Virtual Field Trips
Many teachers I know, including myself, have those Teacher-Created Resources supplemental activity books. There are several about technology, and specifically about Virtual Field Trips, interactive web sites that provide as much if not more information than one would gain on an actual Field Trip using drawings, music, images, animations, web cams, and more. While the books themselves are quite helpful, I always found the majority of Virtual Field Trips in them to be attached to lessons of rote routine; filling out a worksheet or writing down answers to a list of questions. While the concept of visiting and learning about a distant place via on line movies, interviews, images, and interactive games is fantastic, I’ve always thought that something equally as engaging could be produced as a result of such a field trip. Many Virtual Field Trips allows learners to explore places such as large urban centers, dairy farms, and foreign countries. They not only provide lots of information, images, sounds, and often movies, but can also address unique learning opportunities such as exploring natural habitats in urban centers, how technology is used in milk production, or even meet people from other nations.
The task of creating an engaging assessment piece, to replace the worksheet, should be easier since the larger part of the lesson, activity, or unit has already been created in the form of the Virtual Field Trip. However, given limited planning time, what would be an appropriately engaging, and benchmark applicable, product of such a field trip? Personally, I’ve had classes produce visually oriented work, like safari brochures after taking a Virtual Field Trip to Africa, and “Unusual Creature Zoos” after visiting several actual zoo sites on the Internet. A program like Kid Pix or even Microsoft Paint allows for the students to take what they’ve learned on a Virtual Field Trip and turn it into a useful product, which is much more engaging than the old worksheet, and allows them to be creative in the process of building new knowledge.
If you’ve never been on a Virtual Field Trip before, or need a good starting place check out these links:
This Old Habitat: A web site sponsored by the Field Museum in Chicago, it explored several ecosystems that can be found in a large urban center.
Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden: Suitable for early elementary age learners, this site lets learners explore the garden, learn colors, words, and even learn some sign language thanks to short movies.
Global Trek: Great for any age, this Scholastic web site mimics an airline reservation web site. After choosing your destination and departure point you are presented with information about the country, it’s people, and other interesting facts. There’s also an on line travel journal that the user can create to document the Virtual Field Trip in the same way you might journal while on an actual trip.
Explore Virtual Adventures: A great starting point for Virtual Field Trips, this site has many resources including links to several Field Trip portals as well as a comprehensive explanation of everything you might encounter on a typical Virtual Field Trip.