Avenel Middle School students enjoying Google Cardboard experience

Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE — Students at Avenel Middle School got to explore the Grand Canyon and historic Philadelphia, as well as tag along on a shark adventure in the Galapagos Islands and explore the deep jungles of South America — all without leaving their desks.

Google representative Simon Fogbo visited the school on Nov. 24 with 90 Google Cardboards equipped with smart phones and Wi-Fi for the students to experience 250 various virtual reality apps that are available.

Jamie Wanko, sixth-grade social studies teacher, is one of 17 teachers at Avenel Middle School piloting an interactive Google Classroom this year.

“Instead of textbooks, we use Chromebooks,” she said. “It’s amazing and everything is in real time. The students can forward me their work and I can send them direct feedback.”

Wanko said when she came across the Google Cardboard, she told her classes about it.

“In two days some of my students brought it in,” she said. “The cardboard is available for about $10 on Amazon so it’s accessible. The apps have to be downloaded.”

A teacher with a tablet can select and control what the students see in the Google Cardboard.

“There have been a lot of “Whoas”,” Wanko said of the different expeditions.

Wanko said she bought Google Cardboards for her own children and use them in her classroom.

An educator for 15 years, Wanko said the use of technology is what her students now have grown up with.

“[Using technology is] second nature to them,” she said. “The reward that I see with a Google Classroom is fewer assignments go missing and the enthusiasm from my students.”

Another positive feature of a Google Classroom is parents are able to see what their child has learned in class.

Wanko said she was one of the first to pilot the Google Classroom and she had other teachers join her with the support of Principal Joseph Short and the Woodbridge Board of Education.