Why Virtual Field Trips?
Technology is everywhere. It's become a major part of our lives, from entertainment to the way we buy our groceries. We can't go anywhere without interacting with technology in some way, shape, or form. It's what drives our world. Because technology has become a natural part of how we live, it's what also impacts how we educate in our classrooms. Growing up with technology has become second nature for students, so it's no surprise that more of it is impacting how they learn in the classroom. However, using technology is not the same as integrating technology. When a teacher integrates technology, it becomes as valuable a tool as a compass or ruler... tools that aid in the discovery of learning, not just a means of entertainment for the learner.
While the ideas and tools for integrating technology are still new and evolving, technology is making an impact on how students learn at a distance. Lack of school funding is affecting how districts provide traditional field trips. Without field trips, teachers lose wonderful opportunities to help educate students outside of the classroom. However, with the use of technology, Virtual Field Trips can offer students a way to visit places without adding cost to a district. Virtual field trips challenge and expose students to new types of technology. It's a great way to spark a student's interest and motivate their learning in a specific subject areas, such as history, science, and social studies. Not to mention, when a student is taking a virtual field trip, they are increasing reading comprehension skills. Virtual field trips offer students more travel opportunities because they can "visit" places they wouldn't normally be able to go to otherwise - such as a volcano or ocean floor! In addition, virtual field trips expose students to different cultures and environments.
Other Things to Consider:
Cost: The cost of renting buses, gas prices, and admission prices quickly adds up. A virtual field trip uses technology already in the classroom, which means schools face no additional costs. Changing fuel costs and admission prices can suddenly change the cost of a trip, where as virtual field trips remain a constant price.
Endless Possibilities: A virtual field trip takes students to places not feasible from a real-life field trip, such as outer space, foreign countries and even historical sites far away from home. This also includes situations not previously possible, like receiving a personal tour of the White House from the president. Virtual field trips allow students to watch an actor play the role of Ben Franklin discussing Philadelphia's role in America's history, despite sitting in a California classroom. Students studying oceanography can study ocean life in the Caribbean without ever getting wet.
Ease: A virtual field trip requires no paperwork, release forms, or signatures from parents. There are no chaperons to organize, and the trip is not affected by inclement weather. Teachers can create a virtual field trip whenever they want and work it into their lesson plans whenever they wish. Virtual field trips also accommodate students with special needs, disabled students and students in alternative learning environments.
Lack of Sensory Experience: Unlike a traditional field trip, students are unable to receive certain sensory experiences, such as smells of the environment or the ability to touch things.
Lack of Asking Questions: Unless the virtual field trip allows for two-way communication, curious students are unable to ask all the questions they may have of a tour guide.
Despite the few disadvantages that exists, the advantages and benefits that students receive from virtual field trips makes them completely worthy of inclusion to the curriculum. The Internet has made it possible for virtual field trips to exist as more than a videorecording that students watch on screen. We have the ability to see and communicate two-way with a scientist studying volcanoes on the Hawaiian islands with video-conferencing, and we can integrate video with text so that we give students a better understanding of what it is they are learning about. Since the Internet and a web browser is the only major software needed, schools don't have to worry about licenses, nor do they have to be concerned with copyright law as many of the virtual field trip sites exist for people to use, so no permission is necessary to visit. Most virtual field trip sites exist as free sites for people and students to use. Virtual Field Trips are quickly popping up all over the Internet, so the destinations to choose from are growing all the time.
Virtual Field Trips in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved on June 4, 2012 from http://cnx.org/content/m18062/latest/
Get Outta Class with Virtual Field Trips. Retrieved on June 4, 2012 from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech071.shtml
The Benefits of Virtual Field Trips for Students. Retrieved on June 4, 2012 from http://www.ehow.com/list_5970076_benefits-virtual-field-trips-students.html