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Google hopes for extra credit with updates to education apps

More virtual-reality field trips and the ability to scribble all over your homework? OK, Google, maybe that's worth a gold star.

Parents can keep an eye on their child's workload.

Sigh. Yes, the break is over and school awaits. But with a little luck you might be able to ditch class and go to the moon instead.

With the new school year upon us, Google has souped up its Expeditions and Classroom apps for teachers and students.

The Expeditions app, which lets students take virtual-reality field trips with the help of a phone and Google's Cardboard VR headset, now features more places to "go," the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.

New Expeditions include a walk on the moon, a visit to the White House kitchen garden, a jaunt inside the human lungs, a stroll in the Himalayas in Bhutan, a meander on the ocean floor, a look at the Taj Mahal's history and an encounter with planes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.

And students can deface their homework with annotations.


Expeditions will be moving beyond Android and coming to iOS devices soon too, Google said in its post. On the iPad, viewers will be able to use full-screen mode, rather than a headset, to participate.

Google Classroom, which is designed to help teachers organize classes and communicate with students, boasts a couple of new features as well.

Parents can now opt to get daily or weekly email summaries of their child's upcoming assignments, along with classroom announcements.

Teachers and students can also annotate documents in Classroom. Teachers, for instance, can "quickly grade assignments by writing directly on the student's work, or highlighting the most important passages in a text or novel," says Google, while students can "complete assignments, sketch out math problems or even create visuals of creative ideas directly on their devices."

We're not sure if doodling a Black Sabbath logo on your homework counts as "creating a visual of a creative idea," but you never know.