Kids can go on school trip to the Taj Mahal - without leaving London

By Dave Speck in Local People

There are gasps of amazement as year seven pupils find themselves inside the human stomach gazing down at parts of a rasberry which has just been swallowed.

The pupils, at St Mary’s and St John’s School in Hendon, are on a virtual reality "school trip" inside the human body.

They each have a 360-degree view using a cardboard glasses kit through which they can gaze up-close at the cells in the stomach lining or look eerily to their right into the cavern which leads to the small intestine, or to their left up into the esophagus from whence they came.

“I’ve tried to tailor this lesson to fit in with other parts of the curriculum,” says lead computer teacher Calvin Robinson.

“In their next lesson the pupils’ science teacher is going to cover the digestive system, so hopefully this will make it more memorable for them.”

But how about going further afield to the Taj Mahal or the Summit of Everest or to places which no longer exist like the scene of the Battle of Hastings or to the start of time, or into outer space?

In fact, there are more than 400 different locations in the Expedition Programme which has been developed by internet technology firm Google.

In the next task, Mr Robinson transports pupils back in time to the age of the dinosaurs and they find themselves staring up into the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. If they look to their right there’s a Diplodocus but, of course, they’re still in the classroom in Sunningfields Road.

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Meanwhile, a team of nine “expedition associates” from Google are visiting schools across London to help introduce teachers to the software, which is said to be a move away from the traditional teaching style using books, yet the teacher still has control and can build other activities around the "trip," say, through a written exercise afterwards about what it’s like to climb Everest and what sort of a person you need to be to do it.

The programme works in connection with mobile phones, onto which software has been downloaded. The phones are slotted into the cardboard goggle boxes which have special in-built 3D lenses through which the user views the static images on the phone.

The programme can be downloaded for free at www.google.com/edu/expeditions/#about. The cardboard goggles and lenses cost around £5 a pair (search ’Google Expeditions Kit’). The programme can also be viewed without goggles on a tablet.

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