Kids love field trips. They’re out of the classroom, get to travel by bus with lots of kids and not enough adults. What’s not to like?
A few items come to mind: Cost, staffing, potential for disaster. And that’s just off the top of my head. There’s a way to provide the field trip experience with few of the risks, no cost, and a fraction of the time away from what is likely an overstuffed education day:
Virtual Field Trips, via the internet.
There are so many options for real-time webcams, conversations with experts (via Skype and Google Hangout), and the opportunity to visit locations that are otherwise inaccessible that classes have embraced this new approach to seeing the world. This enthusiasm has encouraged a cottage industry that often is far from the exciting, realistic experience teachers want for their students. When I search the internet, it seems any site with a camcorder and multimedia resources calls itself a ‘virtual field trip’. Truthfully, many of them are a waste of time. Sure, I like the pictures and the movies, but I don’t feel like I’m there, immersed in history or geography, with a life-changing experience that will live in my memory for decades to come.
Intellectually, I know there are good ones out there. Finally, after wearing through my favorite virtual shoes, I have a list to recommend. These next nine virtual field trips cover topics from geology to history to the human experience. See what you think:
What’s not to love about a website that starts:
Welcome to Earth! It’s a planet having an iron core, with two-thirds of its surface covered by water. Earth orbits a local star called the Sun, the light of which generates the food supply for all the millions of species of life on earth. The dominant species on Earth is the human being, and you’re one of the six billion of them! Humans have iron in their blood, and their bodies are composed of two-thirds water, just like the planet they live on.
Enjoy your stay, and try to stay calm.
360 Cities contains the Internet’s largest collection of uploaded panoramic images. Let’s pause here for a moment. Panos–those wide pictures that cover up to 180 degrees left and right. Right?
360 Cities does panos differently. Let me show you. Here’s one from my iPad:
Here’s one on 360 Cities:
Free if you visit the link (from my publisher)
Check this link often to see what else has been added as free/discounted
Delivery: PDF format (Digital only)
How to Order: Publisher’s website only
For those of you following the SL Technology Curriculum, you get free weekly videos–for each grade level K-5. Some of you haven’t signed up, but I don’t know who you are (because of the privacy-protecting handles used on Wikispaces).
Here’s one of the videos we did so far this week.
If you teach technology, you want to set the lab up so it’s inviting, non-intimidating, but doesn’t hide from the core ‘geek’ theme. In fact, from day one, exclaim that fact, be proud of your nerd roots. Even if you didn’t start out that way–say, you used to be a first grade teacher and suddenly your Admin in their infinite wisdom, moved you to the tech lab–you became a geek. You morphed into the go-to person for tech problems, computer quirks, crashes, and freezes. Your colleagues assumed you received an upload of data that allowed you to Know the answers to their every techie question. You are on a pedestal, their necks craned upward as they ask you, How do I get the Smartscreen to work? or We need the microphones working for a lesson I’m starting in three minutes. Can you please-please-please fix them?
As you organize your classroom, celebrate your geekiness. Flaunt it for students and colleagues. Play Minecraft. Use every new techie device you can get your hands on. That’s you now–you are sharp, quick-thinking. You tingle when you see an iPad. You wear a flash drive like jewelry. When your students walk into your class, they should start quivering with the excitement of, What new stuff will we experience today?
Here’s a summary of what happens your first day with a class. From this, you’ll figure out how to set up your classroom (no owl themes here. It’s all about bits and bytes):
- Introduce yourself—establish your bona fides. Share your blog, your background, your awards. Give them website addresses or post them to the class internet start page. You want to be easy to find.
- Tour the classroom with students. I walk K-2 around—they like getting out of their seats. Demystify any of the tech tools you will expect them to use—where they can get help in solving problems, what’s on the walls, where’s the printer/scanner/iPads/etc.
Click the ‘Sale’ tab on their website then ‘Freebies’ and see what you find.
