Take a Virtual Field Trip

While educators are often limited by time, funding, and logistics when it comes to field trips, virtual field trips can make them a real option again. Students get a similar learning experience and teachers can focus on the educational side of things without having to worry about collecting consent forms, tracking money, finding chaperones, etc. Virtual field trips are the way to go and they are gaining in popularity; just Google “virtual field trips” and you will see what I mean, but how do you use a virtual field trip with your class? Read on for a couple of examples.

Touring in Google Earth

When I was teaching abroad, I discovered that Google Earth had my entire neighborhood in the United States in 3D. It was really weird to virtually stand in front of my house and walk down the street, but it was also fun to show my students. Google Earth went beyond pictures to show how everything in the neighborhood fit together, and it really made them feel like they were there. It was a great backdrop for many stories I shared with them about home.

While not all neighborhoods have been digitized in 3D this way, that is fine, because students would probably prefer city tours to places like London or Paris or trips to UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Stonehenge, anyway. You can have everyone stick together by acting as the tour guide and projecting one screen, or you could take a trip to the computer lab and let students roam around completing tasks individually, in pairs, or even in groups. Use the trip as the starting point for an in-class discussion or written reflection.

Museums

Many major museums, such as the Louvre, have great online sites that would be perfect for virtual field trips. Have students tour the Louvre to find an image to inspire them for a writing or speaking assignment. Students could describe a painting, compare two sculptures, do a mini research project, and so much more. There is a lot of potential here and you may be the first person to introduce your students to such material. Last semester, I was surprised to discover that many of my students had never been to a museum of any kind, and I teach adults. You may not be an art or history teacher, but that does not mean that these sites are off limits.

Younger students might appreciate something like Global Trek from Scholastic to learn about different countries, while adults might prefer the museum sites I mentioned above, but, like I said, there are many options out there. You just need to find what will work for you and your students and then put a language spin on it. How might you use virtual field trips with your students this year?

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master’s degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.

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4 Responses to Take a Virtual Field Trip

  1. Jennifer says:

    I love the idea of a virtual field trip. I do it all the time! 🙂

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      That’s awesome, Jennifer! How do you structure them? What resources do you use?

  2. Jamie says:

    Tara, I think that virtual field trips are a great idea! In my current school, we have lost funding for field trips due to budget cuts and my students are missing out on the great resources available outside of the classroom. Your suggestions with Google Earth, Louvre, and Global Trek really interested me. I teach 8th grade science and I am looking for a way to help my students get these experiences. Your blog has pushed me to research online virtual fields trips for my subject area. I found a mobile app that allows you to observe animals at the Smithsonian National Zoo, StarWalk app that points to the sky to identify stars and constellations, and sports science to learn the science behind baseball, cycling, and surfing (http://www.exploratorium.edu/explore/staff_picks/sports_science). With the new school year starting, I am hoping to include these items in my curriculum and give my students the opportunity to observe the world around them through the use of the current technology. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hi Jamie,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is great to hear from a science teacher! I am glad that these posts can still be useful to instructors outside my content area and the resources you found sound excellent. Thank you for sharing them here. I think that many of us feel that students should be able to have these types of opportunities despite lack of funding and those and similar sites can make it possible. Good luck this year and feel free to stop back and let us know how these types of ‘virtual trips’ worked with your students.