Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take Your Students on a Virtual Field Trip Every Day

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Google Earth. I regularly tell the pre-service and in-service teachers I work with that every teacher at every grade level in every content area could be using Google Earth every day. A couple of years ago, I wrote this post about why you should be doing more with Google Earth.

Over the past couple of weeks, students in my Technology in the Classroom course have been working on plans for creating virtual field trips. In class tomorrow, they'll actually begin to create virtual field trips using the plans they've designed collaboratively. And later this semester, we'll be sharing our virtual field trips with 3rd graders in Brooklyn, NY. Go here to learn more about the partnership between my students and 3rd graders in Chris Casal's classes.

Two weeks ago, I demoed some of my favorite virtual field trip resources for my students and gave them time to explore the resources on my virtual field trip Symbaloo webmix. As they were exploring, one student commented on Africam - a free site with live webcam feeds from different locations in Africa. That got me thinking....

What if you started the day (or class period) with a webcam or other virtual field trip site projected onto your screen / whiteboard / wall? As students get settled and complete routine tasks like turning in assignments and getting materials ready for class, they could observe what's happening in some location around the planet. You could even ask students to keep a log or journal about their observations. When class begins, take 5 minutes of your class time to learn something about the specific location. Use Google Earth to take your class to the place they were just observing or explore other web resources to learn more about the history, culture, or geography of the site.

A quick virtual field trip would be such an engaging way to start the day.... much better than the typical "bell work" or "morning work" I've seen in schools. Taking a virtual field trip every day could help your students develop global and cultural competence in a way that isn't possible with traditional curricular materials. Let's move beyond the four walls of our classrooms and give our students opportunities that only technology will allow.