5 Reasons to Use Virtual Field Trips in Your Classroom
Guest Post by Monica Burns, Ed.D.
There are lots of ways that students can interact with content in your classroom. From reading a book on a topic, to having a whole class discussion, teachers use lots of different strategies to help students understand a new idea. Virtual field trips, like the ones you can find on this site, help students paint a picture of the words in their text. These types of experiences can help students with just a little background knowledge on the topic begin to understand a new concept. It provides the images, sights and sounds they need in order to make meaning of the big ideas you’re exploring in your classroom.
Ready to get started? Here are five reasons to start using virtual field trips in your classroom!
- Help students make connections: in order for students to make the most of the content you are sharing with them they have to make connections to what they already know. If you find that your students lack a strong foundation when diving into a new topic, you can share a virtual field trip with them.
- Open up the world to your students: many students don’t have the opportunity to travel the world before walking into your classroom. Although the topics they explore together may inspire travel down the line, virtual field trips can make these faraway places accessible for your students today.
- Remove the cost barrier: taking a virtual trip removes some of the logistical challenges of a traditional field trip. Instead of stressing about raising the funds you need to take students to many different places, a virtual field trip can help you meet some of your content area goals.
- Make the impossible possible: for some students traveling to a faraway place can feel impossible. Whether your students have physical limitations that make a traditional field trip impossible, or if you encounter other logistical barriers, virtual field trips can help level the playing field for students.
- Promote a sense of wonder: with a virtual field trip you can promote a sense of wonder in your classroom. Sometimes we use the phrase I don’t know what I don’t know. By exposing students to new experiences through virtual field trips you can help them ask questions about the world around them.
Virtual field trips are powerful ways to inspire students of all ages. As you make your way through the great resources on the site, think about your goals for students across curriculums and how e videos on this site can support the learning happening in your classroom.
Dr. Monica Burns is a Curriculum and EdTech Consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator and Founder of ClassTechTips.com. Since starting ClassTechTips.com, Monica has presented to teachers, administrators and tech enthusiasts at numerous national and international conferences.
10 Inspirational Ideas to Make All Virtual Field Trips More Memorable
Few would argue about the benefits associated with Virtual Field Trips. Time-savings, budget-friendliness, convenience, and learning value are just a few.
It’s quite a leap, though, to know how to extract as much value as possible from using VFTs in the classroom. Listed below are 10 ideas that can make any Virtual Field Trip an even more memorable and valuable experience for your students. These suggestions are meant to be universally applicable to as wide a variety of VFTs as possible.
So, here we go:
- Help the students feel as though it’s a real trip. Make a travel brochure for students ahead of time showing them some highlights in advance. Alternatively, have them make the travel brochure after viewing the Virtual Field Trip.
- Simulate the transportation to your location. This works best if using a projector in the classroom. Re-arrange the chairs to resemble an airplane. Start your trip by using Google Earth to zero-in on your destination. Use an airplane flight simulation video, maybe from YouTube.
- Create tickets for students, possibly putting a place for questions on the back, so that students can ask these at the end of the trip.
- Create a visual scavenger hunt of 10 people, sites, or pieces of information that you want students to be on the lookout for during their trip. You could award a prize or two for the most items seen, hardest to find, etc.
- Create a passport for students of all the places they will/can explore. Stamp them as each is visited. Have a celebration when the passport is “complete”.
- Talk about typical food choices that represent the destination. Think of one, two, or three food dishes that represent the destination. Arrange for the students to have these as snacks while watching the virtual field trip. Take a vote on which ones to make/eat/try.
- Give students a map of the destination to follow along with. Have students circle areas and sites visited.
- Team up with an older grade (or younger grade, as the case may be) to buddy with for the VFT experience. Students can be paired with a travel partner from the other grade. Together they can make recipes from the destination, use exchange rates to compare the cost of everyday items, or use map skills to follow along together.
- Have students list their three favorite highlights about the destination they just viewed. Share these amongst all students.
