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.
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?