by Nancy Rubin

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy

Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL December 2007

Copyright by Nancy Rubin 2007


Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning

by Nancy Rubin

This dissertation was prepared under the direction of the candidate’s dissertation advisor, Dr. Robin N. Fiore, and has been approved by the members of her supervisory committee. It has been submitted to the faculty of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters and was accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


____________________________________ Dr. Robin N. Fiore Director of Dissertation

____________________________________ Dr. Sandra Norman

____________________________________ Dr. Deborah L. Floyd ________________________________________ Dr. Susan Love Brown Interim Director of Ph.D. in Comparative Studies

________________________________________ Dr. Sandra Norman Dean, The Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters

_________________________________________ Dr. Barry Rosson Dean, Graduate Studies and Programs



I would like to thank the members of my committee who have offered their time and advice so generously. I thank Dr. Robin Fiore, my Committee Chair, for her invaluable assistance and for being such a wonderful mentor, teacher, and a friend. Dr. Deborah Floyd has graciously offered her knowledge and guidance. Dr. Sandra Norman inspired my passion for digital history and I sincerely appreciate her support. I would like to acknowledge Miriam Crisman her editing skills and for her friendship. Finally, I express my deepest gratitude to my family who has supported me through the entire doctoral program; my husband, David, and my children, Zachary and Rachel, and my parents, Elaine and Robert Lauer.

ABSTRACT Author: Title: Institution: Advisor: Degree: Year: Nancy Rubin Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips as Engaged Learning Florida Atlantic University Dr. Robin N. Fiore Doctor of Philosophy 2007

Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning addresses new opportunities and challenges in teaching with technology, specifically, capturing the attention of the emerging “cyber-literate” generation by using virtual field trips to directly engage learners in public history and community memory. The project will consist of three parts: an assessment of the opportunities for technology integration in teaching and learning, the connection between digital resources and social studies, and case study of a virtual field trip using the Boca Raton Army Airfield (BRAAF) site. Our view of the past is influenced by the media, religious upbringing, monuments, memorials, and cultural influences such as family and school. History and social studies classes are where most young people learn about the collective, public past. Virtual field trips (VFTs) are an ideal way to transport

students back in time to learn about different communities and to experience the history of the people and place in thought-provoking ways. VFTs can introduce learners to primary materials that are too far away or too fragile to examine. History can be brought to life with first-person narratives that “virtual travelers” can watch via streaming video technology. Activities such as scavenger hunts for specific objects using maps and 3D virtual environments can be incorporated into virtual adventures so visitors can move around and “walk” through a room or landscape. Hand-held computers, cell phones, and tablet computers are being used with wireless networking to connect participants in geographically diverse locations. Classes in different schools and even in different countries can work collaboratively on projects. There are many advantages to taking, designing, and developing virtual field trips, however, the two reasons I chose to use a virtual field trip as a method of engaging students in history and social studies are: (1) History is more engaging when presented in an interactive, multimedia experience; and (2) Virtual field trips can be used to build relationships between generations and cultures. The ways students are taught must engage them in a journey of selfdiscovery in order for them to become self-directed, lifelong learners.

TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES .................................................................................................ix LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................... x CHAPTER ONE.................................................................................................... 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................. 1 Purpose and Justification of the Study .............................................................. 3 Literature ........................................................................................................... 8 Community Memory ...................................................................................... 8 Digital Public History ................................................................................... 11 Virtual Field Trips ........................................................................................ 13 Constructivist Learning Theories ................................................................. 15 Twenty-first Century Literacies .................................................................... 18 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 19 CHAPTER TWO ................................................................................................. 22 “CRISIS IN EDUCATION:” THE EVOLUTION OF STANDARDS-BASED EDUCATION ...................................................................................................... 22 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 22 Standards-based Education in the United States............................................ 23 The No Child Left Behind Act .......................................................................... 27 Social Studies Standards and the Motivation for Social Studies ..................... 29 National Education Technology Standards (NETS) ........................................ 33 Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants .................................................................. 36 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 37 CHAPTER THREE ............................................................................................. 39 SELF-DIRECTED LEARNERS: “INFOTECTIVES” ............................................ 39 Constructivism: From Passive Learning to Active Learning ............................ 40 Project-based Learning (PBL) ......................................................................... 41 “Free-Range Students” ................................................................................... 43 Authentic Assessments: Projects and Performances ...................................... 49 From Information to Interaction ....................................................................... 50 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 56 CHAPTER FOUR ............................................................................................... 57 DIGITAL HISTORY PROJECTS: THE CASE FOR VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS ..... 57 Digital History Resources ................................................................................ 57

Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) ................................................................................ 61 Virtual Field Trips for Historical Inquiry and Place-based Education ............... 63 Virtual Field Trip Notables ............................................................................... 64 Virtual Field Trips: Self-Directed Learning Tool............................................... 67 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 71 CHAPTER FIVE ................................................................................................. 73 THE BOCA RATON ARMY AIR FIELD (BRAAF) ............................................... 73 Florida’s World War II History ......................................................................... 73 The Boca Raton Army Air Field (BRAAF) ....................................................... 74 CHAPTER SIX ................................................................................................... 79 A VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP TO THE BOCA RATON ARMY AIR FIELD................. 79 Planning Technology-Infused Lessons ........................................................... 79 Virtual Field Trip Planning ............................................................................... 81 Maps and Geo-caching ................................................................................... 85 Oral Histories .................................................................................................. 86 Virtual BRAAF ................................................................................................. 88 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 94 Bibliography ........................................................................................................ 96


LIST OF TABLES Table 1: NCSS Thematic Strands....................................................................... 31 Table 2: National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS).......... 34 Table 3: Essential skills for Cyberspace (McKenzie, 1998) ................................ 46 Table 4: Web 2.0 Technologies .......................................................................... 53 Table 5: Technology Integration Planning Model................................................ 80 Table 6: Virtual field trip planning steps .............................................................. 82 Table 7: Virtual BRAAF Lesson Plan .................................................................. 90


LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Skills for Grazing the Net ..................................................................... 45 Figure 2: Web2.0 Technologies .......................................................................... 52 Figure 3: Virtual BRAAF Components ................................................................ 89



New technologies and educational philosophies have exponentially expanded the possibilities for teaching and learning in the last decade. Wireless laptops are now used in classrooms to access the Internet, communicate with others, and increase productivity. Textbooks are available in electronic format and can be accessed by computer. School districts license electronic resources for teachers and students to use in school and at home. iPods and other devices once used primarily for entertainment are now used by individuals to record and publish content for others to view and download. Virtual field trips (VFTs) take schoolchildren on excursions they might otherwise not be able to go on and connect learners to professionals who can share unique insights and first-hand experiences. VFTs help students learn about places of interest and make observations without physically visiting an actual site. Technology, in the form of a virtual field trip, empowers learners to be more involved in what they are learning, enables students to better relate what they are studying to previous knowledge and personal experiences, and helps them become more effective users of information and technology. Young people born between 1981 and 1993, whether they are called Generation Y (Ad Age, 1993), Millenials (Strauss and Howe, 1992), or the Net


Generation (Tapscott, 1998), are the first to grow up in a digital world. They are surrounded by cell phones, digital music players, computers, video games, the Internet; and their fascination is only growing. According to educational theorist, Marc Prensky, young people are “Digital Natives” who have grown up with technology and learn differently than past generations because they expect a highly stimulating and interactive digital environment (2001). “Digital natives” are used to being in control of their media; listening to music arranged into personal play lists and watching television shows at their convenience on digital recorders. In their world, the consumer of information is in charge, not the producer (Gaston, 2006, p.12). In contrast, many teachers are “Digital Immigrants;” not born into the digital world, speaking an outdated, pre-digital age language to a population that speaks an entirely new one (Prensky, 2001). Educators need to reconsider both the way they teach and their content, learning to communicate in the language and style of their students. Teaching “Digital Natives” requires more than the addition of technology skills alone; it also requires the knowledge and skills to engage students in a new kind of learning process. Alan November, author of Empowering Students with Technology and cofounder of The Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology, maintains that teachers today are unprepared to use technology in their daily instruction (2001). November envisions a new culture of teaching and learning that includes collegiality, new relationships with family and community, students who are more self-directed and new models of curriculum and


assessment. This study extends November’s view and provides a teaching model that enables the sharing of instructional strategies and collaboration with other teachers. Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning addresses new opportunities and challenges in teaching with technology, specifically, capturing the attention of the emerging “cyber-literate” generation by using virtual field trips to directly engage learners in public history and community memory. The study is presented here in three parts: an assessment of the opportunities for technology integration in teaching and learning, the connection between digital resources and social studies, and a template for a virtual field trip using the Boca Raton Army Airfield (BRAAF) site as a case study.

Purpose and Justification of the Study Our view of the past is influenced by the media, religious upbringing, monuments, memorials, and cultural influences such as family and school. History and social studies classes are where most young people learn about the collective, public past. Virtual field trips (VFTs) are an ideal way to transport students back in time to learn about different communities and to experience the history of the people and place in thought-provoking ways. VFTs can introduce learners to primary materials that are too far away or too fragile to examine. History can be brought to life with first-person narratives that “virtual travelers” can watch via streaming video technology. Activities such as scavenger hunts for specific objects using maps and 3D virtual environments can be incorporated into virtual adventures so visitors can move around and “walk” through a room or


landscape. Hand-held computers, cell phones, and tablet computers are being used with wireless networking to connect participants in geographically diverse locations. Classes in different schools and even in different countries can work collaboratively on projects. RAFT, Remotely Accessible Field Trips, a project of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, facilitates field trips for schools and enables international collaboration ( Small groups go on trips while other classes from remote schools participate interactively via the Internet. The groups going to the field are equipped with data gathering devices (photographic, video, audio, measuring), wireless communication and a video conferencing system for direct interaction between the field and the classroom. Assignments are given that are related to the site being visited and data is collected throughout the trip. Teachers are provided with templates to help them design projects to use before, during, and after the field trip with clearly delineated roles for both classroom and field participants. Developing sophisticated digital learning environments is not easy for multimedia designers let alone classroom teachers. Many teachers have little experience integrating technology into the students’ learning process or using models on which to build their own visions of an integrated classroom (Beichner, 1993; Kerr, 1996; Morehead & LaBeau, 2005, Schrum, 1999). Critics have argued that successful use of technology in schools may depend on how well universities prepare teacher candidates to use technology in their own


classrooms and whether they provide opportunities for teacher training, practice and reflection (Kent & McNergney, 1999). Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning originated with my participation in a project to save Florida Atlantic University’s remaining World War II era buildings and to build a museum dedicated to the Army Air Field and the men and women who served there. The project included local preservationists, community leaders, veterans, and members of the Florida Atlantic University community. Although the T-Buildings” were meant to be temporary structures when they were constructed in 1942, several still remain on the Florida Atlantic campus along with many historic artifacts. Based on the work of this group, Florida Atlantic University applied for a grant which would enable the university to renovate three of the remaining historic buildings. My work on the project became a central element of this Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning: the creation of a virtual field trip to teach children about Florida Atlantic University’s nearly invisible, but extraordinarily important, history as a World War II Army Air Field. This portion of the study serves a dual purpose; the virtual field trip is a useful educational tool, and it can also be used as a model for educators to create their own virtual trips or engage in digital history projects. The Boca Raton Army Air Field (BRAAF) opened in Boca Raton, Florida in 1942. While many people know Boca Raton as a warm, upscale, beautiful place to visit, regrettably, few people are aware of the important role this city played during World War II. From 1942 – 1947, pilots were trained to fly B-17’s and


servicemen learned how to operate airborne radar, a top-secret device at the time. Several of the original buildings from the Army Air Base still exist. Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning and the virtual field trip project offers teachers a way of connecting the history of Boca Raton and honoring the memories of the World War II veterans who served here. Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning demonstrates the advantages of incorporating virtual field trips into social studies and history studies. Two of the main advantages are (1) History is more engaging when presented in an interactive, multimedia experience like a virtual field trip; and (2) Virtual field trips can be used to build relationships between generations and cultures. I will address each reason in turn. Virtual field trips are a way of capturing the attention of today’s “cyberliterate” generation while at the same time addressing national and state history standards. I argue that in order for learners to become more engaged with the past and the community in which they live, the way they are taught needs to engage them and involve them in a journey of self-discovery. The digital technologies I propose for my field trip; multimedia materials such as images and photographs, film, virtual simulations, and computer-mediated communication, create an engaging, interactive learning space for visitors of all ages. Virtual field trips are an ideal method of engaging learners in history studies because taking students on field trips exposes them to “real” people and events and students develop a sense of themselves in relation to the world. Virtual trips can provide even greater benefits because of unique technologies


