In a drab conference room at Trident Technical College, South Carolina teachers peered at smartphones ensconced in cardboard goggles and saw the world: Yellowstone, the Galapagos Islands, an apartheid-era South African prison.
Marketers and journalists have been fiddling for a few years now with Google Cardboard, a cheap headset case that turns smartphones into virtual-reality viewers. What’s new, and what the teachers were testing on Tuesday at the fourth annual Googlefest conference, is a beta version of an app called Google Expeditions that offers round-the-world field trips from the comfort of a classroom.
Arischa Frierson, a technology coach for Richland County School District 1, said technology like this could be a boon for students in her district. Some have never been outside the state, let alone the country.
“I couldn’t put a value on it. It’s priceless,” Frierson said. “It allows them to see the world is bigger than their community.”
Day one of Googlefest introduced hundreds of teachers to some novel ideas — and predictably, most incorporated Google products and applications. A second day of the free conference Wednesday features ideas for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Google has left its stamp on Lowcountry education since opening a data center between Goose Creek and Moncks Corner in 2008. Trident Tech adapted its Information Systems curriculum to train workers for high-paying Google jobs, and Berkeley County schools have increasingly started using Google’s Chromebook laptops and Apps for Education in the classroom.
Berkeley County School District leaders have set a goal of providing one electronic device per student, at an estimated cost of $6.6 million per school year. Erika Wyatt, a technology instructor coach at Berkeley County’s Devon Forest Elementary, shared on Tuesday how her school of 950 students reached that goal using Title I funds and $100,000 worth of Google Community Grants.
“Some of these teachers before were tired. They were burned out. They took a lot of papers home,” Wyatt said. “But they realized technology is here to make our lives easier.”
Teachers and Google employees shared ideas and best practices throughout the day. Students in Minnesota have been taking panoramic outdoor photos four times a year to document the changing seasons. South Carolina students have been holding virtual book clubs with students from out of state via Google Hangouts.
In Kershaw County, Blaney Elementary third-grade teacher Monica Barber said students love to compete in interactive math games via online services like EducationCity and multiplication.com. Now entering her 22nd year teaching, Barber said mobile technology has helped her communicate better with students and parents, changing her job for the better.
“It just opens the kids to so many things they can do and people they can come in contact with,” Barber said.
Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.
June 20, 2016 | Post and Courier, The: Web Edition Articles (Charleston, SC)Author: Paul Bowers