Virtual Field Trips

Schools across the nation are facing some of the toughest economic times in recent history. Valuable programs and experiences are getting slashed from the curriculum. When it comes to “luxuries” such as field trips, some educators are wondering how to handle extreme budget cuts that all but eliminate real field trips. Many educators have begun turning to virtual world methods to ensure their students experience the culture and richness of the world around them without the hassle and expense of leaving the school grounds. The Virtual Field Trip is one such method. The Internet and Web 2.0 tools along with experiences like Virtual Field Trips have made student access to the world as simple as a click of the mouse.

What is a Virtual Field Trip?

A virtual field trip, also known as a web tour or e-tour, is a guided exploration through the Web that organizes a collection of pre-screened, thematically based web pages into a structured online learning experience. (Foley, 2003) They can range from simple tours through a collection of photographs, to elaborate interactive or simulation experiences. Regardless of the complexity of the tour, well-designed VFTs actively engage students in the learning process and provide a rich, authentic experience of the content being taught.

Why use Virtual Field Trips?

Virtual Field trips can be used to successfully overcome a number of barriers to real field trips. Some examples of situations in which a virtual field trip could be useful include:

Ø Locations that you physically cannot travel to in reality such as the Solar System, or the ocean floor
Ø To go back (or forward) in time
Ø When it is too expensive to really go to the location
Ø To visit dangerous places such as war-torn countries or inside a volcano
Ø To support content areas in which you want high levels of interest and engagement
Ø To provide authentic experiences