It's hard to overstate how important the internet is to education these days. Wikipedia, free apps, and YouTube are free to use, and offer orders of magnitude more information than was available to anyone living near a library just a few generations ago.
However, unlike a library, the internet is also a playground. If we don't help our children use the internet effectively, the technology can become more of a recreational drug than a learning tool.
Enter Google Cardboard. This inexpensive headset is designed to create a virtual reality experience using your smartphone. Virtual reality is an immersive technology that is inherently appealing to children and adults alike. Virtual reality can take us to all the places we see in science and social studies textbooks, but the experience is much more powerful and memorable.
As English teachers, Steve and I want our young students to understand that English isn't just another school subject, it's the key to broadening your horizons. Maintaining motivation to study English and a positive attitude towards communicating in the language isn't always easy, especially when using English to communicate with real people in real situations is such a faraway, abstract concept to most young people.
Not to mention the fact that traveling abroad is quite expensive.
But with Google Cardboard, we could take our students and their parents to the world outside Japan--for free. We could share with our students some of the passion and love that we have for traveling and communicating with people around the world.
So on Sunday July 10, 2016, our elementary school students and their parents were invited to school to play around with Cardboard.
We designed QR codes that students could scan to watch videos of places from around the world--London, New York, Paris, Cairo, Dubai, the summit of Mt. Everest, the Great Wall of China, even the middle of an African plain with a herd of elephants. Students watched the videos, and tried to guess which part of the world the videos were shot in.
We also collected "action videos"--360° videos of people swimming with dolphins, or skiing down a mountainside, or riding a roller coaster. My personal favorite was of a man in a wing suit gliding over Rio de Janeiro.
Everyone had a great time, and everyone went home with a Cardboard viewer of their own.
We hope to hold this event again in a year or two. Events like these are only open to current students and families, so if you would like to get in on the action, please apply for your free trial lesson at the bottom of this page.