that can enhance the experience as well as follow-up activities. Students are able to view and download materials that further their understanding of concepts and serve as tools for research reports. VFTs allow a teacher with just one computer connected to the Internet the same access to primary source materials as a teacher at the most expensive private school or upscale suburban school. The digitization, scanning of paper documents into electronic format, provides a way for students to examine resources with electronic tools and conduct searches that facilitate and transform the learning process. Increased access to primary source materials and the development of powerful digital search tools means that novice learners can now get into archives and engage in the kind of activities that only expert learners used to be able to do (Bass and Rosenzweig, 1999). Researchers contend that historical knowledge can be developed most successfully by “doing history” – using the discipline's tools to construct historical knowledge (Seixas, 1999; Holt, 2004; Wineburg, 2001). The availability of digital historical resources allows for learner-centered experiences and empowers learners to construct a personal knowledge of history. Virtual field trips can provide exposure to a broad array of historical resources. Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning demonstrates the flexibility of virtual field trips: they can be used to teach about the history of Boca Raton during World War II and, at the same time, raise awareness about the importance of preserving the memory of a community. Learning about the Boca Raton Army Airfield and the veterans who served here is a way for students to develop a better understanding of Boca Raton then, and now. Many colleges and


universities have started creating digital history projects; local communities and school systems are also getting involved in developing their own digital resources. The Internet and the Web, in particular, provide a greater sense of control over historical narratives because the nonlinear structure of the World Wide Web means people can navigate through information at their own pace and at their own direction. Digital Public History: Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) as Engaged Learning will be a useful curriculum resource for teaching Florida and World War II history. It will also serve as a model for teachers to develop their own virtual field trips or digital history lessons.


The research for this project falls into five main areas; community memory, digital history, virtual field trips, constructivist learning theories, and twenty-first century literacies. Community Memory A new focus on the past has emerged in response to a resurgence of the heritage and museum industry, technology advances, and political and cultural shifts (Finkelstein, 2000). The availability of digital cameras and the ease with which people can now take, edit, and produce their own pictures and movies has led to an explosion in home media. There are many more “memory devices” (Finkelstein, 2000) than ever before so how we remember individually and collectively has become almost as important as what we remember.


The definition of history is complicated because it refers to a number of different but related concepts. E.H. Carr, an historian of modern Russia and the Soviet Union in the 20th century, maintains that historians are engaged in an active process of asking questions, seeking out information, and forming explanations (1961). Carr proposes thinking about the past and the present as a continuum that stretches into the future. He believes that concern with the future is what really motivates the study of the past. What society commonly refers to as history actually includes a series of distinct but related ideas: (1) events from the past, facts; (2) the process of gathering and organizing information from the past, historical research; (3) explanations about the relationships between specific historical events, and (4) broader explanations or “theories” about how and why change takes place. History is the past, the study of the past, and explanations about the past. (Singer, 2003, 23) Historian David Glassberg maintains that what differentiates new memory scholarship from the old is approach. Earlier studies focused on characterizing a group or institution’s beliefs about its past and newer studies are trying to understand the interrelationships between different versions of history in public. Much of the new scholarship on memory examines autobiographical memory and reminiscence. How individuals remember is important to oral history interviewers and should be incorporated into public history projects, but the focus on personal memory and individual recollection of the past is not especially useful to historians working on public projects. Historians working with community groups are in a good position to investigate how stories about the past are handed down


within families or circulate among friends. Common questions asked in the recent scholarship on memory are: how do particular accounts of the past get established and disseminated as the public one? How do these public histories change over time? Glassberg, writing in The Public Historian, maintains cultural resource management should be ongoing with programs developed to identify and protect community memory sites, historic sites, and other significant local places (1996). Studying the past enables us to understand change and continuity provides us with a better understanding of the contemporary world. History studies encourage a sense of personal and communal identity through connections to the past and raise important questions about interpretations of the past (C. Young, 1993). History is vital for all citizens in a democracy because it provides the only avenue we have to reach an understanding of ourselves and of our society in relation to the human condition over time and of how some things change and others continue (Gagnon, 1989). History can help students understand and deal with change and at the same time teach them to identify the links between past and present. Historian Peter Stearns maintains that there are many reasons why we should study history. History helps us understand people and societies offering “the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives” (2006, p.2). History helps us understand change and how the society we live in came to be. It provides extensive materials to study the human condition and also focuses attention on


the processes of social change, teaching people personal growth and integrity and preparing for public life as democratic citizens. Digital Public History Public history as an academic discipline focuses on the efficient and ethical management of the nation's historical heritage and collective memories. At a recent conference, the National Council on Public History revised their definition of public history recently to: “A movement, methodology, and approach that promotes the collaborative study and practice of history; its practitioners embrace a mission to make their special insights accessible and useful to the public” ( Digital technology has played an important role in raising public awareness about important issues regarding the effectiveness of interactivity and about the tensions between visitor agency in museum and memorial exhibits” (Reading, 2003). The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is an example of a museum that has incorporated new technologies into its exhibits providing innovative ways of learning about the events of the Holocaust. In an exhibit on racism and prejudice, visitors are presented with a scenario and in a voting theater are asked what they would do under similar circumstances ( While the results are recorded anonymously, the audience can see the how everyone responded. At many Holocaust museums the interactivity comes from Holocaust survivors who act as educators within the exhibition spaces themselves…However, as the last of the survivors are moving towards the end of their lives, such museums are


also seeking ways of tactfully retaining their stories in the form of digital interactive multimedia (Reading, 71). Digitized materials can include sound, photographs, video clips, documents, diaries, maps and more. Providing the public with access to the museum physically as well as virtually offers new opportunities for exploration and possibilities of reaching audiences who might not be able to visit in person. Digital technology was used to create an aural memorial, a Sonic Memorial experience, of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 ( National Public Radio (NPR) took up the task of aural remembering for the nation through a collaboration of at least 100 NPR stations and their affiliates that contributed and aired up to 30 hours of NPR-produced programming during the week before the anniversary. The ubiquitous nature of computing and availability of digital technology provides new possibilities for audiences to experience exhibits and memorials. At the National Archives in Washington, a computer-based project allows visitors to move a computer screen along a horizontal track in front of the boxes in the archives. When the screen stops in front of a box, various archival files can be viewed, including videos. Researchers who use the archive find it exciting to go into an actual stack area and open a box and look through the materials. Digital historical resources have the capacity to create social networks. Teachers and curators are able to take collections with them to students in remote locations. Not all learning takes place inside of a school, or even a


classroom. Classes can communicate in different ways with other students, teachers, or experts. The larger community—the people, the culture, the physical environment, and even the virtual environment within which we each live—are powerful teachers as well. Public memory and public history projects can take on many different forms including museum exhibits, documentaries, historic preservation projects, and oral and video history recording projects, just to name a few. Virtual field trips are a specialized form of digital historical resource. Virtual Field Trips Field trips are always exciting for learners in any class. Virtual field trips create learning experiences in which the teacher acts as a guide who scaffolds the learning experience for the student. The student can construct his or her own ideas by controlling when and where they obtain information and deciding what information they need (Tuthill & Klemm, 2002). As with any classroom activity, virtual field trips take careful planning to clearly identify the purpose of the field trip and to determine what is expected of the students in terms of products and performance (Tuthill & Klemm, 2002). Field trips are important in bridging formal and informal learning by helping learners make real-world connections between what they are learning in the classroom with what goes on in the world. However, for many reasons, not many teachers take their learners on field trips. Krepel & DuVall (1981) reported that only 10 percent of the teachers surveyed conduct field trips in a given school year. Fisher (2001) reported the decline of field trips, confirming that few learners have such experiences today. Reasons teachers give for not taking field trips include a schedule which is already too full, too many pupils in class, lack of time for planning, problems with liability, lack of transportation, lack of funding, lack of resource people for assistance, failure of school to assume trip


risks, too much red tape, and the inability of some tour guides to teach and engage youngsters (Tuthill and Klemm, 2002, p.454). Virtual field trips solve many of these problems and can be more engaging and more stimulating than actual field trips. Interactive multimedia technologies and virtual exhibits allow for an imaginary type of exploration and discovery that the actual sites could not afford. Multimedia reenactments, like those at the United States Holocaust museum, are used for virtual visits and as supplements to actual field trips. Virtual travelers can take control of their learning and change the relationship between themselves and their teachers. Teachers become facilitators rather than the “sage on the stage”. Computers can provide personalized learning experiences by asking the user questions and based on the answers given personalize the information each user sees. New technology places “greater emphasis on agency and the relationship between the user’s identity in relation to learning history and developing socially inherited memories” (Reading, 68). Technology becomes a way for learners to go back in time and experience past and present representations simultaneously to compare and contrast life today with life in the past. Cox and Su, who studied the integration of student learning with practitioner experiences, concluded that, virtual field trips present learners with increased content access, opportunities to support various learning styles and learning modalities (Cox and Su, 2004). Instructional technologies allow more freedom and control over the learning pace and more exploration of concepts through interactive multimedia. Virtual field trips may seem out of the ordinary to someone who is not comfortable with technology but for today’s technology


savvy learners it is a natural way to “visit” a place they are learning about in class. Virtual field trips offer new ways for teachers and learners to visit historical sites and museums to connect history to their daily lives and better understand the daily struggles and lives of people from the past. Constructivist Learning Theories Constructivist learning theories stress that people learn by doing, by being actively engaged in the learning process; whereas, Behaviorism and Cognitivism, earlier theories, support the practice of analyzing a task and breaking it down into manageable chunks, establishing objectives, and measuring performance based on those objectives. As a set of instructional practices, Constructivism favors processes over end products; guided discovery over expository learning; authentic, embedded learning situations over abstracted, artificial ones; and authentic assessments over structured exams. Constructivism promotes a more open-ended learning experience where the methods and results of learning are not easily measured and may be different for each learner. The technological advances of the 1980s and 1990s have enabled instructional designers to move toward a more constructivist approach to designing materials. One of the basic tenets of constructivism is that learning results in participation in authentic activities, in other words, learning should be based on activities and problems that learners might encounter in the real world (Fosnet, 1989). Participating in a virtual field trip is an authentic experience because it can transport learners to a site to learn about its history and make their own connections as to why that history is important today. Constructivism


encourages critical thinking and creates active and motivated learners who can construct their own understandings. Twomey Fosnot (1989) recommends a constructivist approach be used to create learners who are autonomous, inquisitive thinkers who question, investigate, and reason. Constructivist classrooms allow teachers to make decisions that will enhance and enrich learners' development in these areas. A growing body of research in constructivist learning supports the use of project-based and/or problem-based learning (Buck Institute, 2003). Projectbased learning projects engage and challenge learners in interdisciplinary activities that enrich and extend the curriculum. Schools involved in projectbased learning experience an increase in student motivation, an increase in cooperative learning skills and higher-order thinking, and an improvement in student achievement. Project-based learning provides opportunities for multidisciplinary lessons drawn from real-world situations. Lifelong learning skills help learners make informed decisions regarding the direction of their chosen careers, technological developments, and other major financial, professional, and personal questions that they will undoubtedly face. Young people today need to leave school prepared to be successful technological team players who are able to “teach up” the hierarchy. Projectbased learning offers many opportunities for students to develop these skills. Students work together in groups, similar to the way they would work in a “real” workplace and offer feedback to each other in the form of peer assessment. Opportunities for self-assessment, an important element of project-based


