Thursday, November 8, 2012

Virtual Field Trips



Going on a field trip is typically a student's most highly anticipated event of the school year—there's nothing more exciting than packing a sack lunch and experiencing a new, exciting place off campus.  But the downside of traditional field trips is that they often take too much time, money, and require extra adult supervision that may not be available to you. If you are struggling with a dwindling school budget or just want to give your students an experience of-a-lifetime without the fuss of permission slips, technology can really save the day.
What are Virtual Field Trips?
Like the name implies, virtual field trips can essentially let your kindergarten students have a "virtual" exciting adventure without ever having to leave the classroom.  Depending on which program you choose to use, your students can experience a trip into space, explore an erupting volcano, or visit the pyramids of Gyza all with the click of a mouse button.
While there are programs that have intricate field trips created (with included lessons plans) like the Micronauts e-mission designed for grades K-3, often times they require a small fee to access. But do note that you can scour the internet for free virtual field trips like the one offered at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History or the ones listed on the Scholastic for Teachers website.
Other sources to consider include the VC Content Provider Database (which offers some free virtual tours on specific days of the week) and the Global Nomads Group which connects your students with other students across the globe via video conferencing.
To make this happen all you need is internet connection and preferably a projector screen or a television with the proper lap top connections. Or students can watch the videos individually via the school's tech lab. Make sure to ask thought-provoking questions so that your students get the most out of their experience after experience the "field trip."
DIY Virtual Field Trips
While the sources referenced above can make virtual tours in the classroom a possibility, do keep in mind that you can create your own virtual tour using the tools you already have access too as well such as Panoramio and Earth, both offered through Google. These two features can transport your students to unique places around the world or to the moon. You can also make semi-virtual tours. For example, if you just visited city or landmark that has a lot of historical significance and you took ample amount of photos, you can display them on a slide show for your students.
Virtual tours can really open up a window of opportunity you didn’t think was possible.
Lenore Holditch is an education writer and a regular contributor to toponlinecolleges.com, a site that specializes in higher alternative education. She welcomes your comments. 

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