How to Use Virtual Field Trips in Your Classroom

Students on iPads during a virtual field trip.

Field trips are a great way to bring learning to life for our students. But what if you don’t have the opportunity or budget to bring a group of students to Rome to see the Colosseum or across the city to hear an author speak about their latest book?

That’s where virtual field trips come into play. Let’s dive into what virtual field trips are, the different ways you can use them, and how they can benefit your students.

What are Virtual Field Trips?

A virtual field trip is anything that connects you to something outside of your classroom. This could mean videoconferencing with experts, “visiting” archaeological sites on an iPad with 360° views, or watching behind the scenes videos of a major event.

These field trips provide an avenue to explore new places and connect with people across the world⏤ all without ever having to leave your classroom. This is especially helpful for rural schools since they can feel isolated from resources.

Connect with Experts

One option for a virtual field trip is to discuss topics with experts in the field. You can use videoconferencing to make that connection. If you have a Distance Learning subscription with Region 13, it automatically comes with a Zoom account. Google Hangouts is another free platform that has a free video call option.

Perhaps your class recently read a book that they loved. Try contacting that author to see if they would carve out 20 minutes of their day to speak with your class. You might be surprised to see how willing many people are to help out. Just be sure to map out specific questions as a class before the meeting to keep the discussion moving along.

Another resource to find experts is Connect2Texas. Connect2Texas is a network of Texas-based educational content providers including museums, authors, and cultural, historical and scientific organizations. With Connect2Texas, you can filter results by subject, grade level, and more to find the content that is just right for your classroom. Note that while many events are free, some do require a fee.

“Visit” New Places

One favorite virtual field trip resource is found at Discovery Education. Through Discovery Education virtual field trips can be attended live or watch them on-demand later. Each no-cost virtual field trip comes with a companion guide packed with standards-aligned, hands-on learning activities!

Don’t see a virtual field trip offering that meets your curricular needs? Contact the Distance/Digital Learning team and we will work together to find or create collaborations customized just for you.

Benefits of Virtual Field Trips

It’s important to expose students to different cultures and experiences outside of their own worldview. This can be challenging for rural schools in particular since even a major city can be hundreds of miles away! But one benefit of virtual field trips is that they can offer a real-time facilitation of discussions with people in other parts of the world. These conversations can help students build empathy for others who are different than them.

In addition, virtual field trips can also engage students in a new way. Students may forget an article about the Johnson Space Center, but they’re less likely to forget doing model rocket experiments, watching interviews with astronauts, and getting a behind the scenes look at the International Space Station.

Finally, perhaps one of the best things about virtual field trips is the fact that they can be free! All you need is a computer with a working microphone and speaker, and you’re ready to go on your field trip. No need to schedule a school bus or wait on waivers from parents.

So power up your computer and see where it takes your students!

Kallie Koumalats is a former elementary and middle school teacher. Currently, she is a Senior Digital Marketing Specialist here at ESC Region 13.

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