A Free EdTech Resource For The Classroom And Distance Learning: Virtual Field Trips

I originally planned to write about virtual field trips in late May after I went to the UCET conference in Provo, Utah. I was pumped up and ready to dive deep into virtual learning/ using technology in education! However, soon after the UCET conference, COVID took over our education systems, forcing us to use technology to learn, socialize, and even grocery shop. By late May, I couldn’t bring myself to write about one more technology use in the classroom because I was burnt out. And I’m not even teaching right now, so I cannot imagine how educators feel!! Instead of writing about my original plan of virtual field trips, my post on slowing down and remembering the simple, one-room schoolhouse came about instead. It felt more appropriate. 

Now that I’ve had a break from writing about the tech world for a little span on time, I feel more ready to write about my original idea. Here it is: virtual field trips.

Did you know virtual field trips were a thing? I did not! Don’t you (especially those social study teachers) wish you could put all of your students on an airplane each year and bring them to Alcatraz or the Eiffel Tower? While there are so many reasons this can’t work out, there is one simple way you can do this with your students. It’s simple. It really, truly is so simple and FREE. 

Do you have a computer? Good. Open Google Maps. Search your desired location. Turn on street view. You’re there. You did it. See, I told you it was simple!

Matt from Ditch That Textbook wrote about it here on his website that gives you a better rundown of exactly how to use it to its full potential. Or if you’re looking for an even easier route, he put links to 20 different field trips for you. All you have to do is click the link and you’re magically walking through Yellowstone National Park.

Matt was our keynote speaker at UCET and where I learned this new trