It’s back-to-school season and students could be visiting the majesty of the Grand Canyon, the convolutions of the human brain, the depths of the ocean, or even the barren landscape of Mars — all without ever leaving the classroom. Indeed, as technology grows and becomes more readily accessible, more teachers are taking their students on field trips using virtual reality.
Places like the old ruins of Greek and Roman theaters are where Hawkins has taken her Greek theater drama students so far this year from her Arizona classroom. For Hawkins, school has been in session for a month and it’s her first year using the virtual reality field-trip technology. Since her classroom doesn’t have a laptop lab, she has her students go on the trips via smartphones or tablets.
“It was absolutely wonderful, I got to show them what these ancient ruins look like,” Hawkins said. “I would never be able to take them to see ruins in Italy and Greece. So they were able to explore and point it out and see how these people actually performed.”
These virtual field trips give students 360-degree views, navigable with the aid of their touchscreens.
Hawkins has been using a free virtual reality field trip provided by Nearpod. Companies such as Nearpod and Google provide numerous free virtual field trips that teachers can use to supplement their lesson plans.
“I think it's great that kids across the country and across the world, actually, can have access to different learning experiences no matter their socioeconomic level, no matter where their school is located,” said Charlotte Smith, Google technology expert. “Everybody has access to the same learning opportunities.”
Google Expeditions, which has virtual and augmented reality field trips —has taken over 3 million students in classrooms around the country on virtual field trips.
“These virtual reality field trips don't replace the traditional field trips,” Smith said. “There’s still value in going out in the world, but the really cool thing about Expeditions and going on trips in virtual reality or augmented reality, is that students can go places where you could only really go if you had a magic school bus. Like the top of Mount Everest and … inside a volcano."
“Why I love this technology so much and getting it into my classroom is because it's hands-on experiential learning,”-“The students can actually go out and tell their stories. They can go into the community and share the things that they know and want to learn and easily put it together and then bring that back to the classroom.”
“I'm just excited to be able to basically throw the textbook out and do virtual field trips,”