Photo courtesy of Flickr: Innovation_School
Field trips are a wonderful way for students to experience new things. While traditional field trips are typically limited to locations in the local community, virtual field trips open up whole new worlds of learning. These virtual experiences allow students to explore places they wouldn't be able to experience through traditional field trips. Classes can visit historical ruins, exotic locales, and more through virtual field trips.
A virtual fieldtrip allows students to learn about a topic through multi-media technology. Instead of traveling to a location, students use computers to access websites that provide virtual tours, exhibits, and lessons. Virtual field trips are usually an interactive experience. Students view photos or video tours of the location while participating in fun, educational activities. Some virtual field trips are fully interactive while others may only provide resources for teachers to use while leading the virtual field trip. Teachers select topics that are right for the classroom grade level and curriculum. Teachers can also plan up-to-the-minute trips that teach students about major current events and new scientific discoveries. The internet provides so many different virtual field trip opportunities that a teacher can plan the exact trip and lesson that will be the most fun and educational for the class.
Virtual fieldtrips remove many of the problems of physical field trips. Transportation and safety concerns means students can't physically visit distant or potential dangerous places, even if it would be an educationally beneficial experience. Remotely visiting such places through interactive websites means students can still experience the benefits of these places without the real-life difficulties. Virtual field trips also minimize the cost of field trips. Most virtual field trips are free or very low cost. Even if the school budget cannot accommodate a physical field trip, students can have a similar virtual learning experience at little to no cost and not miss out on learning.
Virtual fieldtrips also mean more time for focused learning. Taking a large group of kids to any location involves having additional volunteers to ensure everyone is safe and remains together as a group. Gathering everyone, worrying about things like water and sunblock, and keeping an eye out for schedule-ruining weather takes time away from learning. For example, instead of just being able to walk through one wing of a museum, a class doing a virtual tour may have time to see the whole thing. Virtual field trips provide a safe environment where a teacher can easily check on every student to make sure they're involved in the learning experience.
Interactive virtual field trips provide other benefits. The technology used in virtual field trips opens up new learning experiences. Video technology allows students to take a closer look at things they might only see from a distance on a normal field trip. Rather than seeing a caged lion from afar at a zoo, students can use streaming webcams to look get a real-time look at animals roaming a jungle nature preserve. Students can also get additional information that might really spark their interest during a virtual field trip. Some virtual field trips provide video-conferencing access to experts or professionals in that particular topic of study. Asking an expert on-the-spot questions gives them access to interesting information that may not be available otherwise. For example, students might be able to talk to a volcanic scientist or aerospace engineer that works thousands of miles away. Another innovative use of video-conferencing is interacting with students in different places. Instead of just learning cultural facts from books, students can chat with other students around the world learning about their day-to-day lives in foreign countries. This gives students a real window to the world and can really motivate them to learn about other cultures and places.
Here are a few additional resources and examples of virtual field trips:
Additional Information on Virtual Field Trips
Educational Virtual Field Trips
Virtual Field Trip Resources and Directories