Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Virtual Field Trips

Last week, I read a fantastic blog entitled Amazing Virtual Field Trip Ideas with Google Street Views. I was intrigued to enhance my tech. integration skills and use the tool with our urban student population. I immediately thought of our 3rd-5th grade PBL students that are studying geography after school. Most states and countries we investigate are abstract concepts to our students that have limited life and travel experiences. We have been using the Culture Grams database for blog research material, but this brings a unique visual component for our intermediate students.  Other than actual travel, I am convinced that there is no better way to "see" the world and to bring text to life than with Google Street Views!

During each session of PBL, we give the students a choice between two U.S. states to read about, explore, and blog.  The teachers read the complex text aloud to the students and ask them to annotate. Teachers model their own thinking, connections, and questions while reading aloud about various states. On this particular day, we read about Colorado and Connecticut. During the read aloud, I asked students to circle the specific locations and landmarks mentioned in the text.  Then I projected Google Street Views and showed them the functionality and some examples from the text. The reactions to the virtual field to Pike's Peak were priceless!  The room was buzzing with excitement and there was visible eagerness in their restless britches.  The students were then released to go and explore independently as we, the teachers, circulated to assist.  It worked phenomenally well!  I enjoyed every minute of it!  

The teachers stepped back and let the students lead the exploration to Colorado and Connecticut.
The students took notes (for blogging) as they traveled around the state.

Each student navigated to the locations in the text.

Update! These girls spread the word to their classroom teacher the next day!
The girls in the bottom photo took away much more than I ever realized.  The following day, after being introduced to Google Street Views during PBL, a 4th grade classroom teacher came and told me about a unusual request one of the girls made in class.  The teacher was using a text about a Native American tribe in Nevada.  The student raised her hand and excitedly asked the teacher to take the class on a virtual field trip to that area of Nevada and specifically to the location in text.  She proceeded to tell the teacher about how she learned to take virtual field trips during the after school PBL session. The teacher was shocked by the transfer and immediate application of skills!  I do not think these girls, or their teacher, will ever read any informational text the same way!

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