Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Virtual Field Trips: A Match Made in Blogging Heaven

Blogs can be used to expand students' horizons in many ways.  They can be used to take virtual field trips.  What is a virtual field trip?  A virtual field trip is a guided exploration through the world wide web that organizes a collection of pre-screened, thematically based web pages into a structured online learning experience (Foley, 2003).

Here are some well-structured virtual field trips found on Power to Learn's website:

  • Tramline
  • Surfaquarium
  • A Virtual Geological Field Trip to Iceland
  • The Mysterious Mayas
  • Tibet: A Virtual Field Trip
  • Pompeii: A Virtual Field Trip
  • Digital Learning Events from the Apple Learning Interchange

  • The field trips can be posted on a blog and viewed from anywhere: home, school, a library, or even on a long car ride.  Not only can students have access to these virtual field trips, but they can also discuss the experience with other students after the teacher posts a discussion question.
    A great aspect of taking virtual field trips is that it allows students to go places that they otherwise could not go.  This is especially beneficial for children who come from families who may not take vacations or have experiences outside of their neighborhood.  Maybe students can go to Japan, Mexico, or on a European Vacation. 

    Preparing a virtual field trip can take almost as much preparation as an actual field trip.  The teacher needs to develop a purpose, have a path to guide the students through the trip, make sure students have proper background knowledge, and then have a driving question that the students will ultimately answer in the blog.  The students should know this question before departing for their journey.
    When done correctly, a virtual field trip can be a very meaninful experience.  When you add the blogging experience to a virtual field trip, it's a match made in heaven!

    Foley, K. (2003). The Big Pocket Guide to Using & Creating Virtual Field Trips (3rd ed.). Tramline.


    1. Kate-
      One of the best parts of integrating technology and the internet into the classroom is the way it can open kids' minds to other parts of the world. Our children may never have had the experience of actually visiting these places (or even thinking about them!), but with virtual field trips and the internet, students can see for themselves what another culture is like.

      For students in a low-income area, free and cheap field trips are hard to find. Virtual field trips could provide similar experiences without putting a hardship on families.

      Pairing a blog with the field trip to activate and extend the students' learning is a great idea! I think that this is even a great way to get a class blog going, and to get students excited about it and involved.

      Do you think this is something you will actually implement?

    2. I do think that this is something I would implement. It would take a lot of practice and patience with my little ones, but I think it's possible.

      I would use a gradual release model. I would start by modeling accessing the blog and going on the virtual field trip as a whole group on the interactive whiteboard. Then we would eventually move into working through it together in the computer lab. Finally, I would allow students to work independently in the computer lab after I feel that they can work effectively. I would not make it a requirement outside of school because I work in a low income area. However, the option would always be there if students would like to access the blog at home or at the library.

    3. I've been looking for a good list of field trips. Thanks for providing the links!

    4. I checked out surfaquarium - there's a huge list of virtual fieldtrips there. I do a unit towards the end of the year incorporating Ellis Island and I found a good link! Thanks.

    5. Have you used any of these sites in your own classroom? If so, I would love to hear what your opinions! One other great virtual field trip is to the Plimouth Plantation. ( We teach about the first Thanksgiving in our social studies curriculum, so this is a fantastic way to show the students what the settlement looked like and how the Pilgrims and Native Americans dressed. Every year that I have shown it, the kids have loved it.

    6. I have used this site about The Underground Railroad with fourth grade students and it was fantastic!!

      I love the website you shared! Thanks!

    7. I love the websites you shared. I followed Whitney’s example and created a blog for my kids. I was planning to start with simple question/discussion for the beginning, but I will definitely introduce my kids to these virtual field-trips - they will love it!

    8. That's a great idea, Lilit! I think they'll love it!

    9. Kate,
      I love the idea of virtual field trips. I teach world history, so traveling to any of the areas we discuss in the class would be very expensive. As Elizabeth said, it can be very difficult to do trips in an area where students and their families may be facing economic hardships. Also, if I took students to let's say Japan, that trip would have to be in the summer because the length of the trip would be too long to be approved. When traveling to foreign countries, you need to send enough time to really get the feel for the country and the culture. I also agree when you said that you must "the teacher needs to develop a purpose, have a path to guide the students through the trip, make sure students have proper background knowledge, and then have a driving question that the students will ultimately answer in the blog." Poorly done virtual field trips/web quests can cause major issues in your classroom. Unfortunately, when I tried to check out some of your links, I got an error message. Not sure if it just me.

    10. I just visited the Digital Learning Events from the Apple Learning Interchange
      Thank you for sharing this. I this is an excellent lesson/ activity to share with my students.