Thursday, 9 April 2015

Creating virtual field trips

 Field trips are a fantastic way to engage students and enhance learning. Sometimes, however, field trips may not be possible for a variety of reasons, for example financial, geographical, or safety reasons. In these cases a great substitute is a virtual field trip. This is an interesting way to introduce learners to different out-of-classroom environments. 

Virtual field trips can bring learners face to face with wild animals!

A very useful tool for creating virtual field trips is Google Tour Builder. (Note that the 32 bit Tour Builder app will not run on 64 bit browsers, such as Chrome, so you may need to open it in Firefox or Safari).

An example is an aquatic ecosystems virtual field trip that I use as part of my ecology course with grade 10 biology students. The virtual field trip is used to introduce the topic, and includes questions for learners as they progress through the trip. Once they have completed this task, I ask them to work in pairs or small groups to create a virtual field trip of their own based on an aquatic ecosystem of their choosing. 

Learners can experience new or unusual environments.

Where possible I like to use my own photos, which provides an additional talking point for students. Alternatively, a useful place to get photos online is, where you can search for photos that have been uploaded to Flickr and have been licensed by their owners to be sued for educational purposes. 

Clearly, there are many possible applications for virtual field trips: a trip to a museum, a gallery, a zoo, different terrestrial ecosystems, and so on. If a real field trip isn't an option, a virtual field trip may be the next best thing.