Longs Peak kids take virtual Google expeditions from classroom

A representative from Google was at Longs Peak Middle School on Friday to give the students an early look at the new Expeditions Android app, a virtual reality platform for the classroom.

While the on-hand Google employee had been instructed to not talk to the media, she did say in passing that the reactions of the children when they used Expeditions was the most enjoyable part of the experience.

The software can be downloaded onto an Android device, which is then inserted into a Google Cardboard viewer, which looks like cardboard goggles with two magnifying glasses fixed inside. When held up to the eyes, the viewer can get a panoramic, 360-degree look at a chosen expedition.

Just as they have been at schools around the country this winter and spring as part of "early tester" trials, Google was at Longs Peak all day Friday, the teachers taking class after class through a variety of virtual reality expeditions, controlled via a tablet.

The children started off by looking around Aztec and Mayan ruins, and the reaction was immediate. "Oh my God, I'm flying," said one sixth-grader. "My feet are missing," said another, while looking down.

Courtney Adams, the school's technology coordinator, said she wasn't sure what to expect when she first heard about the program.

"It's hard to reach every student at the same time," Adams said. "But I haven't seen a single kid unable to access this experience. One child was nervous about motion sickness, but we could alter the viewing settings, and that kid didn't have to miss out."

Adams said that, because a lot of the school's students rarely get out of Longmont — many of them have never been to Denver — the opportunity to have a look around Mexico from their classroom seat is fantastic.

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