We’re going on a field trip…

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, High School, Instructional Coaches, Middle School, Science, Teachers | Tags: , |

by Tim Van Heule
Coordinator of Distance Learning

Who doesn’t love a good field trip?

Field trips are vital to education, providing opportunities to see how the curriculum applies to the real world.

For example, in first grade, students learn about apples and pumpkins – how they grow, their uses, etc. Of course, it’s only logical for the students to visit an apple orchard at the end of the unit. This example makes it really easy to see the real world application, but what about geometry, or advanced biology? How can we show real world application for these subjects, while being practical and realistic?

The cost of travel makes it difficult, often impossible, to visit the museums, centers, etc. that reinforce the curriculum. Local venues are easier to attend, but the addition of meals, accommodations, and admission fees to venues at a distance cause the costs to increase dramatically. The cost of fuel is dropping rapidly while I write this post, but we have seen fuel prices soar in the past few years, a trend that is likely to continue as global demand increases.

This is where the Virtual Field Trip comes in. While it would be ideal to visit the museum, cultural center, etc. the Virtual Field Trip allows us the opportunity to experience the next best thing – an interactive visit to the venue while saving money and valuable instructional time.

In the past few weeks Greenville County Students have been to science centers in Ohio (CoSI) and Missouri (Discovery Center of Springfield), cultural centers in Georgia (Center for Puppetry Arts), as well as museums (National Baseball Hall of Fame). We are utilizing higher-end videoconferencing equipment from Tandberg to make these opportunities a reality. Some readers would probably wonder why we aren’t using Skype, but many content providers at museums and centers connect through dedicated ISDN lines or through IP, providing a higher quality call with superb audio and video.

WYFF, one of our local media outlets, featured Virtual Field Trips in a recent story, highlighting the reasons for the increase of these opportunities. Some of the reasons cited in the WYFF piece have already been discussed at length in this post, including the rising cost of fuel, and opportunities to reinforce the learning in the classroom.

There are great free Virtual Field Trips available, but there are costs associated with many others. However, these associated costs are minimal in comparison to actually attending the museum or center. For example, content providers may charge between $50-$250 per program. Additional fees may include the use of the ISDN lines and/or bridge that connects the school and the content provider. Overall, these associated costs are outweighed by the benefits of utilizing Virtual Field Trips within the curriculum as we provide our students opportunities that reinforce learning.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department

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