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Five Awesome Virtual Field Trips for Students of All Ages

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By Stephen Chupaska

One of the best things living in the digital age is being able to connect across the globe to other students, professionals, and cultural organizations who can show unique perspectives from their corner of the world. Nothing beats the real-life experience of going on actual field trips, but savvy schools and teachers have long been taking advantage of sites like Skype to give students from San Diego to New Zealand the opportunity to interact with people from all the world and to stamp their virtual field trip passports. Here are just a few examples.

  1. In what EdTech Digest called the “the best use of Skype ever,” Virginia Tech geography professor John Boyer, played host to a Skype interview with Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the Burmese resistance leader who was under house arrest for 30 years. Boyer and his students created YouTube videos asking Suu Kyi for an interview, which she granted in on Dec. 5. The interview was broadcast to 3,000 students in an auditorium on campus.
  2. At Penn Elementary School in Iowa City, teacher Andrew Fenstermaker is using Skype to escort his first-grade students on a road trip some retirees dream about taking in RVs -- a tour of  all 50 states. According to an article last month in the Iowa City Press Citizen, Fenstermaker has made contact with 22 classrooms in 17 states. The class’ most recent Skype session took place with a school in New Jersey, where students on both ends practices their English and Spanish skills. And they are not just video meet and greets.  After the sessions, Fenstermaker and his class make Venn diagrams to chart the classes’ similarities and differences.
  3. Scholastic’s Web site is offering teachers the chance to take students on a virtual tour of Museum on Natural History in New York, hosted by children’s book author Brian Selznick. Selznick, who set his latest work, “Wonderstruck” at the museum, offers a guided tour of some of his favorite exhibits, such as a diorama on the North American wolf, a giant mosquito model and the Hall of Meteorites. Predictably, there are also plenty of subtle plugs for Selznick’s book. Be forewarned. Update: Scholastic will offer a free live webcast March 29, 2012 on a new virtual field trip to Ellis Island following the paths of immigrants as they arrived.
  4. In New Zealand in November,  two representatives from the Kiwi education firm Learnz, were planning to climb to the summit of Muller Hut, one of the mountains Sir Edmund Hilary trained on prior to his famous ascent up Mount Everest.  More than 3,000 students from 100 schools around the country watched, some even decided to lay out sleeping bags in “preparation."
  5. According to a recent story in the Redlands Daily Facts, students at Rialto Middle School in Rialto, Calif. used telepresence video boards to watch Chinese dancers perform live  at El Cajon High School in suburban San Diego. A school board member there called the video boards, which were “laid down” by Cisco Systems  “Skype on steroids.”







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