Taking student engagement to new heights

Taking student engagement to new heights

With an abundance of new edtech solutions in the market, it can be difficult for principals and teachers to keep up.

However, through the help of a powerful and immersive learning tool, educators are now able to seamlessly deliver technology-driven quality teaching – and in doing so significantly improve student engagement.

A new collaboration between Taronga Conservation Society and the NSW Department of Education means that teachers are no longer limited by the space of the classroom when it comes to taking students on exciting and immersive excursions.

This technology was recently on display at EduTech where students – using Google Expeditions’ ‘On Safari with Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo expedition’ – were ‘transported’ to the famous Zoo to meet, interact and learn about 700+ exotic and endangered species that call the enclosure home.

Each tour has comprehensive supporting materials that can be used alongside existing curriculums, further aiding educators to engage students.

Educators are also able to create their own VR tours using Tour Creator – or have their students create their own tours – making their classrooms part of the experience.

One such educator is Jennifer Faulconbridge from Mount St. Thomas Public School in Wollongong, who has been using the virtual tours for her students, said Google Expeditions is a “valuable tool for future focused learning”.

“The ability to immerse students in a learning environment provides teachers with the ability to increase engagement and depth of understanding,” Faulconbridge said.

Levelling the playing field

Brent Sarver, Google for Education Australia Country Program Manager, said there are over 1,000 augmented and virtual reality tours available in the Google Expeditions app.

“Teachers are encouraged to explore options and choose the Expeditions that best fit in with the topics they are currently teaching,” Sarver told The Educator.

“During VR tours, students are transported to the places they are learning about, like the Great Wall of China, Jupiter or Taronga Western Plains Zoo. With AR, educators are able to transport objects into the classroom – like a great white shark or strand of DNA – to enable students to walk around and up close to things they otherwise may not have access to.”

Sarver said this increases students’ understanding and allows them to interact with topics in a way that is not possible during traditional classroom lessons.

Sarver said that in the year ahead, Google for Education will continue supporting educators with product launches and features, as well as through philanthropy activities and technology-enabled programs.

“This week, we announced that the Chromebook App Hub is publicly available, a resource for educators, developers, and administrators to find apps and ideas on how to use them in the classroom,” he said.

“This includes a place for developers to demonstrate transparency around their data and accessibility policies as administrators make decisions about technology for their schools and districts.”

Sarver said Google for Education is also improving the grading, assessing and feedback process with G Suite for Education tools, including betas for rubrics and the ability to sync grades between Google Classroom and your Student Information System (SIS), along with the publicly available Gradebook in Google Classroom.

“Soon, anyone with managed Chromebooks will be able to use locked mode in Quizzes in Google Forms. You’ll be able to import questions from previously created Forms into new ones,” Sarver said.

“We collaborate with educators around the globe who submit feedback and tell us how they’re using the products in the classroom to positively impact learning outcomes.”

Enriching the quality of lessons

Laurens Derks, learning designer at the NSW Department of Education, said the Department worked alongside experts such as zoo education officers, scientists and animal keepers throughout the entire process of building the Expedition.

“They acted as consultants, sharing their invaluable specialist knowledge to provide accurate, in-depth information and to enrich the quality of lessons,” Derks told The Educator.

“There is tremendous value for students in learning about animal adaptations, habitats, and how they behave in the wild as well as introducing them to technology as their lives become more digital.”

Derks said Google Expeditions are also built in a way that they do not require constant internet access.

“This allows accessibility for students that live in areas where internet connectivity is not always reliable, and therefore they may have difficulty using other online learning tools,” he said.