Monday, February 14, 2011

Virtual Field Trips

Hello everyone!  Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day!

Recently in my other online course, Inclusive Teaching in Education, we've been making, watching and commenting on PowerPoint presentations that members of the class have been making.  The assignment is to make a PowerPoint presentation with a vocal recording attached that presents some sort of technological-based support that could help students with disabilities.  So far there has been a great array of presentations: TI-Nspire technology, OCR reading pens, DynaVox Vmax+, Elmo Cameras, FrontRow, Promethean Boards, SmartBoards (which I'll probably discuss my love for at a later date), Virtual Field Trips, and Weblogs.  The item that I really want to discuss today is the Virtual Field Trip.

I'd be lying if I said I'd never heard of Virtual Field Trips or Virtual Scavenger Hunts before.  In middle and high school I completed many Virtual Scavenger Hunts and to be honest I often felt as if they were busy work.  As an educator I do see their potential to be used in the classroom, but I feel that they need to be incorporated and further used in the classroom in order for students to see the importance of them.  I feel the same way about incorporating Virtual Field Trips in the classroom, however, I see more potential in their use than in the use of Scavenger hunts.

One of the Virtual Field Trips that the presenter recommended checking out was The Google Art Project.  Have you ever wanted to go to the MoMa in New York City or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence?  This website allows you to view artwork in 17 different Art Museums throughout the world.  The website allows you to zoom in so close on the artwork that you feel as if you can see the layers of paint on canvas or that you could touch the paint through your computer screen.  As an Art History minor who would love to travel to these locations I'm in heaven being able to truly experience these pieces of artwork (at least until I have the money to perhaps travel to their locations one day) better than any textbook could ever allow me to.  While this website may not fit into everyone's curriculum or subject matter I definitely see its potential in the classroom.

Another great Virtual Field Trip that I remember using in middle school was one about the Underground Railroad.  While I can't remember the website that we used in particular in my Social Studies class, I found another resource that you could use:  Virtual Field Trip: Underground Railroad.  This site is not as impressive visually as the Google Art Project, but is essentially a historical walking tour of sites important to the Underground Railroad in New Bedford, MA.  It provides students to experience and learn about a site they may otherwise be unable to visit.

Other interesting sites that are home to Virtual Field Trips/Tours are the American Museum of Natural History which allows students to visit the animal dioramas within the museum,  The Mars Project which allows students to explore the surface of Mars, and Scholastic: Field Trips which provide Math, Science, Social Studies and Reading/Language Arts trips.

While I understand that there are some obstacles one might have to overcome in order to use Virtual Field Trips such as having the technology in the classroom, I think that the benefits really outweigh any cons.  Teachers can apply for grants to help provide them with computers or SmartBoards in the classroom.  I think that doing Virtual Field Trips on a SmartBoard with the entire class would be such a great way to bring the class together to learn about a particular topic.  I also think that Virtual Field Trips function well as independent or small group activities.  Also, these types of field trips would be extremely beneficial for school districts that cannot afford to send their students on real field trips or that do not have local areas appropriate for field trips.

I hope I didn't overwhelm everyone with my information on Virtual Field Trips, but I really think that they are a great educational tool that I hope to use in my future classroom!

For additional websites that provide lists of links for different Virtual Field Trips try The Teacher's Guide: Virtual Tours, Internet4Classrooms: Virtual Field Trips Collection, SimpleK12: Virtual Field Trips, or even just do a Google search of Virtual Field Trips and explore the endless possibilities on your own.


  1. Hi Jenny,

    Those are wonderful resources that you posted! That is interesting that you said that when you were in school the "scavenger hunts" felt like "busy work." I am sure the intent was to get students to learn how to search on the internet, etc, but how do you think we can use assignments such as internet searches or Virtual Trips more effectively in our instruction?

  2. I agree with you that virtual field trips are a wonderful tool to use in the classroom. When I was in my student teaching placement, I did something similar to a virtual field trip. One student had wrote a persuasive letter asking to take a trip to Washington DC, and I included pictures and links of different attractions found in DC on a PowerPoint. I then went through the PowerPoint pretending to be their tour guide as they "visited" the different places. Though they were in 6th grade, they had so much fun with this activity. Thus, I am sure they would have had even more fun if allowed to go on a virtual field trip and explore on their own. Now a days, many schools do not have the money to bring their students on a field trip. Also, the school district I went to decided to not have field trips after 9-11 happened. In my opinion, field trips are something that help make learning fun and more meaningful. Thus, by incorporating virtual field trips into the classroom, one can still "bring" their students on a field trip to help expand their learning and make learning interesting.

  3. Professor Hough- I just think that teachers need to follow up on their use of scavenger hunts. Often we'd spend all class working on a scavenger hunt to not go over the information ever again. Teachers need to learn to use scavenger hunts as an extension to the topic they are teaching and use that information in future classes. The lesson that I wrote about for our thinkfinity posts this week does that. Students work with the information that they gathered for multiple days and give real meaning to it.

    Tiffany-I really enjoyed the way that you used the virtual field trip in your placement. I think having the teacher act as a "tour guide" is a fun way to make it a class virtual field trip. However, it is unfortunate that the school district you were in decided to entirely stop doing actual field trips due to 9/11. I think that your effort to help students still experience a field trip in a different way is really fantastic and important for schools like this.

  4. Hi Jenny!

    I really love the idea of a virtual field trip. The possibilities are endless and it can be adapted to any subject area or grade level. I student-taught in middle school science and there are so many possibilities for virtual field trips. I think it would really engage students and get them interested in the subject matter. Getting students to think beyond the four walls of the classroom is so important and this is a great way to do that without actually leaving the classroom.

  5. Gemma,
    I agree with you that the possibilities are endless with virtual field trips and I love that they are so universal among subjects. I think it is also helpful to show your students that there is a whole world outside the classroom and maybe students will find them so interesting that they will experience virtual field trips when they are at home as well.