Google+ Connected Classrooms -- children are denied proper field trips
When I was a young man, I hated school. While sitting in the dreary classroom, I would often stare out the window and daydream about the huge world out there. However, there were times when I loved school -- on field trip days. On these days, we would board a big yellow school bus and travel to a magical place such as the Zoo or a Broadway show.
While the destination was important, the trip itself was too. You see, the entire thing was an experience; one that cannot be matched by a video or photograph. Sure, kids can watch a DVD about giraffes, but to see the animals in person and potentially feed them is something different entirely. Today, Google announces Google+ Connected Classrooms -- a way for children to go on virtual field trips with Google+. While this sounds like a great way to leverage technology, it can be argued that it is the beginning of the end for real field trips.
"Today we're launching a new initiative on Google+ called Connected Classrooms that enables students around the world to take 'virtual field trips' through Google+ Hangouts, visiting places they would otherwise never be able to explore. We're kicking things off today with field trips to the Seattle Aquarium, the Minnesota Zoo and the Solar Impulse hangar. Later, teachers can sign up to take their classrooms on virtual field trips hosted by organizations like National Geographic, Matilda the Musical, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more than 20 other partners", says Lisa Jiang, Google+ Education Partnerships Lead.
She further says, "teachers are already using Google+ to make learning more relevant, collaborative and accessible -- from exploring a world-class art museum to staging a play to venturing into space. Connected Classrooms aims to make it easier for teachers to access exciting educational content to share with their students. In addition to the virtual field trips, teachers who visit the Connected Classrooms site will have the opportunity to join a Google+ Community with other educators to collaborate on field trips and share best practices for using digital tools in the classroom".
Google's intentions seem good and quite frankly, there are benefits to virtual field trips. After all, there are financial and geographical limitations on schools. For instance, a class in Brooklyn, NY cannot be expected to fly to Rome for a field trip. However, it is important to remember the importance of actual local field trips. Try as they might, Google will never replace that experience with any piece of technology.