Written by Denise Johnson:
Remember going on field trips when you were in school? Field trips are an excellent way to provide background knowledge and additional contexts for learning academic vocabulary, to enhance curriculum content, and introduce students to art, artifacts, and cultural resources. However, lack of time and money, and in some cases the location of the destination, often make field trips impossible. All of those barriers disappear with virtual field trips (VFTs). In fact, even more possibilities open up. An undersea adventure? Impossible in real time, but very possible in virtual time!
Interactive VFTs offer many benefits for students. According to Zanetis (2010), “the medium itself enchants and engages. To be able to view, hear, and interact with people who are far away is powerful, especially if those people are articulate and experts on the topic the students are studying” (p. 22). If you are a fifth grade teacher and studying cell biology in science, imagine getting the opportunity to interact with a NASA scientist about the changes in the human body caused by living in space. VTFs make such an experience possible.
Google has launched a program called Connected Classroom. Using Google+ Hangouts On Air, students can visit The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Atlanta Zoo, the NASA Space Station, and more. View past recordings and participate in upcoming Connected Classroom VFTs on the Connected Classroom website. For example, watch Connected Classrooms VTF with the Seattle Aquarium.
VTFs provide students with a unique opportunity to see, hear, and interact with people and places around the world.