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What is a Virtual Field Trip?
A virtual field trip is the path learners will follow online to learn about a new place through pre-selected videos and websites. It provides the experience a field trip would provide without leaving the computer. Schools without endless field trip and activity funds should be able to take the students wherever they want to go without the hassle of buses and bagged lunches, and still leave them thrilled.
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The best way to incorporate videos for classroom use and virtual field trips is by using them to solidify and enrich what students have already studied in class. Create a checklist of tasks for the students to accomplish that includes finding facts on their subject and answering pre-chosen questions. A scavenger hunt of clues within the virtual field trip or classroom video would also be appropriate and fun. Make sure you accommodate students with special needs during the videos by trying to arrange for either captions for students who might be hearing impaired or subtitles if necessary if the speakers on the video are not clear. For an assessment, have students write a journal entry on the video journey and what they learned from the more interactive experience.
Classroom teachers must be careful when showing videos in class when it comes to copyright laws. Classes can use videos for educational puposes one time without special permission from the copyright holder, but may not make or record any copies to use for other purposes. Movie licenses may be required for any non-educational movie being used as a reward, and in no way is it allowed to raise funds from the viewing of videos in the classroom.
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Meeting Authors and Other Famous Folk
Another way to enjoy a virtual field trip is to use videos in the classroom to meet authors and illustrators. After doing an author study, for example a unit on Marc Brown's "Arthur" series, students can watch an actual video of Marc Brown describing where his ideas came from and even the origin of the Arthur character. Other authors and illustrators included on the www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews site include Bill Martin Jr. of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear," and Megan McDonald's "Judy Moody" series.
As an extension activity, students draft a list of questions they would ask the author if they met him or her in person. Whichever questions do not get answered can then be sent as a class letter or individual letters to the author.
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Science Videos and Virtual Tours
The field of science is wide open to include videos and virtual tours for classroom use and is probably the easiest subject in which to integrate these tools. Many school districts also offer subscriptions to educational video sites for teachers and students to access. Some subscribe to services such as www.powervideos.com which features hundreds of educational videos tied directly to state curriculum standards.
KidZone Virtual Tours is great for agricultural and life science lessons. Kids can learn all about the farm and farm life directly from farmers and see them in action. In "The Story of Milk," Donna Kerr, farmer, tells about first-hand farm life and how delicious farm goods are grown, including the story of milk. See more of these 'green' videos at www.agclassroom.org/kids/tours.htm.
Other sources such as Tramline at www.tramline.com provide excellent prepared Virtual Field Trips, mostly on science including dinosaurs, Antarctica and other subjects as well. Tramline also offers teacher resource field trips. The 'Baking Bread' virtual tour is exceptional because it helps kids develop an understanding of scientific methods and research through watching how bread is made, an easy way to digest complex concepts.
One last great site for videos in the classroom and virtual field trips is Visit City Hall http://www.hud.gov/kids/ch/ch3_frnt3.html in which students can tour places like the library or City Hall. Some students may not have the opportunity to visit these places outside of school, and with school budgets being tight, maybe not there either. But through virtual field trips and videos in the classroom, all students will have equal access to almost anywhere in the world.
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When looking for videos for classroom use, make sure to enlist the help of your school or local librarian. Even if you find that they do not have exactly what you are looking for, they can lead you in the right direction. This also helps them prepare orders and requests to get the materials you desire for future use. As long as you can relate the content of the video to the skills being taught in class and are not in violation of copyright law, you should be able to use videos in the classroom.