by Colleen L. Newman
5 Ways to Make the Most of Virtual Field Trips, written by Kyle Schutt, on February 4th, 2016, was found at the eSchool News Daily Tech News and Innovation website. I found this article interesting because I had never heard of Virtual Field Trips before.Since I had no prior knowledge of Virtual Field Trips (VFTs), I was intrigued by this concept and decided I needed to learn more.
This article focused on tips to help teachers give students an enriching and successful experience from their virtual field trip. VFT’s are a new concept that uses technology to provide students with a one of a kind experience. The article explains, “Through a VFT, an educator leverages digital content and educational technologies to take educators and students beyond their classroom walls to meet people and see places they might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience.”
Schutt reveals that some of his most favorite elementary school memories are from the traditional Field Trip. He explains, “The special packed lunch, the bus ride, the opportunity to pair up with a “field trip buddy” for the day all helped make those journeys unforgettable.” Since a VFT does not provide these special opportunities, this could be a considered a negative aspect. However, he goes on to explain that a VFT provides new opportunities that students may not otherwise be able to experience. As I researched further I found other positive aspects; VFTs are also inexpensive, often free, and can be less time-consuming.
The article goes on to give tips to enhance the student’s VFT experience. Schutt states, “VFTs can offer students an unparalleled learning experience when integrated effectively into classroom instruction. ” He outlines five ways to effectively take advantage of the VFT: Prepare, Engage and Connect, Model, Reflect and Share. When preparing, the teacher should focus on standards, curriculum, and content. To engage and connect, the teacher should utilize virtual connections including interactive panels and Twitter conversations. To model, a teacher should document the student’s experiences using digital media resources. As the class reflects, they should revisit and “identify the talking points and imagery that provides the most direct launching point into your curriculum.” And most importantly, the students should share their experiences with written reflections and visual projects such as photo journals, digital stories, and blog posts.
Virtual Field Trips may affect young children and their families in a variety of ways. In schools where parent participation is insufficient, VFTs would allow students to visit places they would not be able to, due to the lack of Chaperons. Low income students would also be provided with new opportunities that funding would otherwise make impossible. Using these VFT’s as a way to extend the lessons is also beneficial to young children as they make connections to their environment and the lesson.
During the classroom discussion about the Virtual Field Trip article, I asked the students in our Technology class if anyone had been on a Virtual Field Trip before. One student mentioned that she saw a teacher prepare a three and four-year-old classroom for their traditional field trip to the zoo the following week, by taking them on a VFT to the Zoo first. Schutt mentions this as well, “Some teachers use virtual field trips as an activator into a unit. They don’t replace the need-to-see content, but rather provide a foundational experience to ask questions and prepare for the unit of study.”
I also asked the class where they would like to go on a VFT. One person said a Safari and another said the Sistine Chapel. I demonstrated a 360° video from YouTube called Elephants on the Brink. Later that evening, and after some research, I found that the Vatican has created a web site that allows you to do a virtual 360° tour of this revered place. The Elephants on the Brink 360° video needs to be viewed using the YouTube App, but the Sistine Chapel 360° tour also works on a computer. For more information and to take the Sistine Chapel 360° virtual tour, you can visit their website here.
I feel that the Virtual Field Trip is an excellent resource for teachers. It can have a significant influence in the Early Childhood classroom as teachers use this tool as another way to expose the children to new experiences and provide them with opportunities to learn about new people and places. The VFT is an exciting new technology that has endless possibilities and is a great way to supplement the curriculum.
Our guest blogger is Colleen L. Newman
Colleen is studying Early Childhood Education at Towson University. Married to her best friend, they have three children and two dogs.