Take Your Students on Virtual Field Trips: Exploring Museums of the Arts and Humanities on the Internet

By Risinger, C. Frederick | Social Education, May-June 2005 | Go to article overview

Take Your Students on Virtual Field Trips: Exploring Museums of the Arts and Humanities on the Internet


Risinger, C. Frederick, Social Education


NEARLY 10 YEARS AGO, when I was working with the ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education, we published a book titled The Online Classroom by Eileen Cotton. It quickly became one of the most popular books published by the ERIC system. One chapter of the book focused on "virtual" field Trips--taking advantage of technology to bring historical sites to students rather than taking students to the actual location. It was an innovative idea and many teachers explored Cotton's approach.

Nearly a decade later, technological advances have made virtual trips even more effective. College students in social studies methods classes are frequently assigned to develop virtual field trips as part of their pre-service teacher education. Some classroom teachers even assign their elementary, middle, or high school students to design virtual field trips as part of an individual or group project.

This issue of SOCIAL EDUCATION focuses on the interrelationship of the arts and humanities with social studies education. Events and topics in history and the social studies are frequently portrayed through the visual arts such as with painting, sculpting, and photography, as well as through writing, such as autobiographies, biographies, poetry, and fiction. The websites described below are only a sample of the many great places teachers can take students to see notable art or significant historical sites. Having students locate websites connected to topics currently being studied and designing questions linked to the teacher's instructional goals is an excellent example of constructivist learning.

Virtual field trips can be divided into two broad categories: (1) those that truly simulate a field trip, in which students are guided through a museum or historical site and can even decide to enter one room or walk across a battleground; and (2) those that simply include all the art or other artifacts on a website without using advanced technology that allows viewers to feel as if they are actually walking (or even flying) through a building or around a historical site. This second type of field trip requires more work by the teacher in terms of selecting and arranging paintings, artifacts, or scenery in an instructionally effective way. However, it does provide more flexibility and allows teachers to design a virtual field trip aligned with class goals or local, state, and national standards. Here are some recommended sites.

Virtual Field Trips-Internet4Classrooms

www.internet4classrooms.com/vft.htm#collections

The Internet4Classrooms website should be in the bookmarks/ favorites list of every teacher. It provides hundreds of ideas, websites, and lesson plans to help teachers use the internet effectively. The above link takes you directly to a page titled "Virtual Field Trips." It includes articles describing different types of field trips, guidelines for setting up virtual field trips, a link to a professional development workshop on designing and implementing field trips, and dozens of available field trips in many different subject areas. This is a superb site both for novices and for experienced virtual field trip devotees.

The National Gallery of Art

www.nga.gov

This is an absolutely wonderful site for linking art to history and social studies. The "Online Tours" page provides an array of already-developed virtual tours. Most of the tours are of paintings and photographs by individual artists such as Alexander Calder and Rembrandt or of collections such as "American Impressionists." Several are history/ social studies based; these include the "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya" and "The Shaw Memorial" (a tribute to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, an African American regiment in the Civil War). "The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt" provides an example of a state-of-the-art virtual field trip; it is an absolute masterpiece. …

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