Students take off with Google Goggles

Students take off with Google Goggles

Selena Mello, a 5th-grade student at James L. McGuire Elementary School, tests out 3D Google Goggles for the first time in class, where students were able to watch a rocket launch and see planets, the Milky Way and satellites as if they were in space. (Breeze photos by Brittany Ballantyne)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Students in Melissa Centracchio’s 5th-grade class at James L. McGuire Elementary School took flight in a virtual learning experience where they traveled to outer space through the lenses of Google Goggles.

With the help of “Liftoff,” an Apple application, a barcode scanning app, smartphones and 3D goggles, students were able to watch and hear a rocket launch – as if they were above the rocket itself. Students told The Breeze they saw everything from Venus, Jupiter and the sun to the Milky Way and satellites in orbit last week when they tested out the glasses for the first time.

As if dropped into a Google Maps “street view” mode, a rocket launch site comes to life. The ship takes off, leaving a condensation trail behind it and dropping rocket boosters as it climbs higher into the sky. It’s a loud scene, much like an actual NASA rocket deployment would be. Once the rocket flies beyond Earth and into orbit, students hear nothing but silence, and are free to travel the skies by looking in different directions and shifting their heads.

Centracchio, who was chosen by her colleagues and the School Committee for North Providence’s “Teacher of the Year” title, said in terms of virtual classroom experiences and teaching, “this is the way we’re going.”

She told The Breeze that by incorporating these materials into class, students are able to leave the classroom, in a way, and get excited about learning in a realistic and engaging way.

“They have some kind of ownership in it as well,” said the 5th-grade teacher, who explained that the students helped set up the goggles. Last Wednesday, students were able to use the goggles under the direction of Centracchio and parent volunteers. For most of the students, it was their first time using the materials.

Within the Google Goggles are slots for smartphones to slide in behind a 3D lens. Once the smartphone scans a barcode on the exterior of the glasses, the device is able to sync with the “Liftoff” application, changing the viewing screen on the smartphone to a visual portal through the solar system. Students then “steer” by moving their heads around while peering through the glasses.

This allows students to explore, Centracchio said, and get a glimpse of what they’re learning about in a more “real world” setting. There are lots of possibilities with this technology, said Centracchio, who researched other virtual learning apps while learning about Google Goggles and learned about apps that show virtual tours of museums and planetarium reality applications.

New technology doesn’t come without some troubleshooting, though. Since the goggle applications run off Internet access, any modem issues can put a halt to the 3D experience. That’s something Centracchio said classes will have to work through if they continue to use the devices.

Next year, Centracchio said, she wants to implement these tools into her curriculum. To pull off the trial run of the goggles in class, Centracchio received training from the school’s technology coach and used the goggles herself.

She waited until the end of the school year to have her students break out the goggles, as the group had to get through lots of coursework first, but she hopes to use the tools more regularly in her instruction starting next year.

As far as her new title as “Teacher of the Year,” Centracchio said “it’s a real honor” to be chosen by her colleagues. Centracchio, who has taught in North Providence for 16 years, said that of all the students she’s taught, she’s glad she was given the award while teaching this particular class of 26 children this year.

With the help of “Liftoff,” an Apple application, a barcode scanning app, smartphones and 3D goggles, students in Melissa Centracchio’s 5th grade class were able to watch and hear a rocket launch, see planets, satellites and the Milky Way during class. For many of the students, this was their first time using the technology.
Melissa Centracchio, North Providence’s ‘Teacher of the Year,’ shows how Google Goggles are operated in her classroom. Centracchio hopes to integrate the goggles into her curriculum next year.
Mitchell Duhamel, a 5th-grade student at James L. McGuire Elementary School, explores the solar system with Google Goggles.

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