You are on page 1of 20

Educators Resource Guide:

Using Virtual Field Trips

to Promote Social Justice

Prepared by: Daniel Bosse, Michelle Furlotte, Gloria Ma, Behnaz Mehregani
(ETEC 532 Group 1 - Final CIP)
This resource guide is created for educators who are interested in learning about and implementing
Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) in their classrooms. It will discuss the role VFTs play in the promotion of social
justice and provision educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. VFTs can allow students to
experience real-world connections that may not have been experienced outside of the classroom. The
importance of digital technology in the promotion of social justice can be viewed from many perspectives.
Digital technologies have the ability to democratize learning through allowing our classrooms to be spaces
of active inquiry.
Table of Contents

Section 1: Theoretical Context


Comparison of VFTS and Traditional Field Trips

The Use of VFTs to Promote Social Justice for Disadvantaged Student Populations

Field Trips and Disadvantaged Students

Technology and Disadvantaged Students

Enhancing Learning and Providing Access

Types of VFTs

To Build or To Buy

Section 2: Implementation of VFTs


Virtual Field Trip Implementation Steps

Tips for Effective VFTs

Section 3: Pros and Cons of VFTs



Section 4: The Future of VFTs



VFT Catalogue

Media Citations

Section 1: Theoretical Context

Figure 1. (Pixabay, 2015)

Virtual field trips: can be experienced in the form of real-time, simulated field trips or pre-set modules.
These can include electronically delivered collection of images, supporting text and even other media
(Virtual Field Trip, 2016). They allow students to leave the classroom without the physical aspects;
they afford opportunities that may have not previously been possible.

Check out this video about VFTs!

Social justice: fair and just relations between the individual and society (Social Justice, 2016). It is
measured through socioeconomic opportunities, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges
(Social Justice, 2016). Equity, as shown in Figure 1, is an important branch of social justice and
implementing VFTs can help to bridge the divide through providing experiences that may have been
previously out of reach for the student populous.

Figure 2. Graphic showing the goals of educational equity. From Azednews, 2015,
Comparison of Virtual and Physical Field Trips
Both Virtual and Physical field trips are a way to expand the learning of student by providing rich
environments that situate learning. Below is a brief comparison of these two types of trips.
(Adapted from Ausburn & Ausburn, 2008; Tuthill & Klemm, 2002; Brooks & Byles, 2000).

Traditional Field Trip Virtual Field Trip

Familiarity Novel Familiar and Comfortable

Accessibility Easy for nearby and affluent schools, Simple if technology is available,
cost prohibitive for distant or costly if technology is not available.
disadvantaged students. Limited to May visit distant or dangerous
safe/approved locations. locations

Structure Open-ended. Promotes Focused and guided. Clear beginning

experimentation, observation, and and end

Sensory Multi-Sensory, fully immersive Focus largely on visual input with

input some auditory

Why Incorporate Virtual field trips?

Provide access to rich learning opportunities How can VFTs be experienced?

Provide previously unavailable learning
opportunities Viewed Only
Support the aims of social justice through Interactive
providing opportunities to a disadvantaged A Combination of Video/Audio Conferencing
student populous

Figure 3. Students at Willard Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey take a virtual field
trip to the Mission 31 team at Aquarius underwater lab in Florida to learn about marine life,
the environment and life as an oceanic explorer. From ABC News Shaw Brown, 2014,
Image labelled for re-use.
The Use of VFTs to Promote Social Justice
Field Trips and Disadvantaged Students

Various studies have shown support the benefits of

field trips for disadvantaged students. Greene, Kisida &
Bowen (2014) found that students from high-poverty
schools and rural areas made more academic gains
including improvement in critical thinking, historical
empathy, and interest in art. In another study, the
value of field trips was much larger for students from
less-advantaged backgrounds (Greene et al., 2014).

Figure 4. Students engaged with technology. From Flickr photo sharing.

Image labelled for re-use.

Students from rural areas and high-poverty

schools, as well as minority students, showed gains
that were two to three times larger than those of the
total sample of students researched (Greene et al.,
2014). Furthermore, research has shown that rural
students living in poverty, like their urban
counterparts, have fewer opportunities to visit the
variety of locations that more fortunate students visit.
Broadening students understanding of the world
through well-planned VFTs that expose them to these
places enhances their vocabularies and their learning
experiences. (Morgan, 2015). Figure 5. Students using technology to understand their
world. From Flickr photo sharing.
a14.jpg. Image labelled for re-use.

