HOT TOPIC: Virtual Field Trips
Volume 1, Issue 11 - November 14, 2004

"This morning the yard is covered in a blanket of snow, just enough to conceal the grass and leaves beneath it. The cold, gray sky is a perfect complement to the ground. Winter in New England has arrived. Still, not everyone enjoys this weather, and winter often stirs a yearning within us to travel to more temperate climates. Even if we can’t afford to hop on a plane to the Caribbean this morning, we can still escape through a virtual field trip.

Virtual field trips (VFTs) are a natural application of the affordances of the Web, allowing us to surf to web sites that immerse us in the experience of visiting locations around the world. But VFTs are not limited simply to location. Consider the image of Ms. Frizzle flying through human body systems and solar systems. VFTs can take us to places we can not visit in real life! For these reasons, VFTs are an incredible tool for enriching and extending the learning experiences you provide in the classroom. What’s more, they can be used across the curriculum!

Like any instructional experience, VFTs should be carefully planned for; their design is crucial to their success. While anyone can take a tour of an online presentation, a VFT should have specific objectives and a list of tasks for students to complete as they move through the trip. Asking students to collect artifacts as they move along through the trip also helps them to remain focused and on task. These artifacts can be images or pieces of information they can place in a digital scrap book or use in a final project summarizing their VFT experience.

As a good staring point in looking at VFT destinations, check out my VFT page, the OOPS VFT page, and the Snaith Primary page from the UK. You may also wish to take a look at my VFT guidelines at Keep in mind that VFTs are not only a great way to visit the unreachable; they’re also a great way to prime your students before taking them to a real life location! Each year before taking my class to Colonial Williamsburg, we would first take a VFT. When they got off the bus in Williamsburg, they were so ready to see and hear everything they had learned about online, they really kept their tour guides busy!

Here’s your digital dozen on virtual field trips – have fun exploring! ….."


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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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