3 best practices for taking students on virtual field trips

Administrator actions to support virtual field trips
By: | Issue: June 2020
May 13, 2020
Even though virtual reality technology can take students to many places around the world that they would otherwise never go, it can take quite some time for schools to implement VR field trips. DA provides best practices so students can enjoy virtual reality field trips.Photo Credit: gettyimages.cm: Klaus Vedfelt

Virtual reality field trips take students to places they have never been before and that schools could never afford to go physically. Students can be learning about spatial inequality in their school or home “classroom” one minute and then suddenly be transported to the densely populated capital of Tokyo to “feel” how people interact there.

Classes studying the oceans and ecosystems can “swim” through the coral reefs without learning how to scuba dive (or getting wet).

Algebra teachers can connect math concepts to real-world experiences that students are learning about in social studies by “taking” students to the Washington Monument to look at the many American flags flapping in the wind and calculate the total number of stars.

While districts have a vast amount of readily available content to choose from, school systems can create their own proprietary content using VR technology. In Tennessee, administrators at Bradley County Schools plan on filming two middle schools using a basic 360-degree camera and then uploading the content onto their platform for future VR field trips. “That way, our elementary students can tour the schools on their devices without having to go there to help with the transition,” says Scott Webb, instructional technology coordinator.

In Massachusetts, the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough plans to pursue this as well in addition to filming historical landmarks in the area. ”We also want students to create those tours themselves,” says Doyle. “Not only do we want students to virtually engage in the tour but to understand what technology tools were used and what process was needed to create the tour.”

While virtual reality takes students (and teachers) to these and many places around the world they would otherwise never go, implementing virtual reality field trips for teaching takes time. But schools can often afford this technology with grants. With most schools now closed due to COVID-19, there are more opportunities for free virtual experiences than ever before (even if they can’t typically involve VR technology other than an iPad or phone).

Here are 3 best practices for taking students on virtual reality field trips:

Where to find the right network support VR field trips

How to get teachers comfortable with VR technology

Can virtual reality experiences be accomplished remotely?

Lower-tech virtual field trips:

31 apps and websites—some of them free—for virtual field trips

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