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Google is launching a programme to teach one million UK schoolchildren how to use virtual reality (VR) technology.
The programme, dubbed Google Expeditions, will use Google Cardboard VR technology to enable teachers to take pupils on virtual school trips, providing VR materials that support the national curriculum.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai will announce the programme during his first trip to the UK since taking up his post.
Pichai said: “Virtual reality can spark students’ imagination and help them learn about topics such as how blood flows through the human body or the impact climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef, in an engaging and immersive way.
“We have already received feedback from thousands of teachers in the UK and they believe Expeditions can improve literacy and writing skills, and help create excitement to complement traditional teaching methods.”
Any school in the UK can sign up for the programme.
Alongside VR training, Pichai will also announce plans to offer five hours’ worth of free digital skills training to everyone in the UK who hopes to further their career now or in the future.
He added: “No matter where you live, no matter where you are from, no matter what your job is – you deserve access to all the information, education and opportunity that the web has to offer. Our aim is to make sure that every individual and business in the UK has the support they need to make the most of online tools to innovate, compete and have fruitful careers in the digital age.”
Google’s training programme will offer a combination of online and face-to-face sessions throughout 2017, giving people at 100 locations across the UK the opportunity to learn digital skills.
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This expands on the company’s previous skills programmes, such as its Digital Garage, which provides tech training to entrepreneurs to help them grow their small businesses, either in physical locations or through online resources.
Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital and culture, welcomed Google’s announcement following the government’s promise earlier this year to help more people in the UK access digital skills.
“In 2016, we announced that everyone who needs basic digital skills should have access, like with English and maths,” said Hancock. “This is essential to create a society that works for all and to keep our businesses competitive in a fast-changing world.
“This pledge from Google is very welcome in supporting that national goal. It will help more people to get the tools they need to contribute to society and enjoy the benefits of the internet.”
The current lack of digital skills across the UK is estimated to be costing the economy £63bn a year, with up to 12.6 million UK adults lacking basic digital skills.
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