learning, helps students identify gaps in their knowledge and think more carefully about what they know and what they need to learn. Because so much of work life revolves around presenting ideas and results to peers, oral presentations in problem-based learning provide students an opportunity to practice their communication skills. Presenting findings to their group, the class, or even a reallife audience can help strengthen these skills. Many educators have struggled with ways to reach students in the classroom, suggesting strategies for changing the ways that teachers teach, the content of the curriculum, and classroom relationships. Lev Vygotsky, working in the 1920s and 1930s in the Soviet Union, was concerned that educators were often trapped by narrowly conceived and universally applied ideas about human social and psychological development and, as a result, had rigid views about appropriate learning strategies (Robyler, 2006). Vygotsky recognized that students are strongly influenced by the social and historical circumstances of their lives; he believed that, to stimulate academic learning, educators had to “scaffold,” or build on the individual and social experiences of students and what they already knew about the world. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences disputed the idea that human intelligence can be accurately summarized with one reference point and that all people learn in essentially the same fashion (Robyler, 2006). He suggested multiple types of intelligence possessed by students in a variety of combinations: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal (social), and intrapersonal (reflective). Gardner maintained that


curricula and teachers need to recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences, so that schools and societies appropriately address the many problems that we face in the world. Twenty-first Century Literacies Now more than ever, there is a sense of urgency surrounding advances in technology and their impact on literacy. Changes in the nature of literacy can be seen in many classrooms in United States and around the world. Most classrooms have at least one computer that is connected to the Internet and lessons often include Internet research, electronic content, and online homework. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 had a significant impact on the integration of technology into schools especially the goals set forth in Part D— Enhancing Education Through Technology. The primary goal is to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools and to assist every student in crossing the digital divide by ensuring that every student is technologically literate by the time the student finishes the eighth grade, regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability. Technology literacy standards were developed by the U.S. Department of Education and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1998. Student standards include the ability to use productivity tools, communication tools, problem-solving and decision making tools and deal with social and ethical issues in dealing with technology. In 2002, AOL Time Warner co-sponsored the Twenty-first Century Literacy Summit which focused on our


change to a knowledge-based society ( Recommendations included teaching more than just reading and writing; students must learn technology literacy, information literacy, media literacy, social responsibility, workplace skills and civic engagement. New forms of literacy are critical in an age of technological revolution and our education system faces the challenge of deploying new technologies in creative and productive ways. In the past, basic literacy skills included reading, writing, and calculation. Today literacy includes critical thought, persuasive expression, and problem-solving. It also means utilizing a well-organized set of facts to find new information and use it to solve novel problems. Regardless of age, nearly all of today’s learners use the Web extensively for information, communication, collaboration, and socializing. Students expect to interact with information and receive near-instantaneous responses. Using digital archives, databases, and the tools of a profession allows students to engage in “firstperson” learning. Rather than being told conclusions, students build their own understanding (Oblinger, 2005).

Conclusion “The preservation of our nation’s past lets each generation pass on tangible evidence of its history to the next generation” (Save Our History). Making history come alive in the classroom can be challenging, but advances in technology and digital tools have made it possible to motivate students to learn about the past. Digital historical inquiry means taking full advantage of current and emerging technologies to support conceptualizations of learning history that


stress developing inquiry skills, perspective taking and meaning making over the transmission textbook-driven model. More broadly, "digital history is the study of the past using a variety of electronically reproduced primary source texts, images, and artifacts as well as the constructed historical narratives, accounts, or presentations that result from digital historical inquiry" (Lee, 2002). Several history and social studies education researchers suggest that integrating technology into social studies and history classrooms has the potential to encourage active student inquiry (Lee, 2002; Van Fossen, 2001; Whitworth & Berson, 2003). The World Wide Web has made primary source documents available to students and historians, and, in a sense, democratized the practice of history (Ayers, 1999). The Web can put learners in direct contact with the raw materials of history and enable them to construct personal understandings of the past. Despite the growing availability of digital historical resources, very few social studies teachers and teacher educators utilize the Web to encourage inquiry and perspective taking within their classrooms (Lee, 2002; Van Fossen, 2001; Whitworth & Berson, 2003). While the Web places vast amounts of information before every social studies teacher and student, merely having access to a wide range of disparate sources alone will not transform history and social studies learning (Mason, Berson, Diem, Hicks, Lee, & Dralle, 2000). To date, social studies teachers' technology preparation and meaningful usage, in terms of seamlessly integrating technology to encourage inquiry, has lacked subject context and has been disconnected from student learning (International Society


for Technology in Education, 1999; National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997). Technology alone will not improve the quality of education, but when integrated with curriculum and instruction; it can be a powerful educational tool. Technology that is fitted to curriculum and instruction can stimulate the development of higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, and it can support collaborative learning. When integrated effectively into the curriculum, digital content enables students to find and manipulate information in collaborative, creative, and engaging ways, all of which foster learning.



Introduction When the Russians’ launched the Sputnik spacecraft in 1957, many concluded there was a crisis in American education spearheading a back-tobasics movement (Bracey, 2002). Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, public awareness rose regarding the low-performance of American students. Standards and increased accountability were touted as the solution to the growing sense that something was wrong in our schools (Evers, 2001). Standards can be thought of as the “what” of education while curriculum and instruction are the “how”. Content standards indicate “what” students should know and be able to do, whereas performance standards measure “how” well a student’s work meets the content standard. Standards guide what is taught in the classroom. In core subjects such as English, math, science and social studies, classroom activities are aligned to standards. The standards movement gained support resulting in the passage of The No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Chapter 2 examines state, national and technology standards and the impact of high-stakes testing on education with


specific attention paid to standards that promote historical thinking and their impact on the teaching practices of history teachers.

Standards-based Education in the United States The evolution of the standards-based movement can be traced back to the successful launching of the Soviet space craft, Sputnik, in October 1957 (Bracey, 1998). Following the launch of Sputnik, Life magazine published a series of articles titled, “Crisis in Education,” stating that America had not only fallen behind in the race to launch a spacecraft, but also in educating our children (1958). Anxiety over American schools’ performance and the feeling that schools in the Soviet Union were producing more scientists, mathematicians, and engineers was a major concern at the time. The debate about the quality of American education escalated and a movement formed among educators calling for a return to fundamentals, back to basics, back to drill and memorization, and back to facts (Cremin, 1961; Ravitch, 1983). Public demand for a federal response resulted in Congress passing the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958. The goal of the Act was to ensure that highly trained individuals would help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields. The NDEA included support for loans to college students, the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools, graduate fellowships, and vocational-technical training. Policies were established at state and local levels to sustain innovative programs in the school system (Bybee, 1997).


The state of education in the United States came under attack again in 1983 with the release of the “A Nation at Risk Report” which concluded that almost 23 million American adults were functionally illiterate by the simplest test of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. The authors of the report declared that the educational foundations of society were being eroded by a “rising tide of mediocrity” that threatened our future as a Nation. The report concluded that the American people were guilty of “educational disarmament” (p. 5). In other words, if a nation did to us what we are doing to ourselves we would consider it an act of war. Among the solutions suggested in the report was the establishment of a common core curriculum: high school students should study English for four years, mathematics, science, and social studies for three years, and computer science for at least one semester before graduating. When the report was released, less than one-fifth of all American students met those requirements (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). Although awareness of the inadequacies of the education system in our country arose with the release of “A Nation at Risk (1983),” the movement toward a national set of standards was slow. In January of 1985, nearly two years after the release of the report, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching discovered that nearly 75% of major United Stated corporations were offering employees reading, writing, and math courses to remediate skills that should have been acquired before employees entered the workforce. American corporations were spending close to 40 billion dollars on the training and development of employees. The Committee for Economic Development, an


organization of over 200 business executives and educators, warned that the education system in America was putting the economic future of the country in danger (2004). In 1989, President George H.W. Bush held the first ever National Education Summit aimed at drafting national goals for education. American students leaving the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades were to demonstrate competency in challenging subject matter. President Bush announced these educational goals in his State of the Union address in January 1990. The National Education Goals included: preparing preschool children properly so they are ready to learn; reducing the dropout rate; improving academic performance; more opportunities for teacher education and professional development; increased attention to math and science; more workforce development to increase adult literacy and lifelong learning; and safer, drug-free schools (NEGP, 1990). In March of 1990, the World Conference on Education for All convened in Thailand bringing international attention to concerns about the inadequacy of basic education, especially in developing countries. A Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs was developed spelling out specific targets and strategies to reach the goal of “Education for All”, or EFA. The Framework for Action (1990) specified “target dimensions" critical toward reaching the EFA goal. While similar to the goals established in the United States, the goals were broader including: expansion of early childhood care and activities; improvement in learning achievement; reduction of the adult illiteracy rate; expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills required by youth and adults and


increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills, and values required for better living made available through all education channels, including mass media. In the past, schools succeeded in educating students if they equipped them with the knowledge and skills that would help them establish successful careers and to be responsible citizens and contributing members of society. In a constantly changing, global workplace, the most valued skill is the ability to “learn and keep learning (UNESCO, 2000)." Curriculum that was suitable for an industrial age is no longer adequate for today’s interactive, information society. I discuss the evolution from information to interaction in more detail in Chapter 4. Educators agree that a rich basic education is necessary to be a functioning worker, citizen, and family member (Rothstein, 2004; Ravitch, 1995). However, without the skills to participate in a high-tech world, people will remain on the margins of society, and society will not benefit from their potential contributions (Partnership for Twenty-first Century Skills). The Telecommunications Act of 1996 made telecommunications services available to schools and libraries at discounted rates. According to published data, 90 percent of schools in the United States had Internet access in 2002 (UNESCO, 2002). Although every school in the United States now has access to computers, educators are only beginning to learn how to make the most effective use of these powerful new tools. The growth of computers in schools has led to the development of new learning techniques; however, not all educators have embraced the changes and the problem of how to integrate computers into the


instructional process, and how to make teachers comfortable using them still exists. Even if educators are technologically savvy, they are still “digital immigrants;” not born into the digital world but have, at some point, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology. The growing “digital divide” between technology literate students and illiterate teachers is discussed more in Chapter 3. A significant challenge facing school districts, and a mandate of the No Child Left Behind Act, is to provide the professional development and material resources necessary for teachers to develop lessons that offer students opportunities for critical engagement and knowledge-building (Kimber & Smith, 2006). The goal of this study, presented as the Virtual Field Trip in Chapter 6, is to demonstrate that teachers can not only implement technology-infused, standards-based lessons, they can develop them with their students. Developing a virtual field trip will immerse students in local history and technology, giving them a chance to learn about the history of the “place” where they live and to share that information with the rest of the world. Before proceeding, let me complete the discussion of standards by addressing The No Child Left Behind Act.

The No Child Left Behind Act In 2001, President George W. Bush signed The No Child Left Behind Act into law, forcing the nation’s schools system to comply with testing, reporting and accountability requirements. The overarching goal of NCLB is to ensure that every child, regardless of economic disadvantage, racial or ethnic identity, or


limited English language skills, become proficient in core subjects taught in public school (NCLB, 2001). Achievement gaps between socio-economic groups are to be identified and closed so children of all race and income levels can read and do math at grade level by the year 2014. The four main principles of No Child Left Behind are: holding schools accountable to show students are learning; increasing flexibility for schools reaching goals; providing more options for parents to choose outside of low-performing schools; and, using research on what works best for student learning (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Schools are required to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” and to report that progress by various subgroups which can amount to over 30 groups - ethnic groups, special education students, English Language Learners, etc. If any subgroup fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, all students in the school must be offered the opportunity to transfer to a “successful school.” The school might be doing well by 36 of its 37 subgroups, but according to federal standards the school is “failing.” Groups of educators and parents have been critical of the No Child Left Behind Act arguing against the use of standardized testing to evaluate school progress because some students perform better on standardized tests than others (Rabb, 2004). Classroom teachers report feeling pressured to “teach to the test” in order to ensure good scores for their schools. The benchmarks for success in No Child Left Behind depend on punishment (Bracey, 2006). Schools that do not do well, often through no fault of their own, are sanctioned for doing poorly. If a school is determined to be "failing" under the No Child Left Behind standards, sanctions are imposed on the school. Corrective


action for failing schools can include firing school staff, restructuring school administration, bringing in outside professionals, and a new curriculum. My aim here is not to critique the No Child Left Behind Act; I want to demonstrate that it is possible to adhere to state and national standards and at the same time engage students in technology-rich lessons. My virtual field trip project re-focuses attention on successful educational practices rather than educational compliance. I maintain that it is possible, in fact, desirable, to address curriculum and technology standards in lessons, and, utilize innovative practices to engage our students and teach them to become self-directed learners. What motivates my project is the importance of social studies, a subject that tends to get left out of the No Child Left Behind conversations in favor of math and science. Elementary and middle schools have sacrificed social studies instruction in favor of those subject areas which are tested (Manzo, 2005). In the next section, I look more closely at national history standards and the decline of social studies education.

