Virtual Reality Field Trips, the Wave of the Future
Virtual field trips are more affordable and efficient than traditional ones. They don’t require permission slips, fees, substitutes, or buses. Thanks to new tools, classrooms around the country will soon have virtual reality and other immersive technologies. Are virtual reality field trips the wave of the future?
A few years ago, I stood in front of an eager group of third graders who just about jumped out of their seats when I told them we were taking a spontaneous field trip. They wiggled with excitement and anticipation. Soon, though, they were confused as I explained that we were taking a virtual field trip and not actually leaving the classroom. I flipped on the smart screen and took the students on a tour of an international art museum, thanks to the Google Cultural Institute.
Technology brought us closer to the paintings than we would have been allowed in the bricks and mortar world. We zoomed in so close to Van Gogh's Starry Night canvas that we could make out the detailed brush strokes and see the cracks that had grown in the painting’s surface over time. We could practically feel the texture of the viscous paints. Our trip was a success. We all had fun and learned new things.
Virtual Reality Field Trips
Students will soon be able to visit far-off places like the great pyramids of Giza thank to virtual reality field trips. In fact, at Giza and other delicate sites, our kids will have the chance to visit areas that are no longer open to tourists due to the crumbling stones or wear and tear (not to mention abuse) from previous tourists.
Ironically, virtual reality field trips will provide a deeper opportunity to explore the past. Emerging technology will allow our children will get a better view of the cave paintings of Lascaux than they would in real-life. And in just a few years, haptic (touch) technology will allow virtual visitors to run their fingers over Roman carvings that are thousands of years old.
Visit the Past, Present, or Future
Virtual reality field trips won't be limited to historic sites. They'll take students to the moon, Mars, and the mapped surfaces of other planets. They can also place students inside a human brain, traveling along neural connections. Students will be able to observe chemical reactions from the inside, with molecules whizzing and colliding around them.
Your class will have its own version of the mythical Magic School Bus! (I'm not the only who tries to channel the infectious enthusiasm, vast knowledge, and extreme creativity of Ms. Frizzle, am I?)
Virtual Trips for Now
We're close, but still a few years away from a time when most students will have access to virtual field trips. Fortunately, there are more than enough virtual field trips available to tide your students over until then. Check out the world-class facilities that are just a click away thanks to Google Arts and Culture, and explore a variety of STEM-rich experiences right from your classroom thanks to Discovery Education.