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The Beginner's Guide to Interactive Virtual Field Trips

The Beginner's Guide to Interactive Virtual Field Trips

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Published by Carol Skyring
An article by my colleague Jan Zanetis that appeared in Learning & Leading with Technology, March/April 2010. Reproduced here with Jan's permission.
An article by my colleague Jan Zanetis that appeared in Learning & Leading with Technology, March/April 2010. Reproduced here with Jan's permission.

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Published by: Carol Skyring on Nov 22, 2012
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Asynchronous VFTs
Asynchronous VFsare not delivered in realtime. Tey are basically websites that includetext, audio, or videoresources about spe-cic topics. Examples o asynchronous VFs arewebpages devoted to atopic, a streaming videotour o a particular lo-cation, and a podcast o a host guidingyou through a collection o photos.Tis type o VF varies in sub-stance, quality, and educational rel-evance. I you are interested in usingthis type o resource to supplementyour lessons, you can save time withone o the VF aggregator sites thathave collected reputable programs orK–12 use. Here are a ew to get youstarted:
E-Field Tripswww.efeldtrips.org
This organization hosts electronic feld tripswith our main parts: the Trip Journal, theVirtual Visit (a streaming video), an Ask theExpert tool, and a hosted Web chat.
 Access Excellence Resource Centerwww.accessexcellence.org/RC/virtual.php
This site lists a collection o mainly science-and health-related VFTs and online labs.
Gail Lovely’s sitewww.gaillovely.com/VirtualFieldTrips.htm
Lovely provides a hot-linked list organizedinto live journeys, “interactive environments,travelogues, e-museums, building and placetours, map-based visits, and read-along visits.
20
Learning & Leading with Technology | March/April 2010
The Beginner’s Guide toInteractive 
F
or students, eld trips canbe the best o both worlds:a welcome and exciting breakrom day-to-day classroom activi-ties and a memorable, real-worldexperience that will solidiy the cur-riculum in their minds. Unortunate-ly, the most desirable trips—thoseto ar-away, enticing destinations—have long been inaccessible to allbut a select ew, and even local eldtrips have become less common astravel costs have steadily risen overthe past several years.But today we have other options. Virtual eld trips (VFTs) are just whattheir name suggests: eld trips thatare conducted virtually, over theInternet and/or videoconerencingequipment, so that students canlearn directly rom experts in ar-fung places without ever leavingtheir classrooms.Just like traditional eld trips, VFTs take a number o dierentorms. They can involve touring ahistoric site, witnessing scienticexperiments or processes at muse-ums or organizations, watching livedemonstrations in the eld, attend-ing olk estivals or other events,and much more. They dier rom thetraditional variety only in that theyare delivered over the Internet usingtechnology in either asynchronousor interactive synchronous ormats.
By Jan Zanetis
Copyright © 2010, ISTE (International Society or Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
 
March/April 2010 | Learning & Leading with Technology 
21
Interactive VFTs
Interactive VFs are synchronous,real-time experiences in which stu-dents in one location learn rom in-ormal educators in another location,such as a museum, historic castle, ororganization such as NASA.Tese interactive VFs take placeover the Internet using h.323 videocon-erencing technology. Not to be con-used with videoconerencingsystems that consist simply o webcamsattached to computers, whichare more suitable or single studentsor very small groups, h.323 systemsrequire a piece o large-group video-conerencing equipment called a codec.Beore writing o this option astoo expensive, you should know thatyour school district may already havea videoconerencing unit that you areunaware o. A 2009 study by Wain-house Research ound that approxi-mately 30% o U.S. schools have in-stalled large-group videoconerencingequipment. Many o them originally purchased these systems to conductdistance classes but have since dis-covered they can use them to connecttheir students to talented educatorsrom across the globe who are willingto share their organizations’ resourcesin an engaging and personal way through interactive VFs.I know o approximately 300 muse-ums, science centers, historical sites,and similar organizations that oerinteractive VFs to schools. Onsitecredentialed experts usually presentlive, standalone, interactive lessonsocusing on a curricular topic relatedto the organization. For example, theNational Baseball Hall o Fame oers
 The Cleveland Art Museum is one of hundreds of organizations that offer high-quality, interactive VFT content for K–12 classes.Large groups of studentsneed h.323 videoconferencingequipment, which uses acodec like this one, to getthe full effect of a VFT.
 