Technology and the Disadvantaged Students

Technologies, including VFTs, allow students and educators to

feel they are able to search what they need for teaching and
learning (Watson & Watson, 2011). In fact, technology can
contribute to a successful learner-centered approach, to
instruction and can provide students with learner-control and
instant feedback and helps teachers to shift their roles from
content providers to facilitators who help students take more
ownership in their learning. (Watson & Watson, 2011). These
issues are of particular importance to disadvantaged students
that may have limited access to learning experiences and
materials. In this way, technologies can provide for social justice
through providing opportunities and access.

Figure 6. Students engaged in learning with technology. From Pixabay.
593313_960_720.jpg. Image labelled for re-use.
Enhancing Learning and Providing Access

VFTs can enhance the learning

environment by providing another route
for students to access materials and
information that can supplement
learning happening within the classroom
setting (see figure 7).

In fact, VFTs have been found to

effectively enhance the comprehension
of curricular content (Zanetis, 2010).
Although privileged students visit more
places in their region and may even take
journeys to different countries to learn
aspects of culture, geography, and
history, less fortunate students rarely
experience such trips. For this reason,
research has shown that VFTs are
especially beneficial for disadvantaged
students (Morgan, 2015).

Figure 7. Students engaged in using Google Earth to research the country of Thailand.
Mrs. Burns Classroom Blog, October 2014.
Image labelled for re-use.

Types of VFTs (Adapted from Clark et al., 2002; Tuthill & Klemm, 2002)

Instructor-created VFTs Externally-developed VFTs

created by educators distributed through educational

catered to specific needs of learners in software companies, websites,
particular classrooms museums, and educational institutions
greater connection between learning such as science centers
content may be more skillfully produced with
limited by technology skills of creator even greater links between content and
can be time-consuming to create provincial/state outcomes
time-cost effective for educator
lacks ability to be directly connected to
learners' community and prior learning
To Build or To Buy?

With the technology available to todays

educators, it is now possible to construct ones
own VFTs. Clark et al. (2002) strongly endorse
this approach as it permits strong ties between
the content under study and the ability level
and situation of the students. One example of
a teacher produced VFT is The Cochrane
Ranche VFT (Bosse, 2016) designed by one of
the guides authors around a local ranch site.
This trip is of significance to students in the area and may not be accessible to students on the far side
of the city otherwise.

Commercially-produced VFTs trade connection for polish. While many students may not have a
personal connection to northern ecosystems, Polar Husky provides numerous activities each year related
to northern habitats and living. Live updates are ongoing from those living in locations too remote for
most students to visit.

In producing the Cochrane Ranche VFT a number of things became quickly apparent. To put
together a simple virtual trip with images and text took close to seven hours. The time commitment for
teacher-created VFTs is significant and should be undertaken by a team of teachers and relate to a major
topic. Commercially available, both paid and free, represent significant time savings to the teacher and
should be given serious consideration. The process was also severely slowed by learning new web hosting
platforms that did not support all of the desired functions. Careful selection of tools and the availability
to skill technical support are necessary precursors to the development of a successful teacher-generated
Section 2: Implementation of VFTs
Research has found that educators who are interested in implementing VFTs in their classrooms need
to make several considerations (Klemm & Tuthill, 2003).


- Digital Tools
- IPads/Tablets

Figure 8. IPads and Tablets. Flicker, 2015.

- Computers/Laptops

Figure 9. Laptop. Free Stock Photos.

- Projector/Interactive WhiteBoard

Figure 10. Interactive Whiteboard. Wikipedia.

- Video-Recording devices

Figure 11. Video Recording. Flicker, 2014

- Adequate Internet Access

Virtual Field Trip Implementation Steps (Adapted from Mathis, 2012; Robins, 2008)

1. Curricular Connection: select a VFT that links to curricular learning outcomes.

a. E.g.
b. Tip: A VFT can be multidisciplinary, where it explores a
topic across multiple subject areas.

