Field trips can be extremely time consuming and expensive. However, what if you could take your students on a field trip without ever having to leave the classroom? Harnessing the power of the internet, teachers can take their students beyond the four walls of the classroom on a journey to discover the world around them or even the universe with a virtual field trip!
What are virtual field trips?
There are many different types of virtual field trips. However, the general idea is that students harness the power of technology and the internet to explore a variety of places that they would otherwise be unable to visit.
Some virtual field trips consist of links on a web page that lead students to pictures, videos, articles, and maps of the site they are visiting.
Other virtual field trips can occur in real time and are interactive. These allow for interaction with experts, and are often done via videoconferencing or audioconferencing.
Why use virtual field trips in the classroom?
There are many obstacles that make planning a field trip challenging: budget cuts, finding chaperones, getting permission slips, arranging transportation, student safety, and time are just a few examples.
However, virtual field trips solve and eliminate many of these concerns; there is no need for chaperones, because students stay in the classroom; there is no need for funding, because there are hundreds of free virtual field trips available on the web. Not only that, it also allows students the opportunity to explore places so far away that they wouldn’t have been able to take a field trip there anyway.
Where do I start?
The first step in planning a virtual field trip is examining your content standards. What exactly is it you want your students to learn from the field trip? What is the purpose of the field trip? How does it connect to your content?
Then, decide whether you want to create the field trip yourself, or if there is a virtual field trip already available that meets your goals.
If you are interested in creating your own, check out this guide on using Google Earth to create a field trip. Or, you could also challenge your students to learn about a topic and create their own virtual field trip to share with their classmates.
However, if you’re like me and lack the time and energy to always create something new, a simple Google search for your topic will render hundreds of pre-made virtual field trips. A lot of museums and memorials are beginning to load pre-made virtual field trips on their websites. For example, when I taught 7th grade and my students were reading A Christmas Carol, we took a virtual field trip of Charles Dickens’s London.
You will want to make sure you have an activity for students to complete during the field trip, or a culminating task for them to perform after the field trip. This holds them accountable for staying on task and not goofing off.
You will also want to make sure that you have the necessary technology and plug-ins for the virtual field trip ahead of time. Work with your schools technology resource teacher to prepare for the lesson.
- Google LitTrip (As an English teacher, this is my favorite! You can search trips by BOOK!)
- The Teacher’s Guide to Virtual Tours
- List of Virtual Field Trips
- Virtual Field Trips Every Teacher Ought to Know About
- 20 Wonderful Online Museums and Sites for Virtual Field Trips
- Virtual Field Trips: 5 Interactive Science Lesson Ideas
As with any use of technology, make sure the purpose of the task is to enhance and expand your students’ learning of the content. So, if you want to take your students on a tour of Colonial Williamsburg or even on a tour of the solar system, taking your students on a field trip has never been easier (or cheaper)!