Being There –Panoramic Virtual Field Trips

By Alix Pehette

Cross-posted from The Impetuous Geek

Live, real-time field trips involve all the senses. We walk, stand and turn around to view our surroundings. We move closer to inspect an object or look to see a distant view. The experience is immersive and that’s what makes it memorable.

The opportunities for field trips are often limited by funding, transportation issues and administrative paperwork. As a former 7th grade world history teacher, field trips were out of the question. A lot of time was spent trying to bring history alive through images of the landscapes, monuments and architecture we were studying. Textbook images and even stunning photographs projected on the large screen didn’t give the sense of being there. The available virtual field trips were more like surfing web sites. However, that was then and technology has changed everything.

Welcome to the world of possibilities with panoramic photography! The word panorama is a photographic term with a long history. The Library of Congress – American Memory has an extensive collection of historic panoramic photographs. The single wide-lens photograph evolved into individual images that were stitched together visually.

New technologies have created online cubic immersive panoramas that let the viewer navigate in a 360 degree circle, viewing everything that is visible from one spot. These virtual reality images are viewed with QuickTime Player, Flash Player, or Shockwave. A good cubic panorama can almost take your breath away with the sense of being there - the technology is that amazing.

New to panoramas? How about a trip to the top of Mount St. Helens volcano? Panoramas tend to load slowly depending on bandwidth so wait until the image is fully downloaded before navigating in the image.

Not surprisingly, many panoramas are hosted by commercial web sites such as travel agencies and hotels. What better way to give potential tourists a glimpse of ancient and exotic locations? While commercial panorama sites abound, teachers need to be alert for adult-themed images.

Connecting with the Curriculum
Finding panoramas to support the curriculum requires some sleuthing in unexpected locations. Government and non-profit sites such as the UNESCO World Heritage Tour and the National Park Service are good places to look in addition to the commercial sites. Once you start finding these gems, it’s easy to make connections to archeology, art, astronomy, cartography, English language arts, foreign languages, geography, geology, mathematics, science and social studies.

Keywords and phrases that unearth panoramas on the web include: 360 degree view; panoramic; cubic panoramas; pano; immersive tours; virtual tours; virtual field trips and QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality).

Viewing and Navigating Panoramas
Once these images are projected with a SmartBoard, LCD or DPL projector, there is a slight learning curve in how to navigate inside the image. A mouse-click-and-drag on the image will move the view to left or right, up or down. Hold down the Shift key to zoom in and use the Control key to zoom out.

Some panoramas are embedded in viewers that limit the overall size. Others have full-screen options for viewing which really puts you in the picture. Most updated web browsers also have a full-screen toggle option that opens image to fill the screen.

Being Legal
Creating links to panorama site is the easiest way to show these images in the classroom if the network has sufficient bandwidth. In the case of limited bandwidth, some panoramas can be downloaded for play on a local computer. RealPlayer 11 Gold Free Edition does a good job of downloading most online media.

Be sure to read the terms of use on each site before downloading panoramas. Government site media is usually in the public domain and is free to use, but many of the panoramas on those sites were produced by private companies and are covered by copyright laws. Check out these resources for more information.

PBS Teachers – Copyright and Fair use

Teachers First – Copyright and Fair Use

International Panoramas

UNESCO World Heritage Tour
Need to register (free) to use controls

360 Days, Everyday Life Panoramas – 360 Degrees Scrapbook

Traditions of the Sun – Exploring Ancient Observatories

The New 7 Wonders of the World

Nova – Antarctica – Mountain of Ice

Stonehenge at Dawn – British Tours

The World Wide Panorama – Geography Computing Facility at the Unive...
Many images of the contemporary world and events

Cyark – 3D Cultural Heritage Sites
Register (free) to access the K-12 lesson plans and other resources

Panoramas of World War II Monuments 1945-2007

Virtually the World
14,000 Virtual Tours across over 110 cities and countries

United States Panoramas

Cliff Palace Ruins

VR Movies of California Missions

Mount St. Helens

National Parks of the American Southwest - Photographs and panoramas

National Park Service - Panoramas of National Parks

Virtual Tour of Big Bend National Park

The Art of Geography – Virtual Parks
Commercial site with 121 full-screen panoramas of national parks

Related Resources

Pano Guide – Panoramic photography explained

Magic Lantern Slides – The Berkeley Geography Collection - Historic...

San Francisco in Ruins -The 1906 Aerial Photographs of George R. La...

Integrating Google Earth Imagery and Cubic QTVR Panoramas into Web-...

Views: 1857

Tags: Teacher_Resources, Teacher_tools, art, history, panorama, panoramas, photography, social_studies, virtual_fieldtrips, world_culture

Comment by Rich White on August 22, 2008 at 9:45am
Exactly Alix ... we are doing a similar project with Edusim on the smartboard - here is a video of our "virtual field trip to Mars" - where we colonized the planet & discussed its properties

IWB's are a perfect way to take kids to places and explore them that they would normally not be able to experience (Volcano, Mars, Moon, inside a cell)

Comment by Alix E. Peshette on August 22, 2008 at 2:41pm
Wow! Very cool stuff! Thanks for letting me know about Eduism. I've signed up for the users group. I'm researching best practices for IWBs for future trainings. A lot of the schools in my county have put IWBs into the classrooms so it's important for teachers to know what is possible. I have also put a link to your students' video onto one of my homepages.

Thanks again!


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