Social Studies Standards and the Motivation for Social Studies Social studies is considered to be the part of the school curriculum which helps students develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed to participate in civic life. Although curricular content has been a concern since the establishment of schools, the case for the importance of history in the academic curriculum in the present study begins with a statement from the Bradley Commission on History in Schools:


History belongs in the school programs of all students, regardless of their academic standing and preparation, of their curricular track, or of their plans for the future. It is vital for all citizens in a democracy, because it provides the only avenue we have to reach an understanding of ourselves and of our society, in relation to the human condition over time, and of how some things change and others continue (Jackson, 1989, p. 21).

Social studies aims to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world (NCSS). The National Council for Social Studies, an association devoted to social studies education, created curriculum standards which provide a framework for the integration of national standards in social studies, including U.S. and world history, civics and government, geography, global education, and economics. Social studies standards address curriculum design and performance expectations whereas individual discipline standards (civics and government, economics, geography, and history) provide content detail. NCSS encourages teachers and curriculum designers to establish their program frameworks using the social studies standards as a guide, and then use the standards from history, geography, civics, economics, and others to guide the development of grade level strands and courses. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, published in 1994, established ten thematically based curriculum standards and corresponding performance expectations. The ten themes NCSS developed to organize social studies curriculum at the school level are: (1) culture; (2) time, continuity, and change; (3) people, places, and environments; (4) individual development and identity; (5) individuals, groups, and institutions;


(6) power, authority, and governance; (7) production, distribution, and consumption; (8) science, technology, and society; (9) global connections; (10) civic ideals and practices. Incorporated into lesson planning in interdisciplinary ways, these strands helps students decide how they should live in accordance with others based on the experience of humanity (Manzo, 2005). The following table briefly describes the different strands and their meaning. Table 1 NCSS Thematic Strands Thematic Strand Culture Description Ways that human groups learn, create, and adapt to meet their fundamental needs and beliefs they develop to explain the world. Time, Continuity, and Change People, Places, and Environment The influence of geography on human cultures and history. Ways that people locate themselves historically.

Individual development and Identity

Relationships between the ways that people perceive themselves and their membership in social groups.

Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

Roles played by social institutions such as schools and families in a society and their impact on individuals and groups.


Power, Authority, and Governance Production, Distribution, and Consumption

Ways that individuals and societies make decisions about rights, rules, relationships, and priorities. Ways that individuals and societies make decisions about the things people need to survive and how they will be provided.

Science, Technology, and Society

Methods and tools used by people to produce and distribute what they need and want within an economic system.

Global Connections

The increasingly important and diverse relationships between societies.

Civic ideals and practices

The relationship between the expressed beliefs of a society and the implementation of these beliefs in actual practice.

Despite the importance of social studies in the classroom, teachers do not perceive social studies to be as important as other subject areas (Saxe, 1994). In 1984, John Goodlad confirmed in a major study that significantly more time was devoted to language arts and math than to social studies. The American Educational Research Association released the results of a survey conducted in 1998 that illuminated two major concerns: “the position of social studies in the curriculum is being threatened by state and/or district testing mandates and budget decisions” and “the lack of current instructional materials” (VanSledright, 1996, p. 8). Ninety percent of teachers responded that the textbook for instruction


and media was used less than once per week and fewer than 25% of the respondents used the computer at least once a week. “Powerful” social studies teaching, as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies, builds a working knowledge of the evolution of the human condition through time across locations and cultures and an appreciation of the implications of this knowledge for social and civic decision-making (1992). My virtual field trip project addresses several of the NCSS thematic strands as it addresses a broad range of content using a variety of both instructional resources and learning activities. Technology adds important dimensions to student learning, particularly in social studies. Multimedia, computer games, simulations, and digital resources allow students to apply important concepts in authentic, problem-based contexts. Technology standards and the integration of technology into teaching and learning are examined more closely in the next section.

National Education Technology Standards (NETS) The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) also had a significant impact on the integration of technology into schools. Part D—Enhancing Education Through Technology focused primarily on improving student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools and ensuring that every student is technologically literate by the time the student finishes the eighth grade, regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability.


Technology literacy standards were developed by the U.S. Department of Education and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1998. Student standards include the ability to use productivity tools, communication tools, problem-solving and decision making tools and deal with social and ethical issues in dealing with technology. The table below highlights the six categories of technology standards. Teachers use these standards as guidelines when integrating technology into lessons. Table 2 National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS) Standard Basic operations and concepts Benchmarks Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.

Students are proficient in the use of technology. Social, ethical, and human issues Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.

Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity. Technology productivity tools Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.


Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.

Technology Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, communications and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. tools Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences. Technology research tools Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

Students use technology tools to process data and report results.

Students evaluate and select new information resources based on the appropriateness for specific tasks. Technology problem-solving and decisionStudents employ technology in the development of making tools strategies for solving problems in the real world. Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.


Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Instruction should not only be designed to meet a set of standards; students must be able to connect their own experiences, both outside and inside the classroom, for them to engage with the material. Educator and author, Marc Prensky, recently commented that our schools are stuck in the 20th century but our students are already into the 21st century. “If educators want to have relevance in this century, it is crucial that we find ways to engage students in school” (Prensky, 2006, p.11). To engage digitally literate students, schools need to find ways to integrate students’ technology-rich lives outside of school with what they do in school. Students, who are empowered in so many ways outside their schools today, are frustrated because they have no meaningful voice in their own education and they will soon find this to be unacceptable. Students today are fully engaged in life outside of school but we are not motivating them in the classroom (Prensky, 2006). Young people today have grown up in a digital, connected world. As opposed to their teachers who are “Digital Immigrants,” “Digital Natives” are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task, just like a computer. They prefer their graphics instead of text and they function best when networked (connected to the Internet and one another). They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards and prefer games to “serious” work (Prensky, 2001). “Digital Natives” approach problems differently than older generations and they find answers by searching for information and communicating online. Many


parents are often surprised that their children are able to do their homework while watching television or listening to music at the same time. Learning in today’s digital environment is fundamentally different from the “chalk-and-talk” or “sageon-the-stage” transmission models of the past. “Teacher agency” in the digital age means being proactive and developing technology-based learning activities that engage and challenge learners (Kimber & Wyatt-Smith, 2006). Teachers must be familiar with learning theories, know how to use a range of computer applications, and be willing to experiment, step outside their comfort zones and take risks. Kimber and Wyatt-Smith, along with Prensky, realize young people’s out-of-school experiences with technology can mean that students find the presentation of school curriculum less challenging, less relevant and less engaging. Education is changing for young people as they experience selfdirected learning, mostly out of school, about things that interest them. I will look at self-directed learners in more detail in the next chapter.

Conclusion I chose virtual field trips as the case study for my project because they immerse young people, actually people of all ages, in the multimedia-rich environments they have come to expect from their music, video games, websites and virtual worlds. Virtual field trips are a way for students to experience the sights and sounds of a distant place even if they cannot leave their classroom. Subjects learned in school take on new meaning when students are able to connect them to real people and places from their own experiences outside the classroom. Virtual field trips can expose students to other cultures and people


and teach them to make decisions about their future based on a real understanding of the world they live in. Virtual Field trips provide the challenging environment needed for today's "infotectives".



This chapter begins with constructivist learning theories and concludes with authentic assessment which includes student performances, student products, conducting interviews, and review of a student’s previous work. Constructivism is a learning theory based on the idea that knowledge is constructed through an understanding of the world and by experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When something new is encountered, it has to be reconciled with previous ideas and experience. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know. Virtual field trips are a form of constructivist learning in that they provide students with opportunities to build their own knowledge. Virtual field trips embed learning in real-world, relevant contexts engaging students in rich, multimedia environments. Constructivist approaches to learning encourage active participation by students in project-based activities. Essential questions start students off on a journey and help them develop related questions that organize and direct their search for knowledge. Student “infotectives,” discussed at the end of the chapter, are skilled questioners, critical thinkers capable of analyzing the data they find by researching a topic and solving puzzles with a combination of inference skills and new technologies (McKenzie, 1998).


Constructivism: From Passive Learning to Active Learning John Dewey, an American philosopher and educator considered to be the founder of constructivism, rejected the practice of rote learning, which was the common mode of instruction in his day. Dewey maintained that students should be engaged in meaningful, relevant activities that allow them to apply the concepts they learn. Hands-on projects were the key to creating authentic learning experiences (1933). Virtual field trips enable the principles of studentcentered inquiry and constructivism to be practiced. Instead of carefully structuring the elements of lesson, learning occurs in a manner analogous to “just in time manufacturing”, where raw materials are received just prior to their use rather than held in expensive inventories (Applefield, Huber, & Moallen, 2000). Greeno offers what might constitute a mission statement for constructivist learning: We need to organize learning environments and activities that include opportunities for acquiring basic skills, knowledge, and conceptual understanding, not as isolated dimensions of intellectual activity, but as contributions to students’ development of strong identities as individual learners and as more effective participants in the meaningful social practices of their learning communities in school and elsewhere in their lives (Greeno, et al., 1998, p. 17)

In other words, learners need to develop individual competence, but within a context of effective participation within groups and communities. Constructivist teaching practices involve active techniques such as experiments and real-world problem solving. Learners in constructivist classes


are assigned tasks in which they must implement particular instructional goals in "genuine," real-world tasks. Student projects can range from the development of web pages to participation in large, ongoing collaborative resource projects that involve many students and faculty over many years of development (Bass and Rosenzweig, 1999). Barr and Tagg contend that constructivism is a new “Learning Paradigm” shifting from passive learning to more active learning where students are active participants and constructors of their own learning (1995). The roles of teachers and students shift in the constructivist classroom; the teacher provides guidance and students help plan their own learning. Technology helps shift from traditional teacher-centered to more learnercentered approaches. Recently, educators have seized upon computers and the Web as a means of realizing constructivist ideals. The term, web, itself suggests a vast, complex network of interrelated strands, forming a resilient fabric made strong by the densely interweaving threads, not by any individual end point. Because of its uniquely distributed nature, the Web continues to be seen as a stimulus to innovation, placing more control in the hands of individuals, workgroups, and people with shared interests and goals (Burton, 2002).

Project-based Learning (PBL) Project-based learning is a constructivist instructional approach in which students become more accountable for their learning through designing, sharing, piloting, evaluating, modifying their work, and reflecting on the process. In project-based learning, instruction and learning both occur within the context of a challenging project. Just as workers would encounter complicated tasks in the


workplace, in a project-based learning environment, student teams are presented with complex problems that focus and act as catalysts for what they need to learn (Thomas, 2000). The project, which could entail multiple problems, stimulates the learning process and gives it context. Typically, projects extend over time to act as interactive vehicles to help students acquire new, necessary knowledge and skill sets (Thomas, 2000). Project-based learning is not a new concept, but there has been increased interest recently due to opportunities presented by the Internet and World Wide Web. PBL originated in the late 1960’s at a new medical school, McMaster University. PBL emerged from a group of medical educators’ dissatisfaction with the traditional curriculum and its outcomes. Howard Barrows, one of the original McMaster faculty members, complained that “students were passive and exposed to too much information, little of which seemed relevant….They were bored and disenchanted” (2000, p. vii). This concern has been expressed in all levels of education and has stimulated interest in project-based learning and learner-centered pedagogies. The McMaster faculty designed an educational system centered on learning rather than teaching. Roles and responsibilities of students and teachers also reflected this new style of learning. Rather than passively absorbing neatly packaged lectures presented by the faculty, students engaged in realistic problems in small group settings guided by faculty who were trained to facilitate, rather than lead, the student-generated discussions. Encouraged to investigate their learning needs first, students imbued with new knowledge consulted faculty


experts for help with difficult concepts or further guidance to pursue their questions. Although these changes challenged many core beliefs and expectations about education, they were made solely for the purpose of empowering learners; students became actively engaged while investigating and solving problems, developing the ability and willingness to monitor and assess the adequacy of their knowledge and skills as well as continue learning as a lifelong endeavor (Arndt, 2003). Project-based learning provides students with the opportunity to engage in real world situations that by their nature have no easy solution, or have no solution at the present time. Students learn to manage their time, interpret data sets, resolve value conflicts between group members and prepare and communicate the results of their investigation. In other words, they will use their experiences to learn to manage real life situations. PBL empowers students as self-directed learners; by taking responsibility for their learning, students learn what they need to know (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980). This aspect of PBL is crucial to developing active, intrinsically motivated, self-determined, lifelong learners. Project-based, constructivist learning emphasizes problem solving using the idea of an essential question as a starting point to set the stage for further questioning. The next section discusses questioning skills and how they apply to young people today.

