This is the latest in our series of Expert’s Columns. Stacy Zeiger is an 8th grade teacher dedicated to bringing technology into the classroom in a variety of ways (and on a small budget!). She writes about her experiences using technology with students, and elucidates what works and what doesn’t. Her columns appear on Tuesdays and Fridays.
When you teach in a small, rural school district, finding places to visit and money for fields trips can be a challenge. At the same time, teachers know that leaving the walls of the school and providing students with opportunities to experience subject matter first-hand is a crucial component of the learning process. Virtual field trips provide teachers with a way to give students those experiences without actually leaving the classroom and without spending a lot of money. Are they as good as the real deal? No. But they’re significantly better than going nowhere at all.
Pre-designed virtual field trips
Some websites give you the ability to take students on pre-designed virtual field trips. These range from field trips designed by educational organizations, such as museums and zoos, to those created by other teachers. Noodle Trip features a searchable database of virtual field trips and distance learning opportunities for use in the classroom. Noodle Trip is unique to the world of virtual field trips because it uses the power of video conferencing to send students on field trips. Rather than a traditional field trip where students visit websites, your students get to interact with an actual presenter through the video conference. Because of that interactive component, the field trips cost money, but the cost is still significantly less than most real field trips.
For a free pre-designed virtual field trip, check out Simple K12’s list of virtual field trips. All field trips are organized by subject area and include field trips to places such as Middle Eastern countries, art museums and government buildings.
Create your own!
You can also create your own virtual field trip for students. Put together your own museum exhibit with a resource such as Museum Box or pretend you are a tour guide and take students through a tour of pictures of a foreign country or major city. Many museums offer portions of their exhibits online, so you do not have to physically visit the museum for students to see many of the artifacts or displays that they offer. Zoos and historical cities and other locations offer live webcams that you can use to make students feel like they are actually on a field trip. Resources such as Earthcam offer a large selection of live feeds to bring into your classroom at any given moment. Visit the websites for local museums, historical sites and attractions to see if they offer virtual resources you could incorporate into a field trip of your own.
The benefits of virtual field trips
Even though virtual field trips are not as beneficial as real field trips, they still help students. By taking my students on virtual field trips, I was able to connect with my visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. We moved beyond textbooks and novels to give students an opportunity to actually experience what they were learning and opened up a larger world for many students who had rarely ventured beyond the limits of their small town.
Want more great tech tips for teachers? Check out other articles by Stacy.