If you have been paying any attention to the promises and prospects of virtual reality as an educational tool, I have no doubt that you have at least heard of Google Cardboard.
Google Cardboard is an outgrowth of genius (free-form development) time for a number of Google employees.
It grew out of the idea that the customer is already investing in a regular update of his or her equipment and that many top-level cell phones already have good audio and video capabilities and many have internal gyroscopes and accellerometers that allow them to track motion, location, and direction. The Cardboard is a low-end cardboard case that wraps around your cell phone and allows you to experience a rudimentary experience of virtual reality with the equipment you already have.
For the most part, this is just cool, accessible, and inexpensive, but we aren’t yet at the level of the Matrix.
I’ve been following the Google Cardboard phenomenon since it was first introduced. I’ve assembled several headsets and tried out various experimental VR apps on a number of Android and Apple phones.
For the past few months the CFC Educational Technology Team has been exploring the use of Google Cardboard in education and have specifically been betatesting the Google Expeditions virtual field trip platform.
We’ve found that there are a number of issues related to varying equipment types and network issues that made the betatest difficult to successfully navigate. After the Innovations focus team at the Summer Institute for Teaching and Learning tried out the beta version, several of us came to the conclusion that the only workable answer would be to run the system through an integrated equipment set that took away the difficulty of worrying about connection and equipment issues. We submitted our information, along with all the other beta-testers, and behold, Google recently announced that the beta had concluded and that they were releasing the Expeditions app for educators who are willing to buy an integrated kit that includes one teacher (Guide) tablet and several student (Explorer) devices. Click the link in the sentence before to go to Google’s announcement page, or take a look at the bundled kits from Best Buy which range from around $4,000 – 10,000.
That may seem like a whole lot of money for a classroom kit, but I want to commend Google for pressing forward and putting together a more finished product that will be easier to deploy, use, and support. Given requirements for a consistent experience, an integrated classroom set of this sort is far superior to asking a teacher to hack together a barely working system.
With that said, instructors, particularly in K12, will find this to be a very engaging way to take their students on virtual field trips to places to which they may never go including actual places like Winsor Castle, Tenochtitlan, or the surface of Mars and to simulated spaces like the inside of the digestive system.
There are less expensive ways in which you can get an exposure to the technology. The CFC has a number of the cardboard shells and we’ll be glad to show you a number of apps that you can download from the ITunes App Store and Google Play that will give you a certain level of experience with your existing equipment. We are also looking for opportunities to partner with faculty to use technology in innovative ways that integrate with your curricular goals and outcomes. If you are interested in partnering with us or in simply getting an introduction to the technology, feel free to come by the Commons or to send a message to, Jonathan Wade, your friendly educational technologist.