“Free-Range Students” Jamie McKenzie captured the idea of essential questions in her conception of student as “infotective”, that is, critical thinkers capable of asking


great questions, analyzing the data they find by researching a topic and solving puzzles with a combination of inference skills and new technologies (1998). Essential questions are important because they provide a teacher with a thoughtful approach to a course or to individual units. They help the teacher understand the usefulness, the relevance, and the greater benefit of a particular topic in a course or unit. Essential questions are usually thought-provoking to students and can be used to stimulate discussion, debate, dissent, and research. McKenzie predicted that many schools would struggle with technology integration, not taking full advantage of the electronic tools available to them. Schools that take advantage of the power of the Internet and electronic networks can raise “free range students; young people capable of navigating through a complex, often disorganized information landscape while making up their own minds about the important issues of their lives and their times” (1998, p.2). Successful schools will find ways to teach students how to use technology and electronic networks in creative ways and also use technology to help students achieve better results on challenging standardized tests. “Free range” students are self-directed learners who know how to “graze the Internet.” They must be taught thinking and problem-solving skills so they can effectively manage all of the information in their lives, from pictures, to documents, to contacts and cell phone favorites. The section in this chapter focusing on the shift from the Information Age to the Interaction Age highlights the move from the Age of Information, a time of information gathering online, to the Interaction Age, a time when people connect with one another and interact


around information. Even if there has been a shift in the culture of the Internet, digital literacies are important skills for students to master. In the figure below, McKenzie illustrates the skills students need to master in order to “graze the Internet.” What is most evident to me, as someone knowledgeable about instructional technology, is that this is ten years old. The World Wide Web has already evolved from version 1.0 to 2.0 and many young people have still not mastered these skills, which have been deemed critical for success in the world today. Figure 1 Skills for Grazing the Net


Self-directed, student “infotectives” must develop “grazing” skills to be successful in cyberspace. “Infotectives…feed on the wild grains and fragments on the Internet or the shelves of the local library” (McKenzie, 1998, p.16). The following table explains “grazing” skills in more detail. Table 3 Essential skills for Cyberspace (McKenzie, 1998) Collecting on the run The infotective collects important clues and files them in an organized manner that makes retrieval and synthesis easier at a later time. Changing course Effective exploration may require flexibility. Learners can change course as they watch for trends and try to build theories about the problem they are trying to solve. Asking for help or directions There are many guides available to help with search methods and navigating databases. Screening and compacting garbage Students need to establish criteria for reliability and apply them to separate good data from bad. Sorting data Data must be organized so students can find patterns and relationships.


This process is the foundation for analysis and synthesis. Analyzing data Converting data into knowledge through such actions as: clarify, interpret, deduce, derive, gather, glean, infer, interpret, examine, probe, and unravel. Navigating in the dark Surfing the Internet can seem like sailing in the dark. It is the essential questions that serve as a map for travelers. Creating fresh answers and insight Students should be reminded that research is meant to produce new ideas. The development of fresh answers may be the most difficult task of all.

Raising free-range students means nurturing self-directed learners who ask questions. The teacher in a free-range, classroom does not stand in front of the room and lecture, instead they are a “guide on the side,” checking over shoulders, asking questions, and working privately with those who need individual help. Virtual field trips help develop self-directed learning skills by placing independence in the hands of the learner allowing them to make


observations without being on an actual site or having an expert on hand for explanations. The changing demographics of the student population and the more consumer-oriented nature of today's society have provided a climate where learning is characterized not only by greater autonomy for the learner, but also a greater emphasis on active learning, with creation, communication and participation playing key roles, and on changing roles for the teacher, indeed, even a collapse of the distinction between teacher and student altogether. Technology enables teachers to go beyond the traditional information delivery mode where they present ready-made knowledge to become facilitators of students’ learning (OTA, 1988, p. 91). Today’s students want their education to be meaningful; to them, learning is only worthwhile if they can relate to it, if it supports their own personal goals (Prensky, 2007). Digital Natives, Millenials, Generation Next – young people today absorb information quickly, in images and video as well as text, from multiple sources simultaneously. They operate at "twitch speed," expecting instant responses and feedback. They prefer random "on-demand" access to media, expect to be in constant communication with their friends (who may be next door or around the world), and they are as likely to create their own media (or download someone else's) as to purchase a book or a CD (Prensky, 2007). Success, for today’s young people, is not measured by how well they do on multiple choice tests, even if that is how their schools measure achievement. Success, for them, is measured by creating and inventing; using art, video,


writing, and multimedia to share projects with others “connected” to them. Alternative assessments, unlike standardized test, engage students' creative instincts so students’ develop their ability to express knowledge through a variety of ways. Free-range students are more likely to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life.

Authentic Assessments: Projects and Performances Authentic assessment is an important part of constructivist learning because the project or performance is not just a fun and engaging activity; it is a true test of a student's abilities. Performances can be individual projects or groups of students working together toward a common goal. The performance gives students the chance to show what they have learned and for the teacher to assess their abilities (Furger, 2002). Authentic assessment broadens the kind of information that is collected about students and the way that information is used in the evaluation of learning. Authentic assessment is not the random recall of previously covered material, but instead scaffolds the knowledge each student brings to the learning situation. Standardized tests, made up of mostly true-false and multiple-choice questions, test basic knowledge and skills rather than encouraging creative, critical thinking, the type of learning that will prepare students for the 21st century (Corbett & Wilson, 1991; Shepard & Smith, 1988; Smith & Cohen, 1991). Standardized tests encourage instruction of less important skills and passive learning. Lawmakers and parents argue that assessing minimum levels of proficiency is no longer sufficient in a competitive, global world. Schools should


focus on developing students skills and competencies in real-life, "authentic" situations, and graduate students who can demonstrate these abilities. Authentic assessments are better than standardized tests at matching the skills students learn in school with the skills they will need upon leaving school (Winking & Bond, 1995).

From Information to Interaction When the Internet was first introduced in schools, it was used mostly to find information. The “Information Age” focused on disseminating information; delivering and accessing digital content. Now, we are entering the “Interaction Age,” a time when information is seen as something with which, and around which, people can interact (Milne, 2007). We live in a connected world and people can communicate globally, in real time. It is commonplace today to carry two to three mobile, electronic devices at any given time. Many students have a cell phone, an MP3 player, a game player, and possibly a laptop. Powerful portable communication tools, previously reserved for busy executives, are now all the rage in high schools and even middle schools. The term Web 2.0 signifies the shift from the Information Age to the Age of Interaction; from one-way communication to two-way interaction encouraging communities instead of consumers or customers. The web shifted from a medium in which information was mostly transmitted and consumed to a platform in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along. Web 2.0 can be visualized like a solar system depicted in Figure 2 (O’Reilly, 2005).


Young people today, sometimes called “Generation Y,” “Millenials,” or “Echo Boomers,” are being described by researchers as individuals whose lives have been shaped by the Internet and the constant introduction of new electronic devices. They integrate the latest technologies into the way they work, relax and socialize. For them, email is old school; “Millennials” relish the speed and mobility of text messaging. Past generations made do with the telephone and television, today's generation has access to those devices plus video games, the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, and videos and music that can be downloaded in an instant. The “Net Generation” has grown up in a wired world and they are digital, connected, experiential, and social (Oblinger, 2005).


Figure 2 Web 2.0 Technologies

Note: Web 2.0 has become an umbrella term describing several concurrent trends that are coming together to enable a richer online experience.

Web 2.0 technologies, featured in the table below, enable interaction, information sharing and collaboration.


Table 4 Web 2.0 Technologies Online Photo Sharing Users have space on the web to share photos. Visitors to the site can comment on photos and photos can be linked to blog sites. Blogs (Weblogs) Online journals that are usually updated regularly and are viewed in reverse chronological order. Some blogs are strictly individual observations or updates about family and friends and some are used to make political statements, promote products, provide tutorials or answer frequently asked questions. Wikis (Community editable websites) A Wiki is a Web page that can be viewed and modified by anybody with a Web browser and access to the Internet. Wikis are particularly effective for collaborative group projects. Shareable documents Give users the ability to create and share documents on any Internetconnected computer.


Social networking websites

Online social networking involves connecting and sharing information with other people on the Internet. Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, are specifically designed to connect individuals and groups directly with others who share common interests.

Social bookmarking sites

Sites such as and Technorati, applications that let users add their own keywords (or tags) to Web pages and blogs.

The shift from Web1.0 to Web2.0 has led to online learning being less of a content-consumption tool, where learning is "delivered," and more like a contentauthoring tool, where learning is created. The model of e-learning as a type of content, produced by publishers, organized and structured into courses, and consumed by students, has been turned around. Content is used by students, rather than read, and is more likely to be produced by students than courseware authors. Content is being distributed in new ways using Web2.0 technologies such as Podcasting and RSS Feeds. Instead of composed, organized and packaged, e-learning content is syndicated and aggregated by students, using their own personal RSS reader or some similar application. From there, it can be


remixed and repurposed with the student's own individual application in mind, and it can be shared with others. Web2.0 student projects synthesize electronic resources and collaborate with others in the discovery and presentation of information. Wireless and mobile technologies allow students to engage in field research and interact with other students in a classroom. Portable computing devices (hand-helds, PDA cell phones, Tablet PCs) and wireless networking connects participants in geographically diverse locations so they can communicate and collaborate on assignments. Wireless technologies are evolving and the coverage of wireless networks is expanding offering new possibilities for combining real-world experiences with classroom knowledge. Mobile learning offers new opportunities to create and to connect. Ellen Wagner and Bryan Alexander note, mobile learning "define(s) new relationships and behaviors among learners, information, personal computing devices, and the world at large" (2005). Web 1.0 was the static, expert knowledge web. Web 2.0 is the interactive, user knowledge web, and, Web 3.0 is already being described as an always connected technology and total environment knowledge web. Web 2.0 technologies are allowing teachers to easily construct virtual field trips. These VFTS are not prepackaged or predetermined; they allow a teacher to travel where they want with their class and to see what they want. Web2.0 is still in its infancy but it has potential and risks. It has not been thoroughly researched by educators, it is raw and real.


Conclusion The 21st century can be characterized by an explosion of technological change that has already had a significant impact on education. In general, students are learning, adopting, and using technology at a much faster rate than teachers, and many teachers are afraid of the technologies, which students take for granted. Technologies have emerged that have strong potential if used for education. New technologies are arriving and changing quickly; too fast for teachers to learn to use them all effectively. Nevertheless, students are intrigued by new technologies and they want to use them in their education because they use them in their everyday lives. What should educators do? Get help from their digitally literate students.



Digital history, studying the past using electronic resources, is not just the electronic storage and presentation of historical materials; it promotes “doing” history and it can engage students in history studies. Unlike textbooks, encyclopedias or worksheets, digital history provides students with multiple, authentic historical sources (print, audio, video, and artifacts) at very low cost. Digital history puts students in the virtual context and role of apprentice historians investigating aspects of the past. Because the World Wide Web is not structured, like textbooks, students are more directly and actively involved in some forms of historical inquiry, and thus engaged in discovering the past with all the historical, critical, and sourcing abilities (or habits of mind) required to do so (Hicks, Doolitle & Ewing, p.7). This chapter introduces digital history and virtual field trips as methodology for engaging students in history studies and teaching them to become self-directed learners.

