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ITEC 7430 Virtual Environments and Digital Divide

Blog post can be found at http://goo.gl/RR8wFM

1. VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS

I have explored the following two virtual environments: Google Cardboard in conjunction with

Expeditions and Google Tour Builder. I cannot stress enough the great power of these two tools!

a. Expeditions and Google Cardboard

Google released Expeditions this summer. This virtual reality field trip tool works in conjunction

with Google Cardboard. Expeditions are collections of virtual reality panoramas, 360 photo

spheres and 3D images. It is very teacher friendly since the developers annotated the

panoramas with descriptive content, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to

integrate into instruction. The app allows teachers to guide students through an exploration of

more than 200 historical sites and natural resources in an immersive, three-dimensional

experience. Expeditions promotes scientific inquiry, higher order thinking skills, global

awareness, authentic learning, and collaborative learning. Due to the immersive nature of the

virtual field trips provides, teachers can design student-centered lessons; students can freely

explore 3D environments and travel outside of their communities to explore or solve problems.

These kinds of experiences have a great value for all students: mainstream students, gifted

students, students with disabilities, young, or old students. Students are given the opportunity to

learn about the world, to develop cultural understanding and global citizenship, and to acquire

skills necessary in the 21st century. Virtual reality, through Google Expeditions, is highly

engaging and motivating since it brings real-life into the classroom and they get to explore and
travel the world without having to leave the classroom. Google Expeditions helps students

contextualize learning within real world experiences and fosters deeper understanding of

content. It helps students with disabilities see and understand better abstract concepts and it

can be used by K-12 students across disciplines: Science, Art, Math (geometry), Social Studies,

etc.

I have learned about this tool at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

conference in Denver, Colorado, this summer. I have not use this tool into the classroom, but I

have researched it, played with it, and have put together a grant proposal hoping that my school

will acquire at least one classroom set so I could start implementing it in my classroom.

The picture below is a picture of me exploring Google Expeditions at the ISTE Conference.
b. Google Tour Builder

With Google Tour Builder students can create virtual field trips. You can see below an example

of a Google Tour created by my students.

Google Tour Builder is great because students can use all kinds of media to show their learning

and create content. It really supports the diverse needs of our students. In the example above

the students used pictures for each site, but they could also create videos about various places

around the world and could embed them there. I have used this idea to create the culminating

task of The Time Train Global Collaborative Project.

I have also created a Google Tour Builder tutorial that walks you through the steps of using this

tool.

2. DIGITAL DIVIDE

Devaney (2014) maintained that, digital access and digital equity continue to present a

challenge to educators. Meeting that challenge is more important than ever, because, as many

stakeholders say, digital equity is about more than access to devices and strong internet

connectionsits about social justice and fair opportunity. Schools need to find ways to bridge

the digital divide both in terms of technology access, and technology use. The school I teach at

is an American international school, located in Qatar, Middle East. Our student population is

quite affluent and all the students, girls and boys, have devices of many kinds, therefore at my

school there is no digital divide in terms of technology access. At my school, I have noted a

digital divide which emerged last year from the fact that the boys have been more involved in

STEM education than the girls. What is unique about my school is the fact that it is the only
American international school that is gender segregated. To address this issue, this year we will

encourage the girls to participate in the Robotics after school clubs, as well. Coding clubs could

also be designed with a focus on getting the girls involved.

REFERENCES:

Devaney, L (2014, November 12). 7 reasons digital equity is a social justice issue.

ESchoolNews. Retrieved from

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/11/12/digital-equity-access-938