May 25, 2017

Beyond Google Expeditions: Creating Customized VR Experiences with iPad & Book Creator

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Moving Beyond Google Expeditions:

For classroom teachers interested in integrating virtual reality into their classroom, one outstanding platform for pre-created content is Google Expeditions.  With an extensive library of expeditions, Google Expeditions offers classroom teachers a reliable pre-packaged virtual reality experience designed for the classroom.  Each expedition includes multiple scenes with pre-created areas of interest within each scene and pre-created discussion prompts.  To learn more about Google Expeditions, watch this short EdTechTeacher video introduction.  While Google Expeditions provides a solid entry point for virtual reality in the classroom, it is important to also consider the ability of both teachers and students to not only consume, but create customized virtual reality experiences.   


Creating Customized VR Experiences:

While the library of Google Expeditions is growing and the content is exceptionally helpful to get started in the world of virtual reality in the classroom, classroom teachers can create custom virtual reality experiences for their students with a combination of: Book Creator, 360Cities and Roundme.  Through a process of curating 360° images via 360Cities and Roundme that are compiled in a Book Creator template, teachers can reasonably create customized VR experiences for their students.  The combination of virtual reality experiences and embedding those experiences in Book Creator files not only allow students to experience virtual reality in a structured environment, but allows the teacher to include video, audio, guiding questions and provides a space for students to react to the virtual reality experiences.  While a 360° image without any context would be challenging for a student to understand and analyze, the teacher creating the customized experience can provide the proper amount of background context via text, audio and video within the Book Creator template that is needed of for the student.  



Book Creator

360 Cities


Process of Creating Custom Virtual Reality Experiences:

Teachers can begin creating customized Virtual Reality experiences by exploring both 360Cities and Roundme as both have a search function based on the original location of the captured image.  Once an image is found on either platform, a unique link can be copied and pasted into a Book Creator template.  To improve the appearance of the custom virtual reality book, teachers may want to capture screenshots of the original image which can be inserted into the Book Creator project and then linked to the 360° image online.  Along with the link, teachers can provide context in terms of related text, links to readings or embedded audio & video.  The highlight of this process is that within the Book Creator template, teachers can embed student work spaces where they can insert text, audio, video or images that captures their reaction and understanding of the virtual reality experience through the 360° image.  To distribute the custom virtual reality experience, teachers can AirDrop the Book Creator project, upload to Google Drive or distribute through Google Classroom.  Students have to then select “open in” and send to Book Creator for exploration.   


Classroom Application:

There are certainly additional websites where users from around the world can upload 360 sphere images that are then shared online and increasingly media outlets are including 360 sphere images in their reporting.  It is encouraged that teachers use this approach as a starting point, a building block to begin curating virtual reality experiences.  YouTube has seen an increase in 360° video uploads which can also be included in a custom Virtual Reality Book Creator template.  

A history teacher for example might want students to explore the beaches of Normandy in virtual reality.  Or, an English teacher might want students to visit a specific city in virtual reality where a novel they are reading takes place.  Both 360Cities and can be used to find 360 sphere images for both instances.

Search for Normandy Beach results in sixty seven 360° sphere images on 360Cities



While the process outlined in this post focuses exclusively on teacher created Virtual Reality experiences, it would be a powerful extension of this process to have students curate or even create 360° images to include in their Book Creator creation.  Students writing a creative story for example, could provide context and a depth to their story by creating links to 360° images that allow the reader to better understand and empathize with their story and the characters involved. If students desire to include their own 360° images, tools such as Google Street View allow students to create images that can then be uploaded to 360Cities or Roundme.

With a recent update to Book Creator, authors can now publish their Book Creator projects online where anyone can read the creation without the need of downloading the Book Creator project to an iPad.  This update allows students to publish via their classroom teacher to a broader audience without the need for the end user to have Book Creator or even an iPad.

While the impact and outcome of virtual reality in the classroom has yet to be completely determined, this process of slowly integrating 360° images can act as a logical first step to implementing this emerging technology.  To explore virtual reality in greater detail, please explore the extensive work and writing provided by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

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