Digital History Resources History is often taught as facts that have to be memorized to pass a test (Whelan, 1997). This approach to instruction often results in history being delivered as a product, students have trouble making connections, developing a


sustainable interest, or establishing relevance of the material being taught (Seixas 1994: Grant 2001). To alleviate student boredom in social studies classes, and to get them excited about their studies, teachers can design activities that enable students to use authentic historical resources, now widely available, to create engaging, meaningful, and useful lessons about the past. Since the 1990s, a multitude of digital history resources have emerged. According to Edward Ayers of the University of Virginia, the World Wide Web has made virtually every major historical document available to all students across the spectrum at all times (1999). Until recently, history and social studies students had to rely on textbooks and encyclopedias for information about historical documents. With the advent of the World Wide Web, students can now see original documents themselves and use these primary source documents the way historians and scholars do; to analyze information, interpret events, and synthesize their findings (Allen & Dutt-Doner, 2006). Analyzing primary sources and inquiry-based learning are recognized as essential steps in building student interest in history and culture and helping them understand the ways that scholars engage in research, study, and interpretation. Primary sources give students a sense of the reality and the complexity of the past; they represent an opportunity to go beyond the textbooks to engage with real people and problems. In this section, attention is paid to noteworthy digital history resources available for use in classrooms today. The proliferation of digital history resources means that there are many new resources available to use in the classroom, but, it also means educators


must evaluate these resources before using them. Bull, Bull, and Dawson identified four criteria for evaluating digital products. The criteria are questions to ask about digital resources: are they able to transform teaching; are they able to withstand peer review; do they have an internal champion committed to scholarship; and are the resources provided related to the curriculum? (1999) It is important to have meaningful criteria when evaluating digital history resources, or any online resource for that matter. One of the most comprehensive digital history website is the American Memory ( project of the Library of Congress. The website provides open access to written and spoken words, audio recordings, images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. These digital resources chronicle historical events, people, places, and serve as a resource for education and lifelong learning. The National Digital Library Program ( has a collection of over five million digital holdings, including photographs, manuscripts, rare books, maps, recorded sound, and moving pictures. World History Matters ( provides students with multimedia case studies of scholars detailing how they analyze a particular primary source and giving students specific guidance on how they can engage in the same kind of sophisticated analysis of sources. World History offers visitors a database of website reviews written by teaching historians, each of which includes suggestions for students and world history teachers as to how best to use the resources found at these sites. Students using this type of database for their


research, rather than a search engine such as Google, will start with the best websites as opposed to searching aimlessly around. Such resources, integrated into an instructional unit, have the potential to engage students and involve them in exciting learning experiences. Using digital documents in the classroom encourages critical thinking skills and helps promote information literacy, the need to be able to analyze information and understand how meaning is created. The “Magic Lens,” an electronic tool developed by the Memorial Hill Museum Online, can superimpose a transcript over an original document to help reveal the writing of the document. Similarly, in “Battle Lines: Letters from America’s Wars”, an online exhibit of the Gilder Lehrman Institute featuring correspondence from over 200 years of American conflicts, ranging from the Revolution to the current war in Iraq, users can place a typed transcript over a handwritten script and also hear each letter read aloud. The British Library developed “Turning the Pages,” a digital tool that allows students to leaf through famous books, reading, magnifying, and hearing the story read aloud to them ( It is a thoroughly satisfying method of experiencing these rare treasures. The Cherokee County Digital History Project, in Canton, Georgia, is an example of a digital history project that is also a virtual field trip back to Historic Cherokee County. It was developed by students in a history class to serve as a digital survey of historic properties in Cherokee County ( This project serves as a model of how teachers, curriculum planners, and local historians can facilitate digital historical


inquiry in conjunction with local, public history. Through collaboration and interaction with the community, students and teachers develop relationships that allow them to answer questions about their past. Digital resources, and the tools being developed to utilize them, enable learning activities such as searching, examining patterns, and discovering connections among artifacts, all critical skills of historians and scholars of society and culture. When students make decisions about which document to use and how to use that document, they are constructing knowledge of their own. As students put together their own interpretations of digital resources, they are constructing history.

Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) Virtual Field Trips are a relatively new form of learning that incorporate innovative uses of technology and provide contextually rich learning materials embedded in educational content (Cassady & Mullen, 2006, p.1). Virtual field trips enable student-centered, constructivist learning (Gallas, 1999). The rationale for using virtual field trips is to connect students with materials, subject matter experts and resources that they could not otherwise access because of geographic, financial, or safety reasons. Virtual field trips can be an important resource, especially for small, rural schools, where museums, zoos, or historical landmarks may not be close by. VFTs can be designed so that a variety of materials (audio, video, and text) are incorporated to address different learning styles. Teachers with special needs students can design an instructional field trip module which incorporates design features allowing students with disabilities the


same access as students without impairments, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (Tuthill & Klemm, 2002). Virtual field trips can be as simple as a set of interrelated images, text, and media delivered electronically via the Internet, to a real-time, virtual adventure that students from around the world participate in. They transport students to places they might otherwise not be able to visit. Field trip participants experience real-world occurrences of places and events, making unique discoveries and independent decisions. Virtual field trips help teachers and students overcome barriers to study the real world (Klemm and Tuthill, 2003). Many students today do not have the opportunity to go on field trips for any number of reasons including lack of administrative support; affordability and safety issues; and standards-driven accountability (Tuthill & Klemm, 2003). Virtual field trips allow for interaction through participation, exploration, and analysis (Cox and Su, 2004), and they meet criteria established by The National Science Foundation (1998) for the effective use of information technology; stimulating and engaging students, encouraging collaboration, fostering critical thinking skills, and using the World Wide Web for research and posting material. Virtual destinations can be brainstormed with students given possible locations, resources, and technologies that are available. The content of the virtual trip should be connected to curriculum standards and opportunities for interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary experiences should be explored. As I discuss in my virtual field trip template, taking an actual field trip and recording it


is the best way to create a virtual field trip as a class activity. An actual trip can be captured many different ways using still cameras, video cameras, note-taking, audio recording, and other data collection tools. Once the necessary information has been collected, the virtual field trip can be created. VFTs have the potential to bring student-centered, hands-on, interactive, multimedia environments to both in-class and out-of-class learning.

Virtual Field Trips for Historical Inquiry and Place-based Education Virtual field trips are an ideal tool for historical inquiry because they are geographically independent; students can “visit" sites anywhere in the world as long as they have a computer and a connection to the Internet. People develop a "sense of place" through experience and through knowledge of the history, geography and the environment of an area. Studying how history and memories attach to places is important for students so they learn how to help define and protect special places and historic preservation strategies. The personality of a town or city is often derived from the meanings and significance that people attach to it. A connection to a place can lead to preservation of cultural history and increased environmental sensitivity; something very difficult to do today in a world full of distractions. Place-based education and community-based learning are not new concepts; there are many ways community-based learning enhances understanding of, and connection to, a community and can encourage students to become concerned and contributing citizens (Loveland, 2002). Using students’ own communities as the context for educational experiences is a way for them to


connect their world to the larger world and place real value on their education. Research has shown better student achievement, revitalized teaching, increased interest in citizenship and improved quality of life as reasons to implement community-connected education programs (Loveland, 2002). Local history projects can take on many different forms including presentations, documentaries, historic preservation projects, collection and recording projects, and the digitization of traditional historical knowledge into electronic formats. One of the best ways to learn about the usefulness of the past, according to eminent history scholar John Lee, is through the study of local history. My virtual field trip project is a method of engaging students in history, particularly local history, and providing them the skills they need to be technologically proficient in the twenty-first century. In the next section, virtual field trips are explained in more detail.

Virtual Field Trip Notables Many virtual field trips have already been created and can easily be incorporated into school curriculum units. Some have been professionally designed and developed using sophisticated lesson plans and some are selfpublished websites. Following are some virtual field trip notables with examples of what is possible to produce with the technology available today. A virtual field trip might be as simple as going to an existing online site, such as The White House, and taking a virtual tour ( Virtual field trips can be used as a travel brochure to prepare students to visit an actual site. These activities, while


not the most sophisticated use of the technology, can help create an informational foundation for students assisting them in identifying questions to ask and enhancing their experience at the actual site. Professionally produced sites, such as the ones described in this section, combine sophisticated technologies and hands-on learning activities. The Gilder Lehrman Collection contains more than 60,000 documents detailing the political and social history of the United States ( The collection includes manuscript letters, diaries, maps, photographs, printed books and pamphlets dating from 1493 through modern times. There are several online exhibits and virtual tours that can be used to travel back through American History. The JASON Project, produced by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, integrates video programming, satellite transmissions, classroom activities and instruction to expose students to real science and exploration ( Through hands-on, inquiry driven learning, JASON inspires teachers to try new teaching techniques and effectively engages students in active learning (JASON). Created in 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard, the discoverer of the Titanic, JASON provides students with opportunities for real-life exploration of the world through the use of cutting-edge technologies. The JASON Project hosts nearly 2 million students each year and is used by over 33,000 teachers worldwide (JASON). Through the JASON experience, students become part of a virtual research community,


accompanying real researchers in real time as they explore everything from oceans to rainforests to Polar regions and volcanoes. LEARNZ, Linking Education and Antarctic Research in New Zealand, is an online virtual field trip program designed for New Zealand students ( LEARNZ takes students on adventures alongside researchers engaging them in science experiments. Originally LEARNZ just provided the field trip experience; however, their adventures now include supporting documentation available one month before the actual excursion, interactive online activities and quizzes, and a diary to be completed each day that includes a record of the day’s events with still pictures. Enrolled “travelers” automatically receive an email with a summary of the day’s events as soon as the diary is posted to the Web. Ball State University has partnered with The Smithsonian Institute, Cooperstown National Baseball Hall of Fame, the United States Congress, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to provide sophisticated virtual field trips that include live broadcasts, web-based simulations, and online gaming for student engagement ( Ball State’s EFTs include Interactive web-based question and answer sessions with experts before, during and after each live broadcast so students and teachers can have their questions answered. Ball State uses five different venues for content delivery: (1) prebroadcast curriculum materials for classroom teachers located on the EFT website; (2) learning materials for students; (3) synchronous question and


answer sessions by experts during each broadcast; (4) live broadcasts delivered by public broadcasting, satellite, or streaming video; (5) archival copies of each broadcast and of prior broadcasts for asynchronous viewing. The synchronous (same-time) live broadcast is what makes their trips unique and is what they consider to be a fundamental component of an EFT experience. Students get excited about the possibility of being “on the air” asking a question; seeing other students in real-time; and having questions answered immediately through interactive expert exchange (experiments, demonstrations, simulations) (Cassady & Mullen, 2006).

Virtual Field Trips: Self-Directed Learning Tool Why should teachers use virtual field trips? Virtual field trips are an inexpensive way to integrate hands-on technology into the curricula while maintaining student interest in the unit being studied. They offer a studentcentered approach to instruction and diversify the teaching methods of content area instruction. Virtual instruction allows students to view people and places in a visually stimulating environment, which cannot be done through mere textbook reading. (Lacina, 2004) Students bring back facts and information uncovered through their experience on their virtual adventure. Teachers can use virtual field trips not only to meet national technology standards but to combine content standards with technology standards fostering learning that results in interdisciplinary knowledge. Kawka and Burgess have identified several reasons for taking students on virtual field trips: to help students gain understanding of a subject through first-hand experiences; to provide students with real-world


problem-solving activities; to meet national, state, or local curricular requirements; to gain access to places or people not normally accessible to the class; to reward the class; and to save money (2001, p. 6). Virtual field trips are a form of project-based learning, where instruction and learning occur within the context of a challenging project. Just as workers encounter complicated tasks in the workplace, students are presented with questions and problems that act as catalysts for learning. Projects usually extend over a few classes or weeks to help students acquire new, necessary knowledge and skill sets (Thomas, 2000). In other words, instead of working on a small project for a week, projects build upon each other and can carry over from semester to semester as they facilitate the learning. Long-term projects make it possible to personalize learning, achieve more active involvement by students in shaping their education, and enable more authentic assessment of what students have actually learned. In history and social studies, the topic of my thesis, project-based learning (PBL) engages students as historians or social scientists and stimulates them to want to know more about the events and people they investigate. Technology tools have become so user-friendly that teachers can easily create their own virtual field trips. Teachers, on their own or with their students, can visit a site and use digital cameras or video to capture information. Maps and reference materials can be added to maximize the actual site study. Lesson planning is part of the process of making pedagogical, intellectual, and ideological choices. In constructivist classrooms, students get involved in making


these decisions, choosing interesting projects or places that they would like to visit. Scheffler and Logan identified technology-related competencies that were important for teachers, and making technology an integral part of curriculum and instruction was of the greatest importance (1999). This suggests that teachers are moving beyond administrative uses of technology to instructional uses that enhance teaching and student learning. Teachers interviewed by Scheffler and Logan identified the knowledge and skills to make technology a seamless part of the curriculum as one of the most important competencies needed by teachers’ today. Scheffler and Logan’s study revealed that there is an increasing need for teachers to obtain more skills and knowledge about the use of technologyenhanced instruction. My virtual field trip project is a way that they can learn these critical skills. Digital resource development and virtual field trip design can be approached many different ways. To engage digitally literate students, Web sites must offer a lot of interactivity and have different activities for students to choose. Tuthill and Klemm noted the many advantages of taking a virtual field trip, both pre-made and teacher-created.


