The Virtual Field Trip

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Much of the  information for this post was adapted from the blog, Free Technology for Teachers.

You might not be able to take your students to all the places they learn about in your classroom, but thanks to the web you can take them on virtual field trips.  Take interactive tours of  the Grand Canyon, Van Gogh Museum, and Sistine Chapel right from your computer!

Practically every week more STREET VIEW imagery is added to Google Maps. Through Street View students can take tours inside the White House, visit research stations in Antarctica, virtually hike the Grand Canyon, or go under water to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Some of these places are also featured in the Google World Wonders Project.

AROUNDER gives travelers a vivid sense of what a city has to offer: historical cathedrals and works of art, museums featuring famous artists, local cafes and stores, breathtaking mountain-top views, quiet parks and gardens. Each issue contains a series of interesting panoramas giving you a full immersive view of the cities. Navigation is easy with Google maps of the city and surrounding area.

The GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE includes the Art Project which has partnered with museums in over 40 countries to offer over 40,000 images of works ranging from oil on canvas to sculpture and furniture. The World Wonders Project includes street views and 3D of sites including Stonehenge and Pompeii. Also, explore historic moments and cultural figures through the Archive exhibitions.   An extension of this is Hangout Quest on Google+. Hangout Quest is a game that allows you to go on a virtual scavenger hunt inside the Palace of Versailles. The object of the scavenger hunt is to find artwork and other objects in the palace. If you invite others to your Hangout you can compete against them in a race to find the objects first.   Another cool piece of technology added to Hangout Quest is facial tracking. The facial tracking technology allows you to move around in the Palace of Versailles by just moving your head instead of clicking around with your mouse.

You might not be able to take your students on a field trip to the SMITHSONIAN NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM  but you can take them on a nice virtual tour of the museum. The museum’s virtual tours are 3D panoramas of the rooms of the museum. As you go through each room you can click on small camera icons to get a closer look at various museum artifacts.

HISTORY BUFF is a website that teachers of US History should spend some time exploring. One of the best features of History Buff is a set of fifteen narrated panoramic tours of interesting and significant historic sites. Some of the panoramas you will find in the collection include Davy Crockett’s childhood home, Appomattox Courthouse, Thomas Edison’s birthplace, and Valley Forge.

The VATICAN’S MUSEUM website hosts a fairly detailed virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. The tour allows visitors to zoom in on small areas and details of the interior of the Sistine Chapel. Visitors on the virtual tour can turn 360 degrees to view the interior of the Sistine Chapel from various angles. In addition to the tour of the Sistine Chapel the Vatican Museums host virtual tours of five other places and exhibits. Those tours are the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Raphael’s Rooms, Pinacoteca, and the Ethnological Missionary Museum.

The Virtual JFK MUSEUM Tour takes you to view exhibits and artifacts in the museum. The tour is narrated and in some cases you hear Kennedy’s voice. The tour is divided into major themes and events of Kennedy’s presidency including his campaign, the Peace Corps, and the Space Race. The tour also includes some information about Bobby Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

How about going for an ecology tour at Yosemite or Isle Royal National Park?  Compare at conservation techniques at Mt. Rainier or Mammoth Cave?  Explore each Park through its own website or check out this site

Ever wanted to take a tour of Ancient Greece or try you hand at some Indiana Jones Style archeology?  The METIS PROJECT allows you to tour ancient archeological sites with some 360 degree views.  The tour also includes archeological site maps indicating position and special areas of the dig.

How to Incorporate these into the Class

A mistake that many teachers make is just giving the students a link and telling them to explore.  The tour will be much more engaging and meaningful if you give them a specific task, then let serendipity do the rest.  This could be something as simple as finding and researching a specific artifact or a full-blown scavenger hunt. Or you can have student evaluate and compare tours, the possibilities are endless!

More Resources:

Do you have a favorite tour or virtual field trip?  Tell us about it or share it with your colleagues.

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