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Using VR to draw pupils into the centre of the action

No matter where you’re based, using Google Expeditions allows pupils to access a world of knowledge...

Edmund Rice College in County Antrim was one of the first schools in Northern Ireland to sign up for the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme, the free initiative from Google which aims to bring VR to pupils across the UK.

IT teachers Chris McAtee and David McClelland led a series of sessions – covering science, geography and ICT, when Google came to visit, taking their year 1 and year 3 pupils on journeys into the human body, under the water and over Rio de Janeiro.

‘It links in with every subject in the school curriculum and there’s just so much potential to enhance learning,’ says Chris, who was able to control what his pupils could see through their Google Cardboard viewers from his Android tablet.

According to Chris, his pupils agreed that the experience was a lot more fun than ‘just sitting and talking about it’ as they ventured into the respiratory system and were asked to compare the lungs of a smoker with those of a non-smoker.

Pupils from the County Antrim school  ventured into the lungs and over Rio  

‘One student said it was the best lesson they’d ever had’

Chris added that it was Expeditions’ immersive nature that really made the students more receptive to learning.

‘Pupils were able to take a closer look at sharks in the oceans and the planets of the solar system – they really bought into it – one student said that it was the best lesson they’d ever had.’

His colleague David adds that the school is currently looking at other ways to build Expeditions into their lesson plans.

‘It’s such a fantastic resource that now we’ve run the taster sessions we’re looking to see how we might use it for other subjects.

‘In History, for instance, some of our pupils are learning about WW1 – it would be great to be able to immerse them in the trenches so that they could experience what life was like for a soldier.’

For pupils studying the Second World War, similar experiences include journeying inside the cockpit of a Spitfire to find out what it would be like to be a pilot during the Battle of Britain.

The Code Breakers expedition meanwhile, invites pupils to become one of the 10,000 people who worked long, intensive shifts at Bletchley Park during WW2 to crack German codes.