Electronic Field Trips: Real World Encounters in Your Classroom

By Garcia, Judith M. | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), December 1992 | Go to article overview

Electronic Field Trips: Real World Encounters in Your Classroom


Garcia, Judith M., T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


It's 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and students in classrooms throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean are going to share an opportunity to learn about one of the major historical events of our century, directly from people who are living it. They will participate in an Electronic Field Trip, which includes a live, interactive teleconference from Berlin, Germany. This Electronic Field Trip will focus on the impact of both the construction and dismantling of the Berlin Wall on the lives of ordinary people.

Although the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the events leading to it, occurred long before these students were born, they are armed with information and a general understanding of this period of history. Their teacher received a packet of printed support materials about four weeks before the program's scheduled air date. The packet contained educator-designed activities that helped students gain insight into the events that would be the focus of the program. Besides social studies projects, there were also German language activities for language students. To further prepare students for the live event, one week before the teleconference, students viewed a pre-taped program featuring a German-born professor of humanities who spoke to them from his own experiences about the events leading to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

As the students await the opening of the program, they seem confident in their knowledge of the topic and have already thought of questions they would like to ask the German guests. During the hour-long teleconference, students meet and question people who barely escaped with their lives from the East into West Berlin. They talk to others who were arrested and had their babies torn from their arms for the "crime" of asking permission to leave. They talk to teenagers like themselves from the East and the West, and they feel the underlying sense of confusion amidst the euphoria at Germany's unification. A noted journalist and even the mayor of Berlin speak to the students about the problems facing all of us in this fast-changing world. The program ends all too quickly. But, never mind. The questions students were not able to call in, or that they think of later, can be posted on a computer bulletin board for two weeks after the live event, and presenters will continue to respond to them during this time.

The world has been changing dramatically; no textbook could possibly keep pace with recent events in Europe and the Soviet Union, let alone help students predict and understand the economic and political repercussions that Westerners would feel. Even mapmakers are hard-pressed to produce new maps showing the latest political borders. Nevertheless, thousands of students are made a part of all of this by participating in an Electronic Field Trip produced by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia.

* Components of a Trip

The Electronic Field Trip is a concept designed by FCPS to use its technical facilities to bring real people and real-world experiences into the schools to strengthen and enrich classroom activities. Local schools receive the programs through the school system's six-channel cable network. Schools in other states, and in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, receive these programs at no cost via satellite dish or through their local cable systems. Apart from the hookup, all a school needs to participate is a television set, a telephone, imaginative teachers and students who are willing to learn.

The Electronic Field Trip consists of four components:

1) First, print materials, designed by teachers and distributed about four weeks before the live event, contain suggested activities, available resources and information, all of which strengthen the students' understanding of the program's topic.

2) The orientation program is a pre-taped broadcast that airs one week prior to the live event and is designed to supplement the print material in preparing students for the live event. …

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