Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Virtual field trips

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.

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.
Many virtual field trips are offered online by some education-focused companies. Here are some of the most popular.
If you are a Discovery Education subscriber, there are tons of content-related, rich virtual field trips available for you to access with your class. Each no-cost virtual field trip includes a companion teacher guide with standards-aligned, hands-on learning activities. Each field trip can be attended “live” or via an on-demand recording if that fits better into your class schedule or to have multiple class periods attend.

You can find out about upcoming or archived virtual field trips that complement your curriculum by limiting the trips available by grade level range.
In addition, you can do a search from the DE menu by keyword and see if there are applicable virtual field trips available. After you clock on one you would like to review, you can watch the video, view the text transcript, and also download the video and the closed captions file to show from your local computer. This will eliminate the dependence on big bandwidth when you take your class on the virtual field trip!

If you are not a Discovery Education subscriber, you can still search and view the virtual field trip offerings on this page, but you will not be able to participate until your school or district is a member.
Discovery VR
Discovery Communications offers virtual reality video content via an iOS  and Android app. Although these no-cost apps have great VR videos that you may use to support teaching and learning, there are no support materials for teachers available. However, if you are curating materials to use in your personally-created virtual field trip, you may find some gems here to add to your resources. What is nice about the Discovery VR videos is that they can also be viewed within a computer browser window and manipulated by the student. Take a look at a sample here.
Google Expeditions VR
GoogleEDU offers over 900 Expeditions that can be viewed via a mobile device in a headset (Cardboard View) or just on the screen of a mobile device. These expeditions can be led by the the teacher and include an editable script to go along with the virtual field trip or experience. Students can go “solo” and view the Expedition on their own. It might be neat for all the students in your class to take a different virtual field trip, or take the same trip in groups of four, and then share out the details with the rest of the class. There is an iOS app and Android app available for Google Expeditions VR.
Google Street View
Google Street View, an app that comes standard on Android devices and can be installed for iOS, is another great place to find searchable, crowd-sourced 360° images from all over the world. You can easily curate and share these with students. Since these images are taken by “regular” people, I would suggest previewing them carefully to ensure they are appropriate.
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! #kathyskatch