You Say Potatoe…

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, General, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, Science, Social Studies/History |

by Tim Van Heule
Distance Learning Coordinator

Education always has some great buzzwords… developmentally appropriate, instructional time, differentiated instruction, etc. But what about virtual field trip?

As the economy continues its downward spiral, virtual field trip is a buzzword that continues to gain popularity. If you can’t take your students to a location, take them via a virtual field trip! But are all virtual field trips created equal? Are there different versions of the virtual field trip, maybe an e-field trip? Are they the same thing, or if there are differences, what are they?

The difference between the two is more a difference in the language. Both allow teachers to take there students to destinations outside of the classroom; however, one is highly interactive while the other is not. What I term as the virtual field trip involves the use of videoconference, incorporating live audio and video communication. This type of virtual field trip is highly engaging, allowing students to speak and interact with content experts (content providers). Does this mean that what I term is the e-field trip is a lesser activity? Absolutely not, both of these activities provide students with valuable  opportunities that enhance the curriculum.

This link (please note this video plays best in Internet Explorer) is an example of a virtual field trip that one of our schools participated in during the 2008-2009 school year. WYFF, our local NBC affiliate, produced this video as they highlighted how teachers are becoming more creative to provide opportunities in the classroom in light of a poor economy. The students connected with the Discovery Center of Springfield as they learned more about magnets during a program titled, Magnet Mania! While I agree that teachers are finding ways to be more creative in light of the current economic situation, I don’t agree that the use of a virtual field trip such as this is only due to economics. Through virtual field trips such as these, our students are able to connect with an expert in the field who reinforces the standards being taught in the classroom.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to this equipment that allows these connections to occur. You have to ask yourself, “What can I do with my students if we do not have videoconferencing equipment in my school and/or district?” This is where the e-field trip comes in. I’ve always been impressed with eFieldTrips. I think they do a great job of producing interactive web-based content. There programs contain great visuals, appropriate use of audio clips, and the content is appropriate in length. While doing a little research for this post, I also found the Utah Education Network and their Virtual Field Trips.  One thing I really like about this site is that you can tour anything in any of the content areas, and if the content you are searching for is not available, there are links and tutorials for you to create your own virtual field trip that you can share with others. This is a great project that students would find meaningful.

Again, this is just a difference in the meaning of the terminology. I don’t consider one to be more correct than the other. The important thing is that they both provide opportunities to enhance the curriculum while providing engaging opportunities for the students.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department

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