- Use words and phrases from the Virtual Field Trip to create a word bank. Use these words to create a crossword puzzle and quiz students on the content. Alternatively, you could create a word-search puzzle.
Foley, K. (2010). The big pocket guide to using & creating virtual field trips. Seattle, WA: Tramline.
Kawka, B.. Burgess, B. (2001). V-Trip travel guide: Classroom strategies for virtual field trips. Eugene, OR: ISTE Publications.
What Are Virtual Field Trips?
I’m sure we all have strong memories of field trips we’ve taken during our school days. For various reasons, students don’t have the same opportunities available to them these days. The good news is that a reasonable, and sometimes superior, substitute experience is the virtual field trip. What is a virtual field trip, you ask?
Generally speaking, a virtual field trip is a digital and/or online exploration based on a specific theme. Virtual field trips are usually a pre-organized collection of images and information sourced online and presented as a computer-based learning experience. They are usually oriented toward a destination of some sort, either geographical or functional (e.g. a virtual factory tour). Most virtual field trips will usually fall into one of three categories.
The first category of virtual field trips is primarily based on existing web resources and visits to web sites. The content is not customized, for the most part, it is simply packaged in an organized fashion. This format lends itself to self-directed and self-guided learning experiences, particularly for students with web navigation experience.
The second category contains custom and original content and is created by a trip developer. These virtual field trips may include images, test, narration, and/or HTML pages. This category of trips is well suited to students and/or teachers who want to incorporate the internet, yet keep technology risks to a minimum. It is also preferable when all students should be accessing the same content.
The third and final category is when students have the opportunity to interact with on-site explorers or experts. This type of VFT can generate a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the students, however the technology required for interaction can be complex and expensive. Time zone differences are another challenging aspect of this type of virtual field trip.
The field trips available here on our website fall into the second category. The content is original and uses images, narrations, and text to create a learning experience unique and customized to our audience. Students are not asked to navigate away from the site in order to go on the virtual field trip. It is particularly well suited to younger students, or those with less internet experience.
Foley, K. (2010). The big pocket guide to using & creating virtual field trips. Seattle, WA: Tramline.
How Do You Choose the Right Virtual Field Trip?
So you want to take your students on a trip somewhere. You’ve already established that a virtual field trip is the way to go for a myriad of reasons. However, the potential reach of virtual field trips (VFTs) knows no bounds. You can take your students to any time or place. As appealing as this sounds, how can you then decide where you should go? Even more, how can you decide whether that particular field trip is right for your group of students? In other words, what would make your virtual field trip both successful and worthwhile?
There are three dimensions to consider as you evaluate one VFT over another. First and foremost are your objectives – curricular, educational, or otherwise. It is not a valuable use of everyone’s time unless it meets the goals you have set out. This may relate directly to specific standards or outcomes, or it may be related to supplemental or even entertainment value. Being mindful of your expectations will help to evaluate the many choices you have available.
The second consideration is to ensure that there is enough visual interest to make sure that students are engaged and will view the exercise as a field trip, and not just another assignment. Some virtual field trips are a grouping of web pages students visit and use to compile information. In order to be considered more of a virtual field trip and less of an online assignment, there should be a large degree of visual content. An actual field trip would be largely visual, and this requirement should not be much less for a virtual field trip.
The last dimension to be considered is that the accompanying narrative is comprehensible to the student audience. Field trips usually have a visual and an auditory component. In the same way that there needs to be a strong visual presence to a virtual field trip, the auditory component should also be present, and should be suited to the audience. To make a comparison, if a tour guide were taking your students around a museum the dialogue would sound very different for a group of first-graders than for a group of tenth-graders.
You may have other specific elements that are a requirement for you, however, as a starting point you can’t go too far wrong by using these considerations as guidelines in your choice of virtual field trips.
Mandel, S. (2002). Cybertrips in social studies: Online field trips for all ages. Tucson, AZ: Zephyr Press.