2. Research: once a curricular direction is chosen, start

Figure 12. Curricular Learning Outcomes. Flickr.
searching online for VFTs related to that topic

a. E.g. If you want students to study Rainforests, students can

explore the plants and animals in rainforests around the world.

b. Explore the VFT on your own as if you are the student

i. What are things you find interesting?
ii. What are aspects you want your students to notice?

Figure 13. Research. Flickr.

3. Lesson: Prior to starting the VFT, make

connections between the virtual destination and
the curricular content.

a. E.g. Teach a lesson to introduce rainforests

and explain why it would be meaningful to
go on a VFT (e.g. cant physically visit one)

Figure 14. Classroom Lesson. Pixabay.
4. Permission: Send students home
with a permission form to

Here is a sample
permission form you
can modify for your

Figure 15. VFT Permission Slip. Retrieved from

5. Plan: make sure you consider ahead of time what you want
students to be doing when they experience the VFT

a. Mode: E.g. Interactive Whiteboard, IPads/tablets,


b. Activity: E.g. engaging in an online scavenger hunt,

looking for interesting facts, completing a Figure 16. Planning. Retrieved from
worksheet, etc.

c. Formation: E.g. individually, pairs, groups of 3, cooperative learning, etc.

d. Technological efficiency: ensure all equipment being used is in functioning order

e. Duration: How long will the VFT experience be? How many classes of exploration?
6. Expectations: as a class, outline some guidelines for
participation in a VFT to ensure students are accountable for
their learning

a. E.g. Making sure each group member can view the

screen adequately, completion of a worksheet or
list of 10 facts learned from experience, clarification
of boundaries for virtual exploration

Figure 17. Group Expectations. Teachers Notebook.

7. Start the VFT: once all expectations have been

laid out, the VFT is ready to begin!

a. Educators role: circulate to ensure students are

on-task and scaffold students understanding as
they go exploring Figure 18. Start. Retrieved from

b. Tip: Remember that a VFT still requires structure and supervision since they will be accessing the
World Wide Web.
Tips for Effective VFTs (Adapted from Klemm & Tuthill, 2003)

1. Purposeful planning
a. Identifying the purpose of the VFT
b. Consideration of assessment: expectations of learning

2. Student-centered learning
a. Active learning opportunities: exploring, observing,
Figure 19. Target. Retrieved from
collaborating, experimenting
b. Involvement of problem/project-based instruction

3. Cooperative learning activities

a. All are included, contribute to learning experience and
scaffold each other's learning

4. Critical thinking questions

a. Role of teacher is to mediate responses in the zone Figure 10. Cooperative Learning. Retrieved from
of proximal development of student learning
b. Educator as scaffold

5. Differentiated instruction
a. Accommodates for individual learners: e.g. gender, cultural diversity, language, special

6. Multiple opportunities for learner success

a. Multiple ways for learning: learning styles/modalities, and multiple intelligences
b. Multiple ways for assessing learning: kinesthetic, digital, oral, written

Figure 11. Multiple Intelligences chart. My Math Folder. Retrieved from
Section 3: Pros and Cons of VFTs
Benefits of VFTS
(Adapted from Tuthill & Klemm (2002); Clark et al. (2002); and Robinson (2009))

