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Not Just Any Summer Assignment: A VR Summer Learning Experience

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This summer, I intend to go to Disney World and other parts of Florida, the Outer Banks, Ocean City, New York City, a Kansas City Royals baseball game, the Grand Canyon, the White House, a NHL Finals game, a cruise, and I plan to go to all of those places without leaving my house. How? With the Cardboard Camera app, Google Cardboard, and Google Classroom.

I have given my sixth grade students one last assignment, and this assignment will run all summer long. Their assignment is to bring along their classmates on their summer vacation trips using the Cardboard Camera app, by uploading their images to Google Classroom for their classmates and myself to view on our Google Cardboards (we had a Google Cardboard make and take night in early May, so the students are really into VR now), and finally collaborating on a Google Slide (Take Us With You On Vacation).

Benefits to this assignment:

1. Let's start with the obvious. It is really cool. Who doesn't want to try out VR? The students absolutely love it, and because they do, the assignment is relevant and meaningful to them. They will end up exploring and learning so much because they just want to. No grades given. No doing this assignment to collect points. No due date to meet. Just learning in its purest form. 

2. It allows the students to become teachers. Learning will be happening from all of the country, and guess who is not traveling around and putting any of it together? Me. My students will be sharing their experiences with their classmates all on their own. They get to be the creators and teachers, as I get to sit back and enjoy seeing this learning experiences unfold. This assignment is completely student-centered. 

3. Anytime, anywhere learning. Wherever students go, they can create their own lessons to share for their classmates to experience anytime, anywhere with their Google Cardboards, other VR devices, or even just smartphones. For those students that never get the opportunity to go on vacation and experience different places, now they will have an opportunity to do so. They will get a chance to "go" on vacation now. 

4. 4C's will be in full bloom. Communication...check. Collaboration...check. Creativity will naturally come out as students find unique ways to capture where they are. (I can't wait for this!) Critical thinking will also naturally occur as students try to figure out where their classmates have gone and then explore those places .

5. This will inevitably reach a much larger audience than just my students. Have you ever been around someone using Google Cardboard or another VR device? If you did, I'm guessing you asked, "Can I see?! Can I see?! Can I see?!" Think of how many friends and family members this learning experiences will reach. My students will be sharing their experiences with their classmates and their classmates' friends and family. These 11 and 12 year old students will be teaching older kids and adults, and then learning from them as well.  

6. Maybe this is just me being a little sentimental, but it is a way for us all to stay connected a little longer. This has been a special bunch of students, and what better way to keep learning and growing together than by sharing their summer vacations with everyone in relevant and meaningful ways like this. 

I am excited that I will get to go so many places for free this summer without ever having to get stuck in traffic, but I am even more excited to see my students' learning journeys continue.   


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William Madden holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership. His professional backgrounds includes over 16 years in education as an intermediate school teacher, an elementary school principal, instructional technology coach, and Google for Education Certified Trainer. In addition, his experience includes online course design, technology integration, ELA and mathematics curriculum mapping, being on his school's technology and building improvment committees, and conducting professional development. He blogs to reflect on his practice, share with others, and to continue to grow and learn as an educator to meet the needs of today's students. 

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019