For the last year and a half, I’ve been more immersed in online education than offline. I started to use Nearpod as a complex tool where I could create complete lessons in my classes. That experience was new to my students and me, but it has opened a new door, or window, to the world outside. The platform’s features allowed me to introduce 360-degree virtual trips in class activities, which increased student engagement in my classes.
This has shown me that there’s an interest in such activities in my lessons, so I started to explore more tools and resources online that could help me offer my students different learning experiences.
Ditch that textbook
While browsing through an enormous pool of virtual field trips available online, I came across a website called Ditch that Textbook. To my surprise, it is a very well-organized website that walks you through eight major virtual field trip categories with multiple examples and direct links to the tools for each:
- National Parks — Yosemite, Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, Dry Tortugas, Gombe Tanzania, National Park Service, California Ports;
- Space — The National Air and Space Museum, The International Space Station, NASA, Access Mars, Hubble Control Center, Kennedy Space Center;
- Famous Landmarks — the Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Everest, the Eiffel Tour, the Great Wall of China;
- Museums — The Museum of the World, The National Museum of Natural History, Boston’s Children Museum;
- Zoos and Aquariums — The Sea Turtle Hospital in Florida, The Elephant Sanctuary, The Busch Gardens, The Georgia Aquarium Cams, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, The National Aquarium;
- Historical Sites — The Liberty Bell, The Lincoln Memorial, the Titanic, The Roman Colosseum, The Easter Island, The American Revolution;
- Planet Earth — The Galapagos Islands, The Great Barrier Reef, The Buck Island Reef, From Phoenix to Shenzhen, The Secret Life of Corals, etc.;
- Theme Parks and Stadiums — Disney Parks and Resorts, The Yankee Stadium, etc.
10 Tools teachers can use to create virtual field trips
Most of the virtual field trips in these categories and many more can be experienced with the following tools:
- Google Earth Voyager – comes equipped with guided tours and quizzes that teach students about locations around the world. Google Earth is a tool in itself when used to explore the globe and discover new places from these days, or days long gone with the help of Historical Imagery. Students can also create their own virtual field trip with the Tour button from their desktops and narrate what they see and record it for the class.
- Instant Google Street View – allows students to see street-level imagery on their desktop or mobile, share and save their favorite locations. Using the interactive panoramas, students can explore the world’s countries, the underwater environment, the interior of famous museums, and remarkable landmarks on Earth.
- Google Maps – is a wonderful tool, especially for Geography classes, but with various possible usages for other subjects. For instance, students can explore the trajectory of a character throughout a novel. It can take students beyond the surface of the Earth to Mars and the Moon. They can understand concepts such as longitude and latitude, learn how to think spatially and create maps of their own.
- Google Arts and Culture – takes your students on virtual tours of thousands of museums and cultural sites. Each artifact available on Arts and Culture can be zoomed in to see unbelievable details. With its features Born on this day, Today in history and Art Selfie, students can explore past events and find out which piece of art they resemble.
- Discovery Education – the virtual field trips offer free, unique experiences for students without leaving the classroom. Each trip is coupled with a guide and activities for students. Using the puzzle maker, teachers can include follow-up activities in class to ensure the retention of the new information.
- National Geographic 360 degree videos – using this YouTube Playlist, students can move the images around while listening for the information provided by experts. These videos take students to different parts of the world to see nature at its finest.
- 360Cities – offers 360-degree panoramas and videos for a vivid visual experience in your classroom. The platform’s features are also used by Nearpod to give students enhanced learning experiences and opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge.
- Nature Conservancy Virtual Field Trips – takes students on a world exploratory journey through locations and natural environments without leaving the classroom. Each virtual field trip contains a video, teacher guide, and activities. From coral reefs to wild biomes, from rainforests to deserts, these trips are specifically designed for a younger audience – students aged 5-18.
- History View VR – brings historical sites and museums to the classroom. It’s intuitive, free, and works on any device. Students can zoom in and out to see objects in detail and manipulate the images to see things from different perspectives. With the use of touchpoints, students can learn more about the location and objects.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – allows students to delve into the history of our planet and witness the transformation it went through. Students can explore exhibitions and collection objects from the ever-expanding digital content. The website offers access to past exhibits and research areas and also self-guided and narrated tours.
All in all
With so many restrictions in our daily lives for the past year and a half, students need a chance to see the world through different lenses. Virtual field trips are a unique and accessible way to provide different learning opportunities in your classroom that go beyond the classic textbooks. Students can explore times long gone, the Earth, space, natural environments, and remarkable landmarks using VR devices or just their mobiles.
These virtual tours put the world at your students’ fingertips and bring it closer for them to explore in detail through panoramic imagery and videos.
Diana has been a teacher for over 10 years. She writes about finding that perfect balance between the same old teaching strategies and the ever changing tools.