Virtual Field Trip: On the Right Learning Path?

Virtual Field Trip and Student learning

Today I went on a virtual field trip with some 4th graders. They had gone to the computer lab and had gone through some provided pre-activities. However, they became bored during the virtual field trip. Their complaints:

Too much talking

Fast talking

Too many pictures of people talking and not enough of what they were talking about

Many big words

They did not explain and practice the activity before doing all of it (a dance)

Things weren’t together (all the segments on animals were not together)

They could not call in with a question (the number was not clear on the screen)
The called in questions were all mixed up (not on the info just presented)

There was only one thing (activity) to do during the field trip

The picture was fuzzy (Quicktime and streaming)

It was too long (it was an hour)

Did they learn things? Learn may be too strong of a word. They were exposed to many disjointed ideas. Many segments interested them but most segments were very short (not quite a sound byte but close). The viewing students were never asked to think through a problem (Where do you think the lava would flow? Why do you think only birds were on the island?); they were just bombared with brief details.

We think that next time we’ll use an already done virtual field trip and only use certain segments of it. We can stop the “video” and talk about a concept so that the students understand the concept before going on. We can do an experiment during the field trip. We can help students see how a culture that seems very different is quite similar to them. We’ll engage the students. We’ll structure the experience so students can be on learning path.

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3 Responses to “Virtual Field Trip: On the Right Learning Path?”


  1. 1 inel December 6, 2006 at 1:57 am

    I read this twice to try to figure out who reviewed the virtual field trip before the students experienced it; sounds like it was live and done on the fly. Were the students asked to be guinea-pigs for this experiment? (Makes me wonder whether it was 3 hours wasted by 2 students and 1 teacher, or 21 hours wasted by 20 students and 1 teacher …)

    4th graders would have more fun—and would learn more about the world in an engaging way—if they were enabled to steer themselves through a good virtual tour on Google Earth, rather than being chauffeur driven through a “jungle” of sense impressions on this virtual info-blast.

  2. 2 hgtuttle December 6, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    The teacher had read the description, looked at the standards being presented, and had his students do some but not all pre-activities.He could not predict how the information would be presented. I think the format of the virtual field trip was the problem; they tried to make it so interesting that they did not focus on solid comprehensive content.

    Yes, it was 20 students x 2 teachers x 60 minutes or the equivalent of 2,400 wasted minutes (40 hours). By the way, the 4th graders behaved very well.

    I agree that GoogleEarth, pictures from Flickr, or a volcano movie from Google movies/You Tube(?) or United Streaming/PowerMedia would have been a better educational tool. At least the teacher now knows.

  3. 3 inel December 13, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    As an alternative to a virtual field trip, these examples of school link-ups that happened on December 6th, 2006, are worth evaluating:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/world/2006/generation_next/school_day_24/default.stm

    The children speaking in these link-ups are not concerned with standards or whether they are entertaining: they are so mature and honest in their responses, they put many adults to shame. Kids often learn about other cultures better from kids living in those cultures than from local adults. (Adults just facilitate the link-up. Kids drive the conversations.) Teachers could perhaps read a few of these exchanges with students and follow up with discussions on a variety of topics.

    I worked over a period of two years with elementary and middle school children in California who eagerly supported AIDS orphans in Malawi through simple fund-raising and art projects. We did not have a link-up but we did share photos and Christmas messages. It is amazing what children will do spontaneously for other children when given appropriate support by adults.

    There’s also a bunch of relevant links and resources for schools around the world on the BBC World Class website:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldclass/


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