Next Generation Science Standards

Google Expeditions - a replacement for field trips or dissections?

Hello! My name is Brittany Wells and I am a first year student at Xavier University. In my Instructional Technology class we recently had a demonstration of Virtual Reality technologies and read about the classroom implementation of it. For those of you who have or haven't used it in your classroom what has or what do you anticipate being some limitations of VR? Can it replace live dissections or enhance it as an introduction to the concepts? Does it qualify as a field trip? Thanks! Brittany Wells

Brittany Wells
Brittany Wells
30 Activity Points

Brittany, it would be a virtual field trip without having the hassle of getting permission, buses, and lunches. The things that would prevent us from using it would be lack of equipment! (headsets, enough iPads)

Pamela Dupre
Pamela Dupre
87204 Activity Points

Thanks so much!

Brittany Wells
Brittany Wells
30 Activity Points

Hello Brittany, 

          What great questions! I got to experience VR in my classroom for the first time last year. We were doing a unit on electromagnetic radiation and our Instructional Coach said that the new VR tech our district ordered contained a lesson on the electromagnetic spectrum. It was very fun! The lesson was a good supplement to our unit and I will include it again this year. We also took the time to explore some of the other learning explorations that came with the app. Some were better than others. 

          I did not see any simulated dissections but that would be a great use of this technology. I have had students over the years that balked at doing dissections and I have found some decent websites that can provide a substitute experience for students who cannot do a dissection. It is not always a matter of a weak stomach for the gory stuff that is the problem. Once during a middle school frog dissection a student alerted me that her partner was quietly sobbing. I asked her to step out into the hall and asked if she would prefer to spend the rest of the period in the library. She said she would but she was worried about her grade. I suggested stopping in after school so we could talk about it. She came in and after some discussion she told me that the idea of killing the frog made her very sad. I pointed out that we did not kill the frog, the folks at Carolina Biological Supply took care of that part for us. She said that did not matter, they killed it so she could cut it up and that if anyone had asked her, she would have said please don't kill it for me. It is a pretty rare find these days, and I should have realized it from observing her interactions with her classmates, but what I had on my hands was a truly gentle soul. 

          I told her that in some cultures hunters say a prayer to the spirit of the animal they killed thanking it for providing meat to feed their family. Perhaps she could write a letter to the spirit of the frog thanking it for giving its life so we could learn about biology. A couple days later she came back to me with an incredible letter written not to the frog but to the Carolina Biological Supply company. In the very politely worded letter she stated that she was opposed to this killing but understood that it was done to help people understand biology and maybe some of the students who participated would grow up to be doctors and use the knowledge to help sick people. She also implored them to kill the frogs as quickly and painlessly as they could. I am happy to report that an employee of Carolina Biological Supply took the time to write a sincere reply to her letter in which they stated that they tried to prepare specimens in the most humane way possible. 

        Despite some students abhorring dissections, I still believe they are valuable learning experiences. The writers of the NGSS do not seem to agree as there is no gross anatomy that I can find in their standards. I think this is a failing on their part. Gross anatomy seems perfectly set up as a topic that would seemlessly include engineering practices like the integration of systems and cross cutting concepts like form following function.  Ask some of your contemporaries what they remember most about middle or high school science classes. I'll bet a large percentage say the most memorable experience was dissecting a frog or fetal pig. Dissections are expensive, time consuming, and messy but the amount and power of the learning is hard to duplicate any other way. The same can be said for field trips. I saw where someone else replied that they are a huge hassle what with permission slips, arranging for buses, etc. That is all true but I have had incredible experiences on field trips with students and they are also some of the most memorable school experiences. Enjoy your VR and I hope you become a teacher.

         

 

James Duff
James Duff
60 Activity Points

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