Virtual field trip

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A virtual field trip is a guided exploration through the Web that organizes a collection of pre-screened, thematically based web pages into a structured online learning experience. (Foley, 2003)

It is an inter-related collection of images, supporting text and/or other media, delivered electronically via the World Wide Web, in a format that can be professionally presented to relate the essence of a visit to a time or place. The virtual experience becomes a unique part of the participants' life experience. (Nix, 1999)

Virtual field trips (VFTs) started appearing around 1995 (LEARNZ), but greatly grew in popularity starting around 2000. The VFT was seen as a way to organize the educational potential of the internet in a coherent, appropriate fashion, particularly for primary and secondary education. A VFT can contain a selection of topic-specific web pages that are strung together into a grade-targeted, organized package. Often these types of VFT are provided by commercial distributors, such as Tramline.

There are a number of different formats used for VFTs and if you do a search on the Web, you will find thousands of trips. Some trips simply consist of a list of links on one web page, while other trips use some type of navigator (or buttons) to move through the tour. Following current pedagogy; in its best implementation, a VFT is a real time guided field trip that is supported by interactive pages on the Web that have been selected by educators and arranged in a "thread" that teachers and students can follow in either lineal or broad searching. The live links with experts on-site in real-time is a key aspect in creating a "real" experience for students. For example with LEARNZ virtual field trips students have asked questions of scientists in Antarctica, mining staff underground and even electrical engineers on the top of wind turbines.

Real-time Virtual field trips involve the use of videoconferencing and audioconferencing technologies to permit students in one location to virtually visit and learn about people or places in another location. The use of Tandberg and other sound stations make this form of communication more accessible in education. H.323 videoconferencing is increasingly used for educational virtual field trips, since this connectivity option eliminates connection costs over the commodity Internet.

A Virtual field trip is a simulated, real-time fireld trip. In the case of interactive video conferencing, "students interact, in a live even, with a remotely located field trip host." Cole, Ray, Zanetis 2004


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