For Teachers For Students

Facilitates the development of a collaborative learning

Stimulates four natural learning impulses: inquiry,
construction, collaboration and expression
Provides real-life problem-solving scenarios
Saves time and organization than real world field trips
Communicates much information successfully
Facilitates communication through e-mailing, video-
conferencing, and teaching media Leads to feelings of self-determination and increase motivation
Should be based on relevant information and interaction with using hyperlinks and multimedia formats
real people doing real things Provides opportunities for repeated visitations to the site for
Allows for classrooms to become more collaborative and continued study Designed as inquiry environments, which
constructivist without any additional professional development provide choice, open-ended questions, and links to artifacts,
Encourages and supports the development of a discursive and concepts, and content modules
collaborative environment in which teachers and students take Can be developed through content-related activities that provide
responsibility for the learning that takes place opportunities to engage with the material and to create
Allows for the focus of one specific aspect of the trip at a time interpretation of the content
Illustrates time sensitive issues that could not be viewed on a Facilitates expression by providing open-ended questions and
single actual trip multiple formats in order to incite the formation and the
Allows classes in a different geological location to visit and to expression of personal views
compare with resources in their own area Can express views on line by way of e-mails, discussion boards,
Provides integration of the multiple aspects of the field trip and audio-conferences, or in classrooms
into a number of different curriculum areas Encourages engagement and involvement through interactive
Can be used for assessment purposes activities such as simple problem-solving activities or
Can be shared with colleagues and with parents asynchronous sites such as Web boards
Can meet the objectives of the curriculum Allows for interaction and collaboration via live broadcasts in
Allows for teaching flexibility and efficiency (i.e., Teachers can order to facilitate knowledge acquisition and content
spend more class time covering concepts while students comprehension
access VFTs on their own time.) Allows for greater control of conversations with teachers in audio
Allows for accessing a range of expert experiences (i.e., conferences
professionals in their areas of specialty), dangerous places Increases levels of excitement and immediacy as well as
(e.g., Antarctic), and fragile environments (e.g., Amazon facilitates the feeling of being part of a larger learning community
Cultivates interaction with the website and with classmates
Allows for scheduling computer assignments that can be made
at an appropriate time (i.e., after the prerequisite material has Enables students to be connected, life-long learners
been studied) Excites because of multimedia formats, while moving away from
text-heavy learning resources
Provides for the presentation of a wider variety of experiences
than may be possible on one real world field trip
Allows for commonality of experiences by all students
Can meet the learning needs and the ability levels of the students
Increases learner-centeredness (i.e., Students can control the
pace of the presentation and complete it at a time that is
convenient for them.)
Allows for using multiple modes of learning so that a variety of
stimuli (e.g., audio, video, and text) can appeal to different
learning modes

Figure 12. Wiscount, M.B. (2010). Virtual Field Trips: Professional

Development. Retrieved from
Fox 13: Salt Lake City: High-tech tool helps teachers take students on virtual field trips
Discovery Education regarding virtual field trips: Discovery Education Streaming Plus
Google on virtual field trips: Google Cardboard takes kids on a virtual field trip
Immersive Virtual Field Trips: AstrobioVFT
Limitations of VFTS
(Adapted from Tuthill & Klemm (2002); Clark et al. (2002); and Robinson (2009))

For Teachers For Students

Does not allow students to interact in flexible ways or to promote

Need access to computers, the Internet, and technical the same level of problem-solving skills
assistance Can be used as a babysitter, a passive activity, or a pacifier
Need time, effort, and energy to find appropriate sites and to Can be less beneficial than the real world experience
implement VFT in class Can be easy for students to sidetrack or procrastinate over sites
Requires content expertise and curriculum knowledge beyond the May be used to replace all real world field trips
general range Can degrade learning experience unless integratedinto the class
Requires a lot of time and effort outside of instructional time program
Need to be highly skilled with computers and highly Can reduce novelty value if used too often
knowledgeable with educational technologies Can have little or no follow-up learning experiences
Will have technical glitches May or may not be comfortable using the required hardware or
Will have scheduling issues regarding live audio-broadcasts software
Has no or limited interaction between classmates when they go
Will not be able to control the learning environments outside the
through the VFTs at home
Cannot convey a total experience, using the sense of smell,
Will not be able to assist students as they go through the VFTs
touch, or taste
several times outside the classroom
Requires a high degree of literacy, which can be challenging for
students with learning disabilities or learning disorders
Need to know some hypertext markup language or be able to Need access to computers and the Internet at home
use a Web authoring program
Might have slow computers and/or the Internet at home, making
uploading and downloading of images and/or files difficult
Section 4: The Future of VFTs
The future of VFTs revolves around several themes relevant to its effectiveness on student learning outcomes:

1. Overcoming Accessibility Limitations:

a. Provision of Internet access
b. Technological tools: computers/laptops, IPads/tablets

2. Fostering Students Technology Skills:

a. Browsing the Internet: refreshing, opening a new tab, etc.
b. Digital Literacy: citizenship, online identity, ethics, etc.

