Skip to content

Doing the Cardboard

I first wrote about Google Cardboard last fall and have continued to fall in love with the tool. So full of educational potential. So cool. So engaging.

It’s like the James Bond of edtech tools. Seriously. If you’re not playing around with this already, you need to be.

In a nutshell, Google Cardboard is a way for you and your kids to experience 360 degree virtual reality in an inexpensive and relatively painless way. VR tools, apps, and software have been in the works for a few years now but it wasn’t something that could really be translated into the classroom.

You may have heard about something called the Oculus Rift. Very, very cool. But not very practical. I mean . . . at $600 per unit and with the need for a high end computer to boot, not something most schools will be ordering anytime soon.

But Google Cardboard provides a pretty decent VR experience with a smartphone, free apps, and literally a piece of cardboard. Think old Viewmaster and you start to get the idea. But add 360 degrees of reality. Add video options. Add instant “access” to just about any place around the world and your brain should start to realize the learning potential here.

The concept was developed by the folks at the Google Cultural Institute (another no-brainer for social studies teachers) to enable people to fully experience their digital exhibits. And just like that, you’ve got a powerful teaching and learning tool at your fingertips.

The process is simple. Purchase a Google Cardboard. Download a Cardboard compatible app to your smartphone, open the app, put your phone in the Cardboard, experience 360 degree virtual reality. Need a few apps to get you started? I’ve linked a few to the Apple App Store but all are also available at the Google Store.

  • Google StreetView – “Walk” around famous landmarks, down your street, and through historical sites. Create your own photospheres and upload to their database.
  • Discovery VR – Videos from Discovery Channel. 
  • NYTVR – The New York Times is creating a great list of videos focused around current events.
  • VRSE – A “univerise” of VR videos. Look especially for Clouds Over Sidra and The Displaced.
  • Sites in VR – Virtual tours of famous landmarks around the world.

Now that inexpensive VR hardware options are now available, expect even more educational VR apps to roll out in the next year.

But before you jump into this full blast, you’ll need to think about a few things:

  • Buy or build? The Cardboard design is open source. You can build your own if you want. First thought? Yeah! Second thought, uh . .  Exacto knives, glue, three hours, lots of patience, middle school kids. Maybe not.
  • Think about the devices that you’ll be using. There are different sizes and types of Cardboards. i.e. Bigger phone, bigger Cardboard.
  • Think about how much you want to spend. You can find Cardboards from between $2.50 and hundreds of dollars. More money equals better lens and triggers but there’s only so much classroom budget money lying around so . . .
  • But also think about brand. Because the design is basically open source, lots of different companies are making these. More expensive doesn’t always mean better quality. I’ve taken to ordering from a company called Knoxlabs. I’ve had great luck with their Knox One (50% off at $8) and their Knox V2 (at $10). But your mileage may vary so nothing wrong with ordering from different companies to find the best for you.
  • Cardboard is, well . . . cardboard. Don’t expect these things to last forever. Get extra if you can afford it.
  • Be aware of your data plan and those of your students. You’re basically downloading video and maps, this tends to suck up plenty of MBs so connect to a wireless network whenever possible.
  • Don’t forget the “shiny things and the crow” story. Just because something is cool – and Cardboard is – doesn’t mean that all you do is have kids look at cool StreetViews of the Great Pyramids and walk through the White House. Is this a hook activity? A writing prompt? Does the app supplement their text? Could you have students create local histories based on photospheres that they create on StreetView? Be clear about the end in mind. There are very few Cardboard lesson plans out there so think it through and make it clear to students what you expect from the activity.
  • But learning should be fun. So don’t freak out too much – especially in the beginning – if your activity is not directly aligned to NCSS and ISTE standards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: