Virtual Field Trips

A virtual field trip allows you to go anywhere in the world without leaving your classroom. The person leading the field trip will talk to your students in real time, and they’ll be able to interact and ask questions as well. All you need is a device with a webcam and you’re good to go.

Get Started

To begin, you’ll need to go here. If you haven’t already created a free Microsoft Educator account, you’ll be prompted to do so. The great thing about having an account is that it also gives you access to tons of free professional development about a variety of Microsoft programs. You can earn badges and certifications through these trainings, which will look good in your email signature and at your end of the year evaluation.

These are the badges I’ve earned so far

Choosing Your Trip

Field trips are classified by subject, such as animals, history, etc. You can also filter by age, grade level, and subject area. I would recommend just choosing “view all” and scroll through to see all of the options.

Scheduling

Once you find one you’re interested in, you’ll see a button that says “request this field trip.” It will take you to a calendar where you can see the days and times that field trip is available. Just navigate to the day and time you want, and select it.

This is what a typical field trip information page looks like

It’s important to pay attention to the time difference, because some of these places are on the other side of the world. There’s also a place to send the person conducting the field trip a message. I’d use this to include standards you hope to cover, give information about the ages of students you have, or request time adjustments. Skype deals in student age instead of grade, because grade levels mean different things in different countries.

The calendars will indicate when the field trips are available

There is a chance that the trip you select won’t have a calendar, and that the person that does the field trip handles their scheduling on their own. It will tell you that, and you’ll just need to send them the information they need about when you’re available.

Most people will get back to you within 3 business days. Do not assume the trip is happening if you don’t hear back from the person in charge. They’ll contact you with their name and Skype address.

Also, it’s a good idea to plan in advance. It’s rare that you’ll get a trip scheduled for the same week you put in the request.

Preparing Your Students

Once your trip is on the books, it’s a good idea to prepare your students. Often, trips will come with resource materials that you can go over with students in advance and tie into your lessons. Have your students write their questions in advance as well, so you don’t get surprised with awkward ones on the day of the trip, like “are you married?”

Technical Stuff

Before your trip occurs, do a test call with your presenter. If they don’t offer that option, at least do a test call through Skype to make sure your camera and microphone work.

Note: If you have a Skype for business account through your school, it may not let you connect outside of the district. Be sure to a personal one on standby.

Make sure your camera is aimed at the students so the presenter can see them. Again, this can be an iPad, a Chromebook, or a webcam plugged in to your computer. If you don’t have something like this, contact your EdTech, librarian, or technology teacher to see if they have something you can use. If not, I recommend the Logitec c920. It’s a camera with a built in microphone so you only need one piece of equipment. You can find them online for about $50. No matter what you use, make sure your students speak up and clearly so the presenter can hear them.

Need Some Inspiration?

I consulted with one of our Skype field trip gurus, Lynn Gustafson, to see if she had any recommendations to add. She noted that the California state parks do a really great job with their field trips in general, and specifically recommended Calaveras state park, Wyoming state museum, Yellowstone park, and Point Lobos state reserve.

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