The modern world has many amenities and tools to offer in the field of education. Prime among them is the use of technology, which may be used to enhance the teaching – learning process manifold. Computers have now become a tool to spread the light of education and enable students to gather knowledge without even stepping out of the school. “Active, appropriate use of technology and media can support and extend traditional materials in valuable ways … both cognitive and social” (NAEYC & The Fred Rogers Center, 2012, p. 7).
One of the ways to supplement the education at schools at the early education stage is the use of field trips. Such trips bring the students face to face with the theoretical knowledge that they have gained in school, making such facts real, tangible, and thus easy to comprehend.
But sadly, such enjoyable as well as educative field trips are on the decline in most schools due to various reasons. One of the reasons for this decline is the budget cuts at schools, aggravated by the increased cost of admission at usual field trip sites like museums and others. Many schools take recourse to asking the parents to pay up for such trips; thus leading to another problem in the education sector; that being that children of affluent parents studying in high end schools get the opportunity to go on field trips, while those in the low income bracket are deprived of them.
Another reason for the decline is the misguided notion that field trips are unnecessary, and are mere distractions in the learning process. I disagree with this completely as from personal experience I have come to realise that such trips have the potential to supplement teaching manifold and leave a long lasting effect on students. Falk & Dierking (1997) stated that fieldtrips promote long-term recall, and children have been noticed to remember their experiences of field trips even years later.
Keeping the benefits of field trips in mind, but being faced by practical problems in implementing them has led to a novel way to get the benefits even while overriding the problems. This is through the method of virtual field trips. Even a few years ago, the only way to expose students to a field trip was to bundle them into a bus and take them to various places. Many a time, this would be difficult due to budgetary cuts, high teacher-student ratio, among others. Now, with technology improving in leaps and bounds and the internet being available at the click of a mouse, the situation has improved, and students go on Virtual Field Trips and learn from them even while sitting at school. This novel method does not face the constraints of travel time and budget; and is fun and informative; taking children on a virtual tour of places that will supplement the knowledge gained inside their classroom. Virtual field trips have the benefits of reducing the logistics like transportation costs, fees, appropriate escorts; etc. that have to be faced to arrange physical field trips (Cooper & Cooper, 1999, 2000).
Virtual field trips have worked wonders in the school that I am currently working for. Apart from the budgetary constraints and difficulty in managing students during out-of-school trips with the teacher student ratio being 35: 1, there was the problem of parent reluctance to send their children to such field trips. Their reluctance would be based on apprehension that such trips may put their child at risk, their child being too young; etc. Thus, to counter the problem, we decided to offer virtual field trip experiences to the students of the school. This was a novel idea in our area as most other schools either took their students on actual field trips if they could afford it, while most schools decided to forego them altogether.
The steps we follow are systematic; beginning with viewing of the content to check for relevance to the theme and the appropriateness of the .content. This is followed by the teacher getting familiar with the selected virtual trip so that he/she may elaborate on it and interact with the students regarding it. Through this novel method, teachers have the ability to enhance their students’ learning beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.
However, such virtual field trips also have to be arranged by the teachers with much care and research. The process involves judging which field trips are appropriate to aid the learning in the classroom, how to incorporate the knowledge offered into an early Childhood Education Program (ECED) Program, and how to extend the knowledge gained after going on such a virtual field trip.
I believe this is a powerful tool in the hands of teachers through which they may lead their students to almost any corner of the world to enhance their knowledge even at this early stage, thus giving them a glimpse of the world of which they are a part, and which has so much to offer them in terms of knowledge and experience.
- Can virtual field trips be really called field trips?
- Is training necessary for teachers to use this tool effectively?
Kirchen, Dennis, J (2011). Making and taking virtual field trips in Pre-K and the primary grades. Retrieved from: https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201111/Kirchen_Virtual_Field_Trips_Online%201111.pdf
Mitchell, Steve., and Wesolik, Faith J (2002). Virtual field trips for early and middle childhood educators establishing a need. Retrieved from: http://gozips.uakron.edu/~steve8/Conference%20Paper.pdf
Preschool Virtual Field Trip – YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlBbJkNyi7g
Watters, Audrey (2015). Virtual field trips and education (Technology) inequalities. Retrieved from: http://hackeducation.com/2015/05/28/virtual-field-trips/