Delivery: PDF format (Digital only)
How to Order: Publisher’s website only
Price? FREE or discounted
If you subscribe to my blog, you are eligible for specials on tech ed books and ebooks every month. Here are some of the specials subscribers have received:
- 25 lesson plans for $21
- Discount on tech ed resources like 98 Tech Tips
- Free tech ed resources like 19 Posters
There’s one coming up in two days–be sure to subscribe so you are eligible.
Not only do you get great deals on tech ed resources, you get great free content. If you haven’t visited Ask a Tech Teacher regularly, here’s what you’ve missed:
- What’s a good Technology Acceptable Use Policy?
- 20 Websites to Teach Mouse Skills
- What’s the Classroom of the Future Look Like?
- Best Practices for New Teachers About Tech
- 13 Ways Blogs Teach Common Core
- How to Teach Students to Solve Problems
Questions? Email me at askatechteacher at gmail dot com. I have lots of opinions!
When I first looked at Frolyc I thought it was a lesson planning tool. Somewhat like Khan Academy’s mashable lesson plans or Mentor Mob’s playlist of activities–or Knowmia‘s carefully-crafted materials that can be shared throughout their communities. But the more I dug into it, the more I realized that I was selling Frolyc short. Yes, it can curate content–for me, more easily than these others–in preparation for a flipped classroom lesson or independent student study. I could quickly collect a wide variety of interactive materials and distribute them to students nicely grouped under a theme. Yes, it can deliver low-stakes testing to students while they work, to evaluate learning and determine if appropriate scaffolding has been provided to insure understanding. Teachers have adopted short and quick formative assessments to inform them about whether the lesson they’re teaching is achieving the desired results. Typically, this requires a separate student log-in through an add-on tool like Today’s Meet and Socrative. I liked that Frolyc integrated it into the platform–no need to go elsewhere.
But Frolyc could do more. The lesson plan I created could easily be differentiated to accommodate varied student learning styles by tweaking it before pushing it out to student accounts. When the student logs on to their iPad-based account, they get not a mass-produced lesson, one-size-fits-all, but one that addresses his/her range of knowledge, needs, and learning style. With a nominal amount of work on the teacher’s part, no two lesson plans need be the same, just as no two students are exactly alike.
Additionally with Frolyc, lesson plans became more than students passively consuming videos, text, websites–they included sharing ideas, comments, and collaboration.
Here’s how it works:
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Organizing your classroom
13 videos (more added as they become available), approx. 30 minutes per webinar, show how to set up your classroom to be tech-infused.
Start date for the 2014-15 school year: August, 18, 2014
Curriculum Companion Wikis (K-5 only) follow a tech professional as s/he teaches each lesson in the SL K-5 curriculum textbooks. Presented this year via videos (10-15 minutes each), you can ask questions as the lesson is presented, start a discussion with other teachers using the curriculum, access additional resources. It’s your mentor, your sidekick, your best friend in the tech ed field.
If you own any or all of K-5 Structured Learning technology curriculum (5th edition), you have free access to the grade-level wiki. Just look on the front page of the book for a code. If you don’t own the curriculum, you can purchase access on a yearly basis here.
- Digital access: via video
- Language: English
- Length of time: one year
- Access: Yearly fee covers K-5 (no discount for single wiki)
Use coupon code in each K-5 curriculum text to join for free. Or, click here to purchase.
Summer PD 2014 just ended. A couple dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for three weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation tools, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, backchannels, student as digital citizen, and more (30 topics in all). PD was run like a flipped classroom where attendees picked one of two daily topics, then they read. Tested. Experimented. Failed and tried again. Asked questions. They shared with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, Tweets. Once a week we got together on a Google Hangout (well, two because GHO only allows 10 participants) to share ideas, answer questions, discuss nuances.
The class awarded a Certificate based on effort. Not end product. Here are my takeaways as moderator of this amazing group:
- They are risk takers. Kept trying long beyond the recommended hour a day in some cases.
- They were curious. They wanted to get it right, see how it worked.
- They are life long learners. Some had been teaching for thirty years and still enthusiastically embraced everything from twitter to genius hour.
- They were problem solvers. I often heard, ‘This will work with my students ‘if I tweak it here, I can solve this problem’.