the possibilities that these cameras and viewers will allow us to do in our classrooms.  With the Google Expeditions program traveling across the country, and the world, we are starting to see the power that this type of experience can have for our students. No longer to they have to just look at a still image in a book or a print out.  They can see first hand the places that they are investigating.  They can analyze and compare the architecture of Canterbury Cathedral versus the Golden Pavilion-Kinkaku. No longer does the classroom have to be static. This technology allows our classrooms to become engaging, energetic, and dynamic. I encourage everyone to take their students on a virtual field trip, whether it is through a computer, a mobile device, or a Cardboard viewer. I encourage you to visit the Google Street View Gallery, or app, and take your students to places you never thought possible.





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