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COLUMBUS--Since early January, students within Educational Service Unit 7 have traveled around the world through their studies.

The students have been exploring far beyond their textbooks.

ESU 7 used a $4,000 technology bond to purchase 10 sets of virtual reality goggles. Technology Integration Coordinator Otis Pierce was the test pilot for the new technology after seeing them in use at the National Career Technical conference in Nashville last winter.

“I took this picture of the main lobby at the conference with the Ricoh Theta camera,” Pierce said. “You can take a photo and it shows the 360 degree tour of where you are.”

Pierce toggled his photo in different directions, then expanded the view.

“You can see now that the photo is very circular,” he said. “But you can also stretch it out to a panoramic view.”

The imagery is the same used for Google Street View. ESU 7 is using Google Expeditions to show students various slices of life - nearly 600 different virtual tours in all. The application is available to all android and iOS users.

Each of the ten virtual reality goggles comes with the application.

Students can explore arts and culture, landscapes, science, environment, the world today, careers and colleges. The device allows participants to experience and see different worlds they may not have the opportunity to enjoy in real life.

Pierce is one of the first employees at ESU7 to test out new technology for the schools. In fact, that’s only one part of his job.

“What I do is help teachers integrate technology in the classroom,” he said. 

The process of the Google Expedition and the goggles is simply remarkable. The instructor guides a tour for the class on the Acer tablet. A script is available for the teacher to read to the fellow travelers. Eye-mapping sensors detect where the students’ eyes are more heavily focused. A smiley face shows where this activity is most heavily centralized.

The teacher can then attract attention through the Acer to where focus should be paid.

Museums, Presidential libraries, mythical lands and even settings from literature are just some of the places Google Expedition has been able to take ESU 7 students.

“The effect is similar to seeing an IMAX movie,” Pierce said. “It’s a lot of fun to see the kids walking around with the goggles. I never get tired of hearing the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.”

Google Expedition also offers another important tool.

“There are expeditions we can create for new students to take a virtual tour of the schools,” Pierce said. “Also students with special needs can use that same focus and we can have it to where there are no people in the hallways to make them more comfortable.”

Nineteen school districts in seven counties, through ESU7, have access to the kit. The kit comes with a Ricoh Theta camera, an Acer tablet for the instructor, and ten Aces devices to be viewed through the ten virtual reality goggles.

“Its basically a phone without the SD card,” Pierce explained.

“The kids are all really excited about all of this,” he said. “The possibilities are endless. Not only are the kids going and exploring, they’re realizing their potential - which has no end.”

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