Teachers from Neath Port Talbot Schools bring lessons to life, as pupils experience trips to virtually anywhere around the world

Imagine being able to explore the surface of the moon, travelling inside the human circulatory system or coming face to face with dinosaurs. Well this is exactly what pupils from some of Neath Port Talbot’s schools got to do this week, as they welcomed experts from the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme to the County Borough.

On February 28th, a number of pupils from YG Ystalyfera and neighbouring Neath Port Talbot schools took part in Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Programme. Google Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing pupils in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving them a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.

With the use of a Google Cardboard headset; pupils were able to view an exciting variety of 360° photo spheres and 3D images, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon Forest and even outer space. All of the field trips are based on the UK national curriculum.
Google has committed to reaching one million pupils this academic year through Expeditions and last month the company announced that it was half way to reaching this target. Teachers can sign up to bring Expeditions to their school here.

The event itself was hosted in the new facilities of YG Ystalyfera, which is part of the Council’s plan for an ‘all-through’ school providing Welsh medium education for over 1,100 pupils aged 3-18 in the north of the County Borough.
As well as taking part in the virtual reality sessions, pupils were supported by Council and ERW (Education through Regional Working) staff to enhance their digital skills further by live tweeting and blogging their Pioneer Programme experience.

The event also showcased Neath Port Talbot’s Digital Wizard initiative, school clubs for pupils who have a strong interest in ICT or would like to learn new digital skills.

Neath Port Talbot Council Leader Ali Thomas OBE said: “We are delighted to welcome experts from the Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme to Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera to share their expertise with local pupils. Google Expeditions encourages pupils to learn in an engaging and exciting way”.

“Events like the Google Expeditions Programme further demonstrate the Council’s commitment to encouraging a truly digital literate County Borough”.

Last year Neath Port Talbot Council signed up to Digital Inclusion Charter, a Welsh Government initiative, launched last February through Digital Communities Wales. The main aim of the Charter is to promote basic digital skills and help people get online and events like the Expeditions Programme demonstrate the Council’s commitment in helping to achieve this aim.

Aled Evans, Director for Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning commented: “It is imperative to equip all learners with 21st century digital skills. Schools within Neath Port Talbot are delivering a diverse range of opportunities that enable digital skills to become embedded within learners’ daily lives. These opportunities will not only help schools deliver the new curriculum and Digital Competence Framework; but prepare learners for future employment where digital skills are not desirable, they are essential”.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, said: “Virtual reality can spark students’ imagination and help them learn about topics like how blood flows through the human body or the impact climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef, in an engaging and immersive way.

“We can also take a class through one of our new career Expeditions, which inspires students to think about their future professions by taking a virtual trip to work environments like a hospital operating theatre or behind the scenes at Aston Martin.
“We’ve already received feedback from thousands of teachers in the UK and they believe that Expeditions can improve literacy and writing skills, and help create excitement to complement traditional teaching methods.”

– Ends –

Notes to Editors:

● This is a partnership event with the following: Neath Port Talbot CBC, Google Expeditions, local NPT schools and ERW (Education through Regional Working).
● Google experts say that the aim of the Expeditions Programme is to provide teachers with the opportunity to try Expeditions, a new virtual reality app, in the context of lesson’s they are teaching. The hope is that teachers are able to see how Expeditions can be a valuable teaching tool; one that allows them to create immersive experiences that they would otherwise not be able to experience. Most importantly, Google wants pupils to be able to see the world in a way that will enable them to get even more value from their lessons.

Key messages on Google Expeditions (source from Google Expeditions Pioneer Programme Communication Guidelines):

● Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.
● A box arrives with everything you need to travel: a tablet for the teacher, and Cardboard viewers and phones for every student. Next, the teacher selects a destination, and the entire classroom jumps there automatically.
● The Wildlife Conservation Society, PBS, the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, and the Palace of Versailles contributed to developing the curriculum for students.
● These trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools.
● While nothing replaces hopping on the bus for a field trip, Expeditions provide an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning. Seeing the brilliant ways teachers integrate VR in their classes has taught us so much already.

The Digital Inclusion Charter
The Charter was launched in February by the Welsh Government, through Digital Communities Wales. It aims to raise the profile of work being done to help more people to become digitally included.
It contains six pledges, such as ensuring that Council staff and volunteers have an opportunity to learn basic digital skills and take advantage of this, embedding digital inclusion principles into day to day activities, encouraging and supporting staff and volunteers to help other people to get online and have the confidence to develop basic digital skills, and helping other organisations to embrace digital tools.
It also requires the Council to commit support and resources for digital inclusion activities and initiatives in Wales, share best practice and activity so activities can be coordinated for maximum impact and look to build local partnerships amongst organisations that want to share ideas and co-ordinate activities with others in their area.

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