3. Professional Development for Educators (Klemm & Tuthill, 2003):

a. Confidence
b. Implementation skills

Figure 23. Future of Technology. Retrieved from

Hopefully you have found this resource package helpful and has bolstered your confidence in
implementing VFTs in your own classrooms. VFTs contribute effective learning experiences for many
learners. Given socioeconomic constraints, VFTs are a suitable alternative to provide disadvantaged
students with the benefits of experiencing physical field trips. More research in support for VFTs are
progressively being released. This package is by no means an extensive manual on VFTs.
VFT Catalogue

Here is a collection of several VFTs you may want to visit in your classrooms:

This VFT provides students with first-hand experience of exploring a

region, such as a rainforest, an ancient civilization or an extreme
environment. It allow students to control by zooming in and out and
changing the panoramic perspectives, the features of a particular
place (e.g. animals, sounds, structures, etc.). In each topic, there are
videos and activities that supplement the exploration.

This website examines the history of the Cochrane Ranche Site, the first cattle ranch
in the Calgary area. Using 360 images, audio recordings, and interpretive images,
students explore this historic location

This website transports students to the Arctic. Each year the

program sends out a research expedition by dogsled. Data are
sent back and incorporated into a virtual field study for K-12

This website showcases virtual field trips offered through the

Smithsonian Museum. These are virtual field trips that are already
developed. It shows the wide range of topics that can be accessed
through virtual field trips and it provides examples of what pre-set
virtual field trips can look like when professionally developed by
leading institutions.
Media Citations

Questioning image [digital image]. Retrieved March 27, 2016 from:

BusinessWire, (2011). Simple, affordable video conferencing for k-12 education enables virtual field
trips that bring science, history, arts to the classroom [Video file]. Retrieved from: Goals of
Education Equity [digital image]. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from:

Shaw Brown, Genevieve (Photographer). (2014). Students at Willard Elementary School in Ridgewood, New
Jersey take a virtual field trip to the Mission 31 team at Aquarius underwater lab in Florida to learn
about marine life, the environment and life as an oceanic explorer. [Photograph], Retrieved March
30, 2016 from:

Smithsonian institution. (2016). Virtual Exhibitions [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Students engaged in learning with technology [photograph]. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from:

Students engaged with technology [photograph]. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from:

Students using technology to understand their world [photograph]. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from:

Wiscount, M.B. (2010). Virtual Field Trips: Professional Development. Retrieved from

Ausburn, F. B., Ausburn, L. J. (2008). Send students anywhere without leaving the classroom: Virtual reality
in CTE. Techniques: Connecting Education and Careers, 83(7), 43-46

Bosse, D. (2016) Cochrane Ranche VFT. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from

Brooks, S., & Byles, B. (2000, November). Virtual Field Trips for the Classroom or Home at Internet 4
Classrooms. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from

Clark, K.F., Hosticka, A., Schriver, & M., Bedell, J. (2002, June). Computer Based Virtual Field Trips. Paper
presented at ED-MEDIA 2002 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia &
Telecommunications, Denver, CO

GoNorth! (2016) 2016: Racing Beringia. Retrieved March 28, 2016, from

Green, J. P., Kisida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). The educational value of field trips. Education Next, 14(1),

Klemm, E. B., & Tuthill, G. (2003). Virtual field trips: Best practices. International Journal of Instructional
Media, 30(2), 177.

Mathis, M. (2012). How to Plan a Virtual Field Trip. Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Morgan, H. (05/04/2015). Childhood education: Focus on technology: Virtual field trips: Going on a journey
to learn without leaving school Association for Childhood Education International.

Robins, M. (2008, October 23). Virtual Fieldtrips in the Elementary School Classroom. Retrieved March 27,
2016, from

Robinson, L. (2009). Virtual Field Trips: The Pros and Cons of an Educational Innovation. Computers in New
Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 21(1). Retrieved from

Social Justice. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 10, 2016 from

Tuthill, G., & Klemm, E. B. (2002). Virtual Field Trips: Alternatives to Actual Field Trips. International
Journal Of Instructional Media, 29(4), 453-468.

Virtual Field Trip. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 10, 2016 from

Watson, S.L., & Watson, W.R. (2011). The Role of Technology and Computer-Based Instruction in a
Disadvantaged Alternative School's Culture of Learning. Computers in the Schools, 28(1), 39-55.

Zanetis, J. (2010). The beginner's guide to interactive virtual field trips. Learning and Leading With
Technology, 37(6), 2023.