Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Virtual field trips

Face it, we all love field trips! Getting out of the school and visiting an historic site or attending a performance is fun for everyone! Well, maybe not for everyone. Having chaperoned fifteen, four-day trips to Washington, DC with eighth-graders, I can attest, while exciting and fun, it was also exhausting!

With today’s budget constraints and testing schedules, there may be money and time set aside for one great field trip per year. However, taking students on a virtual field trip from your classroom can easily be worked in-between testing weeks  and, with a little pre-planning on your part, will be fun and exciting! (And not exhausting!)
Annette Lamb offers some great tips for a successful field trip in the classroom. (She also covers how to create a virtual field trip to share with other educators from a real-life field trip you take.)
Begin by considering the purpose of the field trip. What will students be able to do or talk about when they’ve completed the experience? How does the experience connect to curriculum goals and the development of an information fluent (student)?
We often prepare students for real-life field trips with resources created by the museum, theater, or historic site we are going to visit. Tying the virtual field trip to the content being studied is important, too. Once you have figured out the content you want to cover, here are some things to think about.
  • Research what is available already on the Web that can be a stand-alone virtual field trip or some resource which can be part of a virtual field trip you are developing from scratch.
  • Always prepare a back-up plan. For real-life field trips, we always have an alternate plan if it rains on the field trip day. Consider the things that can go wrong with a virtual field trip — the site(s) you want to use are no longer found, they not available during your field trip experience, or the bandwidth in your school is not robust enough for each student to stream the field trip site(s) at the same time. Technology is great when it works, and, nowadays, it most always does, but have a back-up plan, too!
  • Annette also includes some fun ways to begin the virtual field trip. For the younger students, line up the classroom chairs in the hallway as if they were bus seats. (You can be the bus driver and tour guide. Dress like one.) Have the students take the “bus” trip through history or your town, and introduce the topic being covered in the virtual tour. (Try not to encourage a round of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, since other classes may be disturbed!)
  • For the older students, take them outside to the school’s track, set a 1 round = x number of miles goal, and have them walk the distance to the virtual field trip. We had a teacher in our school who used my husband’s Appalachian Trail thru-hike slideshow and had the students walk the “distance” between each of his hiking days, and then come in to the school, view the slides for that “day” and conduct research on the items they viewed. This physical “ride” or “walk” to the field trip can be a fun addition!
  • Plan a follow-up reflection or project after the virtual trip. Have students create something in a Makerspace or online and present their take-away to the rest of the class.
It might be worth the time to locate a virtual field trip online and have your students participate before creating a virtual field trip of your own. You will be able to see what works well in your classroom with your students, and avoid any snafus in trips you create.

Resources from others
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg with these resources to support virtual field trips. Here are some additional links from other you might find useful.
If you have some virtual field trip resources you recommend, or want to share virtual field trips you have created with the rest of us, please leave a note on Twitter. Happy traveling! #kathyschrock