 The National BaseballHall of Fame offers a unit called“Math: Batter Up,” among other educationalunits. Go to http://education.baseballhalloffame.org/experience/thematic_units/ mathintro.html.
Virtual Field Trips
With a little practice, students and teachers can easilyrespond to a presenter on camera showing images,conducting activities, and discussingacademic concepts.
a unit called “Math: Batter Up,” whichteaches students in grades 4–12 unda-mental concepts that connect the cal-culator and the clubhouse while they learn, use, and interpret the statisticso amous ballplayers. Computation isthe key to determining batting aver-ages and slugging percentages.Using the videoconerencing inter-ace, students can interact with theexperts to get a real-world angle on thetopic they are studying. Te experts areusually trained and adept at adjustingto the students’ level o comprehension.Tey may showcase and explain a mu-seum display, demonstrate an experi-ment, or take students on a tour o thelocation they are broadcasting rom.Students usually have no problem ad- justing to interaction with an on-screeninstructor, and, in act, ofen nd theexperience novel and engaging.“We live in a media-saturated soci-ety,” points out Dale Hilton, directoro distance learning at the ClevelandMuseum o Art. “With a little practice,students and teachers can easily re-spond to a presenter on camera show-ing images, conducting activities, anddiscussing academic concepts.”Te lessons, which are usually basedon national standards, also ofen in-clude materials targeted to the studentsarea and grade level as well as class-room activities or students to do be-ore and afer the interactive VF. Forexample, the Center or Puppetry Artsoers a downloadable study guide onits website as well as a materials list andtemplates or students to build theirown puppets as part o its “DiscoveringPuppetry in Other Cultures” VF.
Copyright © 2010, ISTE (International Society or Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
 
Opportunities to Engage
VFs have many benets or studentso all ages. First, the medium itsel enchants and engages. o be able to view, hear, and interact with peoplewho are ar away is powerul, espe-cially i those people are articulate andexperts on the topic the students arestudying.Second, there is no better way, shorto traveling long distances with yourstudents, to share the wonders o theworld while connecting them to theirstudies. When studying coral rees, visit the Great Barrier Ree. Whenteaching averages, visit the BaseballHall o Fame. When covering the Me-sozoic period, plan a VF to the Royalyrrell Museum o Palaeontology. Butdon’t eel limited to content providersin obvious subject areas. For example,your class can study simple machinesby tapping into the Cleveland Mu-seum o Art’s collection o armor andcrossbows via interactive VF.Janet Adams, a technology and cur-riculum specialist or Kings County Schools in Caliornia, states that sincetheir schools have started participatingin interactive VFs, she has seen a loto changes in teaching and learning.“Virtual eld trips empower teach-ers, librarians, administrators, and Ista to create signicant opportunitiesor their school to ocus on a worldbeyond the chain link ence,” she says.And I have witnessed over and overstudents asking questions o museumcurators, wildlie naturalists, NASAinstructors, historians, and peerslocated beyond our state borders.VFs do remove the barriersbetween your classroom and thosear-away people and resources. Itmay seem a little strange at rst tobe talking to a V, but once studentsget engaged in lively discussion withthose on the ar end, the technology becomes invisible, and the classroomwalls disappear.
Getting Started
Te rst thing you should do is check around your school system to locate a videoconerencing unit. Your districttechnology coordinator should be ableto help. I you nd a system, makesure to ask i it is h.323 compatibleand capable o IP-based connections.I you strike out there, contactsome videoconerencing equipment vendors and ask i they can do inter-active VF demos or your school.Don’t orget to nd out i they oergrants and assistance programs. Some videoconerencing equipment compa-nies such as Polycom and andberg,or instance, match schools to po-tential unding sources and providegrant-writing assistance.Once the equipment is in place, you’llneed access to quality content. Tebest place to start is at the Center orInteractive Learning and Collaboration
 Award-Winning VFT Content Providers
 
 The Center or Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) asks teachers to evaluateinteractive virtual feld trip content providers each year to determine the CILC Pinnacle Award Winners. The 2008–09 winners are:
 Adventures in Medicine & Science(AIMS) Program o Saint Louis University |
 http://aims.slu.edu
Center or Puppetry Arts |
www.puppet.org
Cleveland Institute o Music |
www.cim.edu/dl/index.php
Cleveland Museum o Natural History |
www.cmnh.org
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate |
www.mountvernon.org/learn/index.cm
Hank Fincken: A National Theatre Company o One |
www.hankfncken.com
HealthSpace (now part o Cleveland Museum o Natural History)
www.cmnh.org/site/classesandprograms/schoolprograms/healthed.aspx
22
Learning & Leading with Technology | March/April 2010
To be able to view, hear, andinteract with people who are ar awayis powerul, especially i those people are articulate and experts on thetopic the students are studying.
Copyright © 2010, ISTE (International Society or Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

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