After a very long absence, during which I moved on to a new and challenging position in education; I'm back with a new blog site - the Impetuous Geek on Edublogs! - Alix Peshette

Over winter break, I've been researching virtual field trips in preparation for teaching an online course on the topic. Searching for examples of virtual field trips is a trip in itself through the evolution of this genre of digital learning. Early virtual field trips (VFT) were text put online with maybe a few images and links included. Fast-forward to now and virtual field trips can have a dazzling mix of text, images, audio, video, simulations and Web 2.0 applications. These are some of the elements that grab our digital learners and lead them to explore educational content.

Decisions, Decisions
Will the content be delivered asynchronously or synchronously? Asynchronous virtual field trips are self-paced and independent of time or date. They might contain simulations, activities, web cams and multimedia. Synchronous VFTs happen in real-time and might include all of the above resources in addition to guided tours by online experts, video-conferencing and audio conversations. The first example is the easiest place to start in developing a virtual field trip. The second example is more challenging and can be a far more rewarding educational experience.

The Package
Decide how the virtual field trip will be presented to learners. Think of this as the platform, launching pad, or starting point for the journey. The package should include objectives, standards, an introduction and instructions. There are lots of ways to "package" a virtual field trip, depending on the tech skill level of the teacher and students. Here's a list, from low-tech to high-tech:

Digital word document with links
PowerPoint with links
Social bookmarking list - Delicious
RSS web page aggregator - PageFlakes
Google Sites web page (upload documents for student use)
Google Maps
Google Earth - street view
Learning management system - Angel, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.

Think about the elements that can be included in a VFT. Aim for a mix that engages all learning styles.

Web cams
Audio and video
Narration and background sounds3D panoramic images
Interactive activities
Conversations with experts

Of all the elements listed above, my favorites are panoramas. There is nothing like feeling you are right in the middle of an ancient site to make it seem real. Check it out! Inner circle at Stonehenge

While there are tons of places to visit, destinations with educational "credentials" will be the best bet. In previewing a site before building it into a VFT, check to see if there are educational materials available that can enhance the learning and even save you some development time. Some general categories of places to check are:

National parks
Government sites
Science and math web sites sponsored by universities
Here are some sites that are great starts to virtual field trips:

NASA Planet Quest timeline with audio narration
EstuaresLive synchronous webcast with experts
Interactive Tour of Ellis Island
National Geographic videos (some are download-able with Real Player)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web cams and panoramas
Library of Congress Panoramas
Manzanar National Historic Site Virtual Tour
Columbia University Ancient World Panoramas great resource!
Panoramas - Natural, Ancient and Modern Egypt
Panoramas.DK - commercial site, review carefully
Virtual Field Trips with Web Cams great list!
Smithsonian National Zoo Animal Cams
Mount Vernon 3D Virtual Mansion Tour
Chicago Oriental Institute Museum 3D Virtual Tours
Rare Book Room - Read original primary sources documents - virtually
25 Awesome Virtual Learning Experiences Online
American Memory – Library of Congress (Good resource for images, audio and some video of historic people and events)
BBC Virtual Tours of British History

Technical Considerations
Multimedia online resources often take a great deal of bandwidth to use. Be sure your network can handle this. It helps to open all the sites that have extensive multimedia like video and panoramas and run each resource. This places it in the cache memory of the computer and makes it run smoothly the next time it is played. Many resources depend on free plug-ins to run or view the resources. Check that your computers have the needed applications. The usual plug-ins are:

Adobe Flash Player
Adobe Shockwave Player
Adobe Acrobat Reader
QuickTime Player
Windows Media Player

Other plug-ins:
Microsoft HD View

Have a great virtual trip! Let me know if you have a virtual field trip to share or a web site with great resources.

Views: 370

Tags: VFT, cams, field, multimedia, panoramas, trips, virtual, web

Comment by Sam Moore on January 1, 2010 at 7:56am
I'm looking forward to using this in my classroom.
Comment by Ellen Pham on January 2, 2010 at 6:22am
Wonderful! Panoramas are my favorite too : )


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