Oct 14 2016

3 Ways Google Arts & Culture Can Enrich Your Lessons

From virtual museum trips to close-up art investigations, Google has a plethora of offerings for educators.

Imagine your students learning about the massive prehistoric creatures that used to walk the earth and being able to look them in the eye. Or imagine your class studying van Gogh’s art and being able to look closely enough to study his brushstrokes.

We’re not describing an episode of The Magic School Bus; we’re talking about the reality that is Google Arts & Culture.

Similar to its foray into virtual reality via Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions, the tech giant announced in September that it had partnered with more than 50 natural history museums across the world to create a catalog of hundreds of interactive stories, photos, videos and virtual tours.

Included in the catalog are 360-degree views of creatures like Rhomaleosaurus, a 180-million-year-old sea dragon currently on display at London’s Natural History Museum. Students can get the 360-degree view in the video below or on Google Cardboard.

“We wanted to give you a glimpse of how these colossal creatures actually looked,” Amit Sood, the director of the Google Cultural Institute wrote in a Google for Education blog post. “So we worked with ecologists, paleontologists and biologists to put virtual skin and flesh on the preserved skeletons.”

In addition to providing students with scientifically accurate experiences, Google Arts & Culture’s offerings have potential for future lesson plans.

1. Providing Efficient and Immersive Museum Exploration

In addition to the individual exhibits already mentioned, Google Arts & Culture’s Natural History collection has virtual tours of entire museums. Leveraging the technology of Street View, students can now take a tour of museums from New York to London to Australia.

When Google started offering virtual tours and up-close looks at art museums a few years ago, educator Samantha Peters blogged on TeachHub.com about how teachers could use Google Art Project to more easily take their students on more field trips — albeit virtually.

“Essentially, it can be treated just as a normal field trip would — by splitting students into groups, asking them to look at various genres of painting, requesting observational notes or comparisons of some sort,” she wrote.

A virtual field trip of a museum of natural history could be taken with the same approach.

Google Basics for Teaching has a step-by-step guide for using the Google Cultural Institute as a virtual field trip. The guide suggests that teachers have students act as museum curators and create their own exhibitions by compiling related pieces.

In a post on The Art of Education, Apex High School teacher Melissa Purtee wrote that in addition to the museum collection, teachers can, with the help of Places, send their students on a virtual tour of a location they are studying.

“In a lesson about ancient Egyptian art, take a kids on a tour of the Great Pyramids at Giza,” Purtee wrote. “This will give your lesson context and help students make the cross-curricular connections to make learning stick.”

2. Getting Up-Close-and-Personal Access to Great Works of Art

Just as the natural history exhibit lets you get face to face with a sea dragon, Google Places has a zoom feature that allows students to get closer than ever before to the work of greats like Vincent van Gogh.

In her article, Purtee suggested that art teachers have students access Google Art when studying things like color theory.

“Try zooming in on a van Gogh painting and challenging students to match 10 of the colors they find. Your kids will develop a whole new appreciation for his application of color,” she wrote.

Purtee also noted that students can learn how sculptures and other physical works are created by utilizing the 360-degree views.

3. Experiencing History Firsthand with Exclusive Museum Access

You won’t have to spend hours traveling to Washington, D.C., and then waiting in line to check out the Smithsonian’s newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Thanks to a grant from Google, the museum is set to become the most technologically advanced in the world, Google software engineer Travis McPhail wrote in a blog on Google for Education.

From its inception, the NMAAHC was designed by Google and the museum’s director, Dr. Lonnie Bunch, to have a number of digital experiences.

“We worked closely with the museum to build an interactive exhibit to house artifacts from decades of African American history and let visitors explore and learn about them,” McPhail wrote. “With 3D scanning, 360 video, multiple screens and other technologies, visitors can see artifacts like a powder horn or handmade dish from all angles.

McPhail wrote that Google has also created an expedition of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which commemorates the 1965 Voting Rights March.

Although the museum is now open, the digital components won’t be available until the spring of 2017.

To explore everything we’ve talked about, visit the Google Arts & Culture.


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