Table 5: Advantages of taking Virtual Field Trips Increased learner-centeredness The student can control the pace of the presentation and re-visit the site at a time which is convenient for them. Appropriate scheduling The trip can be taken at an appropriate time, after the prerequisite material has been studied. Use of Multiple Modes of Learning VFTs can be designed so that audio, video, and text can appeal to different learning styles. Teaching Flexibility and Efficiency Teachers can spend more class time covering concepts while students access the VFT on their own time. Geographic Independence Students can “visit” sites anywhere in the world without leaving home. Temporal Independence Students can access a virtual trip anytime it is convenient and they can visit over and over again. Safety and Practicality Actual field trip sites may be unsafe or inaccessible due to bad weather. VFTs offer a safe, practical way to visit sites.


Control of Content

Teacher-created VFTs can be created to fit curriculum needs and the reading level of students. Local sites can be featured to incorporate communitybased education and local history.

Improvements and Alterations are Easy Revisions or updates to teachercreated sites are easy on the Web. Reusability Once a VFT is made, it can be upgraded and improved and reused from year to year. (Tuthill and Klemm, 2002, p.462)

Virtual field trips can include a range of instructional approaches and technologies. As Cassady and Mullen noted, there needs to be a shift from discussions about hardware and software to the inherent desire of children to explore the world (2006).

Conclusion Digital media have transformed the way that students write about the past and participate in collective knowledge production. As discussed in Chapter 3, the Web and technology are evolving rapidly and "older" forms of online collaboration are being replaced by newer technology. Students, in the very recent past, had websites of their own and used discussion forums and chatrooms to exchange information, now they link their lives—personal and


academic—through weblogs, "live journals," tagging, and other forms of digital communities. A virtual field trip allows a teacher to bring the sights and sounds of a distant place into the classroom through a computer. Subjects learned in school take on new meaning when students can connect them to people and experiences outside of the classroom. Such exposure could help students make future decisions based on a real understanding of the world around them. Virtual trips are an easy and exciting way of incorporating local places of interest and historical prominence. VFTs offer valuable tools that can augment instruction and enrich actual field trips. Virtual field trips increase learnercenteredness, meaning students have more control over the pace of the material presented. Teachers can spend more class time covering concepts while students access the VFT on their own time (Belanger & Jordan, 2000, Stainfield, Fisher, Ford, & Solem. 2000).



Florida’s World War II History The modernization of Florida can be traced back to the rapid developments and technological advances which occurred during the Second World War. More than 250,000 Floridians joined the United States Armed Forces. The warm climate and flat land made Florida a perfect place to train pilots and other military personnel. Many military bases were established in Florida. By 1943 approximately 172 military installations of varying sizes were in existence in Florida, compared to only eight in 1940 (Coles, 2002). Florida was considered to be a strategic location vital for national defense. Planes and ships from Florida's military bases helped protect the sea lanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. The state was viewed as an important first line of defense for the southern United States, the Caribbean Basin, and the Panama Canal. In 1941, Morrison Field in West Palm Beach became an official military airbase and a year later, the Army opened another Air Field Boca Raton. More than 6,000 planes and over 45,000 servicemen passed through on their way to Africa and Europe. Later in the war, soldiers and supplies flew from Morrison


Field to the Pacific Ocean. The Army Air Corps also took over the Boca Raton Resort and turned it into housing for military trainees. Many hotels in the state were used for military housing and hospitals. The Boca Raton Army Air Field (BRAAF), a vital asset during the war, was built in 1942, and is the focus of the next section.

The Boca Raton Army Air Field (BRAAF) The Boca Raton Army Air Field, built in 1942, consisted of almost 800 buildings and a triangular-shaped runway that was the centerpiece of the base. The base covered more than 5,800 acres and played a significant role in World War II teaching radar operation to thousands of airmen, including those who were aboard the Enola Gay on its bombing run to Hiroshima in 1945. Boca Raton had a population of approximately 400 people in 1941; however, the United States' entry into World War II caused that to change. The Army Air Force needed year-round training bases, and Boca Raton already had an airport. The airport was selected as the Army Air Force's main base for radar training. By December 1942, the Army had acquired 5,820 acres of land, including most of the Yamato Colony and the Boca Raton Club. The Boca Raton Army Air Field served as a base for air-sea patrol scouting enemy submarines and a weigh station for planes being ferried to Europe by the Southern AmericanAfrican route, but its primary mission was radar training facility. As the Army Air Force’s only radar training station during World War II, the Boca Raton base grew to troop strength of more than 16,000. Over nine million dollars was spent constructing the facility and an average of 1,200 civilians


worked on the base. By 1945, one hundred planes were regularly assigned to the field. Although most were medium bombers like the B-17, in the last year of the war the B-29 was brought in for training procedures in radar bombing. B-29’s carried the atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan. In 1942, the war was raging in Atlantic and the Pacific and military priorities included construction of new bases to house and train the many young men entering the service. The Germans initiated Operation Drumbeat, using UBoats to torpedo vessels traveling the East Coast shipping lanes of the United States (Ling, 2005, p.40). Over the first seven months of 1942, the Germans sank nearly 400 vessels, including more than thirty-five ships off Florida. The most dramatic sinking in Florida waters took place the night of April 10, 1942, when U-123 torpedoed the tanker Gulfamerica off Jacksonville Beach. The resulting fiery explosion was clearly seen onshore and curious crowds gathered to view the ship's destruction and looked on in shock as the German submarine surfaced and fired its deck gun at the tanker. In response to the Gulfamerica sinking, in which nineteen crew members were lost, Governor Holland ordered a blackout of lights that could be seen at sea and might silhouette passing ships. In May of 1942, the secretary of war requested, and a judge authorized, Florida to acquire 5820 acres in Boca Raton, Florida by eminent domain. The land was bound by Dixie Highway on the East, the Seaboard Railroad on the west, Palmetto Park Road on the south and Fifty-first Street on the North. The Boca Raton Radar School, a microfilm series documenting the history of the Boca Raton Army Air Field, reported that there were over 100 people affected by


the acquisition of land. A Negro community of 40 families’ occupied houses and shanties that were built over a period of 15 years on land not legally owned. These black families did not own the land they lived on; they were technically “squatters.” The government took the land and moved the people to Delray Beach. The area became known as New Town until the last house was razed in 2002. The Boca Raton Club was commissioned by the government to serve as the temporary home for thousands of troops, officers, and cadets. The Boca Raton Army Air Field was created to train radar operators and technicians but schools were also established in high and low altitude bombing, radar navigation, airplane identification, attack interception, and survival training. (Ling, 2005, p. 60) Troops arrived in Boca Raton from all over the country by train. Military personnel disembarked at the Florida East Coast Seaboard depot in Boca Raton, the Seaboard depot west of the base or at depots in Delray Beach or Pompano Beach. BRAAF was the Army Air Corps’ only airborne radar-training facility during the war. The facility and training done there were considered top-secret. Radar training was held in H-shaped buildings scattered throughout the base. Everything was secretive. Security was so tight on the base that trainees had to provide passes to go from one building to another. Instruction lasted from five weeks to up to fifteen weeks. Nothing learned during training classes could be written on paper, in fact, being caught with paper and pencil or trying to take notes could result in a court-marital. Once troops finished classroom training,


they transferred to flying classrooms where they put their ground training into practice. B-17 bombers fitted as airborne-radar classrooms were flown over the Atlantic from the Boca Air Field. Many of the men also trained as mechanics and became part of the ground crew. Their job was to install and repair radar and communications equipment in the airplanes. The city of Boca Raton experienced significant population growth as a result of the Army Air Field. The Old Floresta section of Boca Raton was used for housing of officers and two Federal Public Housing Authority Projects were built to house military families. Palmetto Park, a housing project for whites, was a series of attached units located across the base on the south side of West Palmetto Park Road. The other housing authority project was known as Dixie Plaza. Located across from Squadron F, it was a series of small individual homes used to house black families. Civilians were vital to the overall operation of the base and served in practically every office and department. Averaging 1200 and peaking at 1500, most worked in the academic, sub-depot, quartermaster, and post engineering departments. In April of 1945, the Allies overran German troops from the west while Russian forces advanced from the east and the last bombs were dropped on the Skoda armament works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. The Army Air Force began missions of mercy dropping food and relief in northern Italy and the Netherlands and evacuated prisoners of war. In May of 1945, the Germans surrendered. The Boca Raton Army Air Field suffered significant hurricane damage in September of 1947 and the base was flooded. It eventually closed at the end of 1947. The


city of Boca Raton bought most of the air base land and contracted with the Federal Government to operate a civilian airport. In 1955, the Florida Legislature authorized creation of a new public university, Florida Atlantic University ( An agreement between the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the state of Florida in March of 1960 required the state to establish a university by 1969 on one thousand acres of the former Boca Air Field. In October of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson dedicated FAU and accepted the first honorary doctorate awarded by the University.



Advancements in digital technology and digital tools have led to the development of more authentic and engaging learning environments. Digital tools provide flexibility for students in accessing information, especially the non-linear nature of the World Wide Web. Students need opportunities to be more involved in designing their own learning environments. Given the opportunity to construct their own knowledge, learners can build a context for learning that is meaningful to themselves and to others around them. Creating a digital history site, such as a virtual field trip, creates a “learning laboratory” (Calandra & Lee, 2005, p.327) in which students and teachers can practice digital history, constructivist learning, and digital media design.

Planning Technology-Infused Lessons As an instructor of educational technology, I encourage my students to use the TIP (Technology Integration Planning) Model when planning lessons involving technology. This model is designed to help teachers, especially those new to technology, plan for effective classroom uses of technology. The model consists of five phases as depicted in the Table 2.


Table 5 Technology Integration Planning Model Phase 1: Relative advantage Deciding on instructional problems and if a technology-based solution would be better than other ways of addressing the problems. Phase 2: Objectives and assessments Stating desired outcomes in terms of better student achievement, attitudes, and performance; matching appropriate assessment strategies to each outcome. Phase 3: Integration strategies Deciding on teaching activities that incorporate technology resources to enhance student learning. Phase 4: Instructional environment Collecting achievement data and other information to determine if the activities were successful in meeting outcomes, and what could be improved next time. Phase 5: Evaluation and revision Collecting achievement data to determine if the activities were successful in meeting outcomes, and what could be improved next time.


Every teacher has lessons that could be enhanced or refreshed using technology. Technology integration strategies offer many benefits to teachers as they look for new instructional approaches. However, time and effort are required to plan and execute technology-based methods. Teachers have to consider the benefits of using technology and decide if the benefits are worthwhile. Everett Rogers (2004) refers to this decision as seeing the “relative advantage” of using a new method. Technology-based strategies offer many unique benefits to teachers as they look for instructional solutions to problems that students may face with abstract concepts, motivation and time consuming tasks. Teachers have to consider the benefits of using such methods compared to their current ones and decide if the benefits are worth the additional effort and cost. The first step in the TIP model refers to this decision as "relative advantage".

Virtual Field Trip Planning Virtual field trips require planning and preparation, active participation, and follow-up learning activities. The following table summarizes the steps involved in planning and preparing a virtual field trip.


Table 6 Virtual field trip planning steps Step 1 Identify the curriculum standards by referring to state standards and those established by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). Chapter 2 discussed the ten themes established for teaching social studies that have been adopted as the core of the national social studies curriculum. Step 2 Prepare for the trip by developing activities that will challenge students. Develop a guide for the trip that includes explanations, background information, and questions or steps to follow. Students should not be wandering aimlessly through the trip. Step 3 Step 4 Provide students information on the topic before the trip. Decide how students will participate in the virtual trip, as individuals, in groups, or as a whole class.

Any worthwhile instructional activity requires planning. Virtual field trip locations should be locations that others might not have considered; someplace one person considers ordinary might be considered exceptional by people living in another part of the world. Often there's not a virtual field trip on a topic of interest and an opportunity presents itself to create a new virtual field trip. A class can take a live field trip and record the event on web pages. What follows are examples of a virtual tour, virtual adventures, and a virtual school tour. Teachers can work with a local historic site to develop a virtual tour or use archived resources to simulate an exploration. Virtual adventures can be created using


photographs, recordings, and other digitized historical artifacts. A virtual tour of a school could be a great resource for the local community or parents of students. The Utah Education Network has an online tool that can be used to develop and publish a virtual field trip ( Tramline is a website that can also be used to develop virtual field trips. Their “TourMaker” software is set up to tell a story of sorts, to guide one through a sequence of Web pages on any given topic. For each visited Web page, a Narration frame is provided, a place in which custom information can be written about the visited Web page, or students can be instructed to complete a task based on the information on the visited page. While not specifically recommending or suggesting these tools be utilized, they are worthwhile resources worth noting. In the next section, I develop my virtual field trip plan. In 2003, The History Channel launched the Save Our History initiative by offering funding and resources for schools to collaborate with local historians to preserve the history and heritage of their communities. Students, teachers, and preservationists can find lesson plans, hands-on activities, articles, and links to preservation organizations online. The Educator’s Manual, available for free online, offers tools teachers can use to incorporate local history resources into history and social studies lessons ( The lessons offered on this site were developed in conjunction with educators


from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to ensure their adherence to nationally developed standards. The Apple Learning Interchange (ALI), a social network for educators, also offers an abundance of online resources including lesson ideas and in-depth curriculum units. Educators have easy access to media and ideas for classroom activities. There are several lesson plans for local history projects in several different disciplines that are excellent examples of digital history projects that could be incorporated into, or serve as the model for, a virtual field trip. “Digital Field Trip Report” can be personalized for use in any classroom. Using audio, images, and devices such as an iPod, students create a series of guided tours through a museum, creating a virtual museum for others to access. Student reflections provide a way for students unable to attend the field trip to see what resources are available in the community and make connections to their own studies. The tours also help teachers prepare subsequent classes for trips to the same museum. This project is ideal when used in conjunction with a class field trip designed to support what is being taught in class. On the field trip, students can use an iPod with a voice recorder to capture thoughts and reflections and also take photos with a digital camera. Upon returning to school, they combine the audio and photos to create a guided tour with software such as iMovie to share with others (


Maps and Geo-caching Geo-caching has become a powerful tool in enhancing student understanding of geography, scientific inquiry, math concepts, physical education, problem solving, and language arts. Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), teachers can combine history lessons with lessons on how to use mapping software, primary source documents, interviews with experts, newspaper archives, and local historical societies. “High Tech Treasure Hunt” is a lesson plan that is available from the Apple Learning Interchange. Students discover their heritage while investigating the history of a local city or town. Using a combination of technologies, such as global positioning units, iPods, and digital cameras, students engage in learning activities that lead to finding hidden treasures, known as caches. Caches are usually in a small, waterproof container or a weatherproof box and contain a logbook to record finders' visits and a few trinkets. A geocache could be hidden just about anywhere - a park, under a rock off a hiking trail. Geocaching is an outdoor adventure game, which uses a global position system, displaying latitude and longitude coordinates to find a hidden cache. In “High Tech Treasure Hunt,” ( students became familiar with geographical coordinates, entering waypoints into gps units, and navigating around using the compass. They created walking sticks for reasons you can hear in their podcast. They researched information on local history and explored geocaching and safety tips. To enhance the geocaching experience,


students used iPods to digitally journal historical information found on landmarks around this historical local town. This is an excellent lesson to help develop the skills needed to become a student infotective! Mapping projects are being undertaken by schools, particularly since the introduction of Google maps as a fast and easy way to display locations. In many areas, you even can see a satellite photo that zooms in on your own rooftop! Using Google maps (, students can compare the landscape of their community today with maps from the past. Maps help students understand location, navigation, information and exploration.

Oral Histories Gathering oral history is a fun way for students to learn about the past. Family, friends, community members, and veterans have lived through important events in history and can share their memories, perspectives and firsthand accounts of the events of their time. Recording interviews and gathering oral histories can easily be done today with a digital recorder. Oral history projects such as “The Rocky Gap High School Oral History and Technology Project,” ( exemplify how students can become engaged in the history, culture and technology of a place. An excellent oral history project, and an ideal model for my project, was done in 2004 by students at Millville Memorial High School in Millville, New Jersey. Students interviewed pilots and crewmen who served at the Millville Army Air Field during World War II. Using the material gathered in their interviews, the students created “Local Hero Trading Cards” featuring photos of


World War II Veterans, their hometown, rank, years served during the war, a brief description of service and also a current picture. The students also edited their oral histories and sent them for inclusion in the U.S. Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project. “Merging Past and Present,” is a way for students to gain perspective on the history of where they live while contributing to the community's historical record. After researching local history using books, online resources, and by visiting the local historical society or public library, students select areas to learn more about and photograph. Students use AppleWorks to create a storyboard for their iMovie project, including narration for their movie, titles, transitions, and other elements. Each project should include information about when the structure or area was built, the history behind it, and what its purpose is today. Students scan or download existing photos of their location or structure. They visit the location and take new photographs using a digital camera, trying to mimic the perspective of the past photos as much as possible. They import all photos into one iPhoto album. Students then create their iMovie project by importing the old and new images, creating transitions between them, and recording narration about their findings. When the projects are done, the class watches all of the projects and discusses the impact of change in their community. The iMovie projects are exported to QuickTime and burned on CDs or saved in iDVD and burned on DVDs. The CDs or DVDs can be presented to the school library, local historical society, or public library. In subsequent years, the movies can be used


by history classes who can continue adding to this digital historical record ( As I discussed in Chapter 2, place-based education is an excellent method of blending tradition with technology. Technology is the hook to bring students to their community to capture the stories of the local citizens. The entire process; gathering the stories, listening to them, editing them, and publishing a digital product, gives students a sense of satisfaction and connects them to their history which, in turn, helps shape their identity.

Virtual BRAAF A Virtual Field Trip can incorporate many digital elements, and can even be developed in pieces. There are many projects that could be developed and included as part of a larger digital history project. An interactive timeline could highlight important dates in the history of the Army Air Field and the city of Boca Raton. Oral histories can be gathered from World War II veterans who served on the base. Many oral histories have already been gathered by BRAAF veterans that could be made publicly available through this virtual site. Maps from then and now can be compared and contrasted to highlight geographical changes that occurred when the base was built. The virtual field trip can be a central gathering place for all of the information collected, a portal or jumping off point. Something as simple as a diagram could connect all of the pieces that could be linked together in a digital format.


Figure 3 Virtual BRAAF Components

There are many types of virtual field trips. Fact finding missions involve students visiting a variety of online resources to learn about a concept or topic. On an awareness exploration, students explore a land, culture, or career to gain a basic understanding or as an introduction to a topic. Many lesson-planning tools have been developed to assist teachers in creating lessons that adhere to state and national standards. There is no best lesson-planning tool, but there are elements that should be included in every lesson. When planning a lesson,


teachers should ask themselves three basic questions: Where are your students going? How are they going to get there? How will you know when they've arrived? Goals determine purpose, aim, and rationale for what you and your students will engage in during class time. Goals are typically written as broad educational or unit goals adhering to State or National curriculum standards. Objectives are drawn from the broader aims of the unit plan but are achieved over a well defined time period. Table 7 is a sample lesson plan for a virtual field trip taking into account the Florida Sunshine State Standards as well as National History Standards and National Technology Standards. Table 7 Virtual BRAAF Lesson Plan Goal: To transport students back in time to experience life on the Boca Raton Army Air Field. When students make real-world connections between themselves and their community, they can participate in authentic activities based on issues that matter to them personally. In this activity, students become active archivists, gathering photos, artifacts, and stories that highlight the history of Boca Raton, specifically, the Boca Raton Army Air Field. Their results will be published online as a virtual field trip. NCSS Curriculum Standards: • • • Culture Time, Continuity, and Change People, Places, and Environments


Power, Authority, and Governance

Florida State Standards: • The student understands historical chronology and the historical perspective. (SS.A.1.3) • The student understands U.S. history from 1880 to the present day. (SS.A.5.3) • • The student understands the history of Florida and its people. (SS.A.6.3) The student understands the interactions of people and the physical environment. (SS.B.2.3) • The student understands the world in spatial terms.

Technology Standards: • Basic operations and concepts. Students are proficient in the use of technology. • Technology productivity tools – Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. • Technology communication tools – Students use technology to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. • Technology research tools – Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.


Objectives: • • • Critically analyze objects from the past. Use analysis to develop an understanding of the past is relevant today. Communicate their ideas through an online presentation in the form of a virtual museum. • • Acquire historical knowledge about their local community. Compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned. • Conduct historical research using primary and secondary sources.

Students will: • • Discover connections between the community and themselves. Conduct research using yearbooks, newsletters, club scrapbooks, school newspapers, etc. • • • • Interview community members. Identify applicable artifacts. Organize collected artifacts. Create a virtual field trip or virtual exhibit.

Steps for completing the project: •

Discuss the process of conducting research within the community. Have students brainstorm a list of community research guidelines before they visit libraries and museums or make contact with individuals.

Conduct research using the Internet, archived newspapers, historical


archives, and community resources. • • Interview members of the community and local veterans. Identify artifacts that will be included in the final project. Make sure they are in a format that can be used online. • • Organize collected artifacts. Create a fun and interesting field trip that brings the class research together. • • Describe your plan for organizing and displaying artifacts. What work can be done in class? Out of class?

Instructions for students: • • • • •

What is the topic of the virtual field trip? What do you already know about your topic? What specific information do you want to learn about the topic? List questions you have about your topic. List the preliminary research sources you anticipate using.

Any of the lessons highlighted in the beginning of this chapter could easily be adapted into a virtual field trip project. Learning about World War II and the men and women who served at the Boca Raton Army Air Field is an effective way for students to learn about important historical events while using technology


to enrich the process. It is an opportunity for students to gain a greater interest and respect in the experience of their elders.

Conclusion There are many advantages to taking, designing, and developing virtual field trips, however, the two reasons I chose to use a virtual field trip as a method of engaging students in history and social studies are: (1) History is more engaging when presented in an interactive, multimedia experience; and (2) Virtual field trips can be used to build relationships between generations and cultures. The ways students are taught must engage them in a journey of selfdiscovery in order for them to become self-directed, lifelong learners. This study includes a virtual field trip to the Boca Raton Army Air Field, an important part of the history of Boca Raton. Developing and participating in this virtual adventure is an excellent way for students to connect to Veterans who served at BRAAF during the War and also provide them with a better understanding of the history of their community. Teaching today’s “digital natives” requires that we engage them in the learning process. Innovative educators, such as Marc Prensky, urge teachers to rethink their methodology and their content. Kimber and Wyatt-Smith encourage teachers to incorporate new technologies into their teaching and shift the focus from tools to “teacher agency” (2006). There is not one specific type of project that determines whether a lesson is successful or not, teachers today must create a classroom environment and develop a pedagogy that opens a space for critical and creative engagement with learning. It is clear that now, more than


ever, we must embrace new technologies in our teaching repertoires. As shown in the various examples presented in this study, and the proposed Boca Raton Army Air Field virtual field trip, creating a space for engagement in the classroom is a way to cross disciplinary boundaries and engage students in real experiences that allow them to “be” historians and social scientists instead of just reading about them.



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