Cost-Free Travel with Virtual Field Trips

I have taught instructional strategies for over 20 years at various colleges, and the last three years have been tremendously exciting. Our university was awarded a PT3 (Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology) grant. This funding provided regular faculty training on ways to incorporate technology in classes and the development of technology partners, school sites that would encourage our pre-service teachers as they tried out new strategies. One of these classes included an initial field experience in an urban middle school. Students were sophomores in secondary education in a variety of majors.

Virtual Field Trips were one of the favorite strategies for these pre-service teachers to employ with their middle school classes because of their varied uses and ease in adapting items for presentation later.

A first step for some pre-service teachers was to share a prepared trip that related to content being taught. The Virtual Ellis Island Tour was a popular site for history majors. To kick off a unit on immigration, pre-service teachers had students create a timeline from the background information provided on the site, and, in the computer room, had the class review and discuss selected pictures from the site. Another class, working in teams, created role-playing experiences about traveling in steerage and being examined at Ellis Island after reading the stories of individual immigrants as provided on the site. The site also has a brief teachers' guide for using the immigrant simulation, which is a major part of the site.

Here are some sites that were helpful in guiding pre-service teachers in understanding the purposes of virtual field trips and in seeing examples of them.

Virtual Field Trips
A portal with links to many virtual field trip sites, such as Volcano World Virtual Field Trips and Electronic Field Trip to the United Nations.

Includes a comprehensive and clickable list of links to many virtual field trips Teachers Helping Teachers
A very thorough look at the concept of virtual field trips

Innovative Teaching: the Best Virtual Field Trips Online
Another portal, with dozens of links to virtual field trip sites

Onlineeducator: Rush by Museums to Get Online
A useful article offering tips on virtual field trips.

The OOPS Virtual Field Trip Page
A portal with an amazing assortment of links to virtual field trip sites. OOPS stands for Our Overnight Planning System.

Teach-nology: Virtual Field Trips
A portal with a baker's dozen links to virtual field trip sites.

Virtual field trips can be made to collections of museums. These sites provide varied resources for teaching and learning. Some offer ideas for student projects, provide lesson plans, teach how to do art processes, present images of art pieces, display timelines of historical periods, and give background information on artists, inventors, historical figures, or scientists. The Exploratorium has a section on its website, The Science Explorer, that has activities that can be done at home or in the classroom. Paintings can be printed for student analysis and interpretation from art museum collections. Students can also view and comment on paintings or exhibits in a computer room with a question guide. Occasionally, sites will offer brief videos that describe a process or time period. For example, the Metropolitan site has a current video selection on Making Illuminated Manuscripts that illustrates this process. Video guides to accompany different collections are also available on some websites.

For a great list of online museum sites see Don L. Curry's "Taking Trips to Museums Online" in Creative Classroom Online.

Because of the positive student reaction to these presentations, pre-service teachers also tried their hands at creating small trips themselves to see if their work could also maintain the students' interest. Samples of their efforts are available at Technology Projects.

It is anticipated that the positive reactions to these initial field trips will help these sophomore pre-service teachers continue to use this strategy to enrich their future classes. And these initial projects are just a beginning. Continued exposure to more advanced models can be developed in later field experiences, similar to The Tower of London Virtual Tour.

For those teachers who want to inspire their students' creativity in this area, Brian Giacoppo's site, World Surfari is one model. Brian has developed informational trips to nearly 20 countries in the past three years.

Email: Roberta Devlin-Scherer