On a weekly basis, students from Lincoln Public Schools can be found exploring Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, visiting the Agate Fossil Beds near Scottsbluff, or maybe even talking to someone from NASA.
And they do it all from the comfort of their elementary, middle school and high school classrooms, as part of the many virtual field trips that LPS students take every year.
“LPS students can visit institutions and providers anywhere in Nebraska and beyond,” said LPS Distance Learning Manager Linda Dickeson. “Many of our students have never had a chance to visit the Omaha Zoo, or might never get to Agate Fossil Beds, much less to a museum or zoo in another state.”
A virtual field trip utilizes two-way video technology so students can see and hear everything from the provider - a zoo educator, for example. The provider can share their computer screen with the class, move around to show and explain displays, animals or artifacts, and answer questions from students.
LPS has been utilizing virtual field trips since 2012. A virtual field trip is usually 25-60 minutes in length, depending on the grade level and school schedule, and many providers have pre-lesson and post-lesson activity resources for teachers. Providers and teachers work closely to integrate the virtual field trip into the district curriculum and what the students are learning at the time.
Riley Elementary School Librarian Barb Smith has coordinated virtual field trips to Morrill Hall on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, the Agate Fossil Beds, Homestead National Monument in Beatrice and Durham Museum in Omaha. She said one of the advantages of virtual field trips is that students can more easily stay focused.
“With a virtual field trip they’re looking at a specific display or diorama - there aren’t a lot of other distractions,” Smith said.
Another obvious advantage is cost.
“As budgets shrink, the number of actual field trips where students get on a bus to go someplace have diminished,” said Dickeson. “With the upgrades to high-speed network and WiFi access throughout LPS schools, we can do most virtual field trips with a low-cost webcam and a laptop.”
Published: January 17, 2018, Updated: January 17, 2018