Join Kevin Kelly for an in-depth discussion in this video Facilitating virtual fieldwork, part of Teaching with Technology.
- Everyone loves a field trip, but they're not always practical. Trying to get an entire class to one location at the same time presents challenges, such as collecting permission slips, arranging transportation, dealing with entrance fees and hoping for good weather. One substitute for an in-person field trip would be a virtual field trip where students visit an interactive website or participate in a video conference. However, you may be able to accomplish more educationally by having students go to different real-world locations and report back virtually.
This turns a field trip into what we'll call virtual fieldwork. You can use virtual fieldwork in a number of ways: extend classroom lessons or lab projects, join citizen science projects, create collaborative collections and share real-world experiences related to course concepts. Virtual fieldwork can extend classroom lessons or lab projects by collecting data for students to analyze, individually or in groups. For example, as part of an international initiative, called the Biotechnology and Estuary Science Teachers Project, high school students collected water samples around the bay estuaries near San Francisco in the United States and Qingdao in China.
Each sample was tagged with GPS coordinates so that students could map the water quality at each site. They were able to study the effects of agricultural runoff, shipping traffic and other factors on organisms living in the water. A simple way to engage students in virtual fieldwork is to join an existing citizen science project. Citizen science projects ask ordinary citizens like you and me to contribute to large-scale science efforts. We participate by collecting specific data and sharing it back with the project.
The Great Sunflower Project out of San Francisco State University asks people of all ages to record how many bees visit flowers in their garden over a period of time, from one to 15 minutes. People who really wanna get involved can grow their own sunflowers to attract pollinators. Thanks to tens of thousands of participants, the project can map bee populations in different parts of the United States and other countries, too. In addition to the data collection side of virtual fieldwork, your students can get practice analyzing data and drawing conclusions.
Another way to incorporate virtual fieldwork is to work as a class to collect information related to a specific concept. Most students' smartphones can capture images, audio or video, as well as identify current locations on a map. For a language class, students might record brief interviews with native speakers answering specific questions. For an English class, students might take pictures of signs or billboards with grammatical errors. Use tools like Flickr for the students to upload their work to a central location.
One last way to assign virtual fieldwork is to ask students to share experiences related to course topics. Michelle Pacansky-Brock, community college teacher extraordinaire, assigns her Art History students to visit one local museum or three gallery opening receptions. Along with the student's blog post, they must include photographs of themselves at each location. In addition to discussing their favorite artworks from the visit, students also must contrast viewing art in person with seeing it in a book or on a computer screen.
Before reviewing the next movie, take a minute to answer the following questions for yourself. How would you use virtual fieldwork to extend classroom lessons or lab projects? What citizen science projects relate to topics from your class? What experiences could the students share to compare to the others? And what data could the students collect together for your class to analyze?
Author Kevin Kelly explains how learning outcomes can be adapted to support technology in the classroom, and guides educators through selecting the appropriate technology for their activity, module, or class. Then he shows how to apply technology in three key areas: finding, creating, and sharing content with students; facilitating classroom activities; and assessing learning inside the classroom or online.
- Including technology in your learning outcomes
- Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
- Finding and creating content and instructional materials
- Enhancing lectures and presentations with technology
- Getting students involved
- Facilitating in-class activities
- Assessing learning
- Teaching effectively online