To help educators save time, we’ve put together a quick recap on how to prepare for your next virtual field trip (VFT) and five of the best VFT’s based on their relevancy, quality of resources, and potential for student excitement. Student engagement starts with excitement, so get planning!

Prepare: Like any lesson plan, consider how you can prepare your students. First, don’t forget the standards, curriculum, and content you are helping your students uncover. By connecting these virtual field trip experiences to content that you want students to learn, you can ensure students come to the event ready to participate. Also look for pre-event activities your students can participate in. Not only do these activities promote student thinking about what might happen during the virtual field trip, they also allow you to create connections to the specific content you wish to cover.

Engage and connect: During the event, make sure that you take advantage of any virtual connections that are possible, such as submitting questions for panelists before or during the event, or participating in Twitter backchannel conversations as the VFT unfolds. Your participation helps guide live panelists and provides your students the opportunity to be recognized. There’s not too much more exciting then hearing your class’s name and question read aloud during a live virtual field trip.

Model: Don’t forget to model your learning for your students. Take pictures of what is happening in the classroom and document everything going on. In order to maximize virtual field trips, integrate teaching strategies with the content that is shared. You might consider the A-E-I-O-U strategy during the event; showing students how to capture what they learned. (A- an adjective or two that describes what they learned, E – emotion describing how it made them feel, I – something they found interesting, O – something that made them say “Oh!”, U – write a question that you want to learn more about). For more examples of free strategies to use with digital media, take a look here.

Reflect: During the event, identify the talking points and imagery that provides the most direct launching point into your curriculum. Plan to revisit these segments in the future. Consider what resonated with your students. How can you make this more than an isolated lesson? Often, these events pique students’ interest and spark many questions. Use this opportunity to have students record their thinking. Don’t expect to provide answers. Rather, put the learning opportunity back on your students to discover their answers as you work together towards mastering your unit of instruction.

Next page: 5 of the best trips to consider

Share: The most important step is sharing what you’ve learned! Teachers that use virtual field trips regularly ask students to create artifacts that represent their learning. In addition to a written reflection, consider visual projects like photo journals, digital stories, and blog posts. As you bring more virtual field trips into your classroom, students can compare them and identify which they like the best. Parents, administrators and your community will love seeing the places you’ve visited and will begin to follow along on your journey. Consider sharing your participation via your classroom newsletter or website, and also let the organization conducting the VFT know how you participated. They will appreciate the feedback, and may offer additional opportunities to recognize your classroom.

If the idea of participating in VFTs is new to you, don’t be overwhelmed. Take small steps such as watching one of these events on your own. Some teachers use virtual field trips as an activator into a unit. They don’t replace the need-to-see content, but rather provide a foundational experience to ask questions and prepare for the unit of study.

Here are five of the best trips to consider:

  1. White House it’s an election year!
    “Inside the White House” is a good idea for older elementary and middle school students learning about government, as well as any civics or American history class. Students can watch videos or take an interactive tour through the West Wing, the South Lawn, the East Wing, and the Residence. There is also a slide show of the presidents and other historical information.
  2. Mt. Everest and no one will need oxygen!
    From recent panoramas and photo galleries, to travel logs and fun facts, students can make their very own virtual climb of Mt. Everest.
  3. Hershey’s Factory who doesn’t like chocolate!
    Sometimes students just want to explore something cool, like chocolate. Thanks to step-by-step videos on its chocolate-making process, Hershey’s gives students a fun virtual field trip … even if it’s minus the smell and taste of chocolate!
  4. Panoramas of the world and no freaking security lines!
    View high-definition panoramas from anywhere in the world, including snowy mountain tops and deep sea coral reefs, at 360 Cities, which contains one of the internet’s largest collection of uploaded panoramic images. Students can access to navigable views of cities, natural landscapes and much more. The site also offers tools for people to create their own panoramas. For more specific panoramas, check out the Seven Wonders of the World. This website has panoramic views of all Seven Wonders of the World, which include the Colosseum in Rome, The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, The Taj Mahal in India, Machu Picchu in Peru Christ Redeemer in Rio, and Chichén Itzá in Mexico.

Check out these related articles:

Ten of the best virtual field trips

How Google’s virtual field trips really look inside the classroom