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Google Cardboard, VR, and the future of social studies

I got my first Google Cardboard just a few weeks ago. And if you got your Cardboard this spring or summer and have already been using it, seriously. No heads up on how cool this is? Cause it really is a lot of fun to play with.

Google Cardboard was released last year but iOS / iPhone apps for it have been slow in coming. So . . . being an Apple guy, I hadn’t jumped onboard yet. But I am full on Cardboard mancrushing right now. I’m sharing some Cardboard ideas at the Kansas state social studies conference in Topeka today and I figured I should share some of those resources with you.

Not exactly sure what Google Cardboard is?

Google Cardboard is a virtual reality platform developed by Google that uses an inexpensive fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone. It is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications.

So it’s very cool. But . . . can we teach with it and can kids learn from it?

I think yes. Explore some of the following sites and then we’ll talk:

  • Official Google cardboard site
  • Where to get a Cardboard
  • Have kids build their own with directions from herehere, here, and here. It’s like three bucks. Would you rather use a 3D printer to make it? Try this.
  • How about joining a WWII battlefield?
  • Head over to the Google Cultural Institute: Art Museums, Historic Moments, World Wonders and explore.
  • Download the Google Street View app for either Android or iOS.  Open the app, go to Gallery > Explore, select a view, then select the Cardboard icon in top right. Oh my goodness. Think walking down the Grand Canyon, climbing El Capitan, visiting the Mall in Washington DC, exploring downtown London, spending time in just about any place in the world.
  • Download the Google Street View app and go almost anywhere in the world.

Watch some elementary kids play with Cardboard:

So. How could I use this?

Right off the top of my head, I’m thinking have kids “travel” to different regions of the country or the world to find specific cultural geography examples. Have students visit the Washington Monument as a writing prompt. Ask kids to explore the US (Or Europe. Or Asia. Or Africa. Or Kansas. or your state) and develop a presentation that highlights geographic features of the area. The presentation has to include images and multimedia from their “trip.”

Visit historical sites around the world such as Pompeii. Or the Colosseum. Or Machu Picchu. Or . . . you get the idea. Create writing prompts based on their visits. Compare and contrast place and people.

Have kids download 360 capable cameras and have them create their own Cardboard compatible photospheres. These could be part of a bigger “tell the story of your own community” project. Or the story of nearby historical sites. Or partner with a local museum to document artifacts and displays in their collections.

This is still all very new and more and more apps are being created as we speak. But apps are free or very cheap. The device itself is designed to be cheap or free. and it takes our kids to places they will never be able to visit in person. Jump on the bandwagon and get started developing your own ideas on how to use this.

Post your ideas below. How would you use Cardboard with our kids?

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is actually a very interesting idea. At first I thought it might have been a joke, but I can actually see a valid use for this. I would certainly prefer learning through a VR headset rather than reading out of a book. Still can’t beat actually going there, but its pretty close.

    November 2, 2015
    • glennw #

      Yes! It sounds so much like a Google April Fool’s thing. Let me know how you find ways to use it.


      November 2, 2015
      • I would probably use it to for planning intricate structures, to make sure everything is put together correctly.

        November 2, 2015
      • glennw #

        Yeah – we had some people yesterday talk about using the creation of the Cardboard to support technical writing, engineering principles, and math concepts. I don’t know how this would look but some were noodling out how you might “upgrade” the design to allow for iPads. Fun conversations!

        Good luck as you and students continue to play with ideas!


        November 3, 2015
  2. This is so cool. California Council for the Social Studies is having a whole day devoted to Ed Camp where people share their ideas at our conference March 4-6, 2016 in Costa Mesa. Check it out! 🙂 Awesome post.

    November 2, 2015
    • glennw #

      Thanks for sharing! I love EdCamps! Have a great couple of days.


      November 2, 2015
  3. I also believe that this is transformational, especially in the social studies. You should follow what my student are working on right now. FVvr (Fort Vancouver Virtual Reality) is going to be a student made virtual tour of the National Historic Site that will be web based, and also viewable in VR using your smart device.

    March 16, 2016
    • glennw #

      Yes! That will be so cool! Exactly the kind of stuff our kids should be doing. Looking forward to the final project.

      Thanks for sharing. Good luck!


      March 16, 2016

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