Pupils to use virtual reality headsets to explore the galaxy

Primary school pupils have been given the chance to explore the galaxy '“ all from the comfort of their school hall.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016, 9:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 11:41 am
P6 pupils Aimee Foley, Anna Perry and Olivia Batcharj try out the cardboard headsets from the Google Expeditions initiative. Picture: Scott Louden

Youngsters at Wardie Primary School had a school trip with a difference as they sampled the latest virtual reality technology has to offer.

Around 300 children got to give the cardboard headsets a try as part of the Google Expeditions initiative, which aims to take students to places they would never be able to access on your average field trip.

Google representatives are now visiting schools up and down the country, bringing with them a host of exotic destinations for pupils to “visit”, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica and even the moon.

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Wardie P6 teacher Kirsty Kyles applied for the free visit to the school after reading about the expeditions online.

She said: “It’s a big push to try and improve the use of digital technology in schools so we just thought it would be a really nice opportunity for the children to get involved with.

“I think it’s given them a totally new way of looking at things. When we have done these things it’s quite hard for them to imagine it and this gives them a way to look around it.”

Made from card, each viewer contains a mobile phone, which is linked up to the teacher’s iPad. Through the iPad the teacher can then select an overall destination for pupils to visit, with each containing several different scenes for the pupils to move through.

The 3D panoramas can be viewed from 360 degrees, with arrows popping up at “hotspots” for anything the teacher might want the children to focus on.

Ms Kyles said the virtual trips had created a “real buzz” throughout the school.

She said: “It’s really cool. It’s quite a strange experience turning around and there being stuff above you and behind you.

“It’s not always possible to get on fieldtrips, to do with money and things like that. I’d love to be able to take them to some of these amazing places but it’s not possible so it’s nice to give them a snapshot of what it might be like.”

P5 teacher Steven Harrison agreed, adding: “It’s been incredible for the kids – a completely educational experience and really engaging as well.

“Children are so much more used to technology these days so it’s a great way of making the learning more fun and accessible. The usual pen and paper things aren’t really enough.”

The headsets proved a big hit with pupils, with P6 pupil Jon, ten, saying: “It was really good to see what it’s like on the moon. It’s just cool how you are looking at a phone and it looks real.”

Expeditions in Scotland come as part of Google’s mission to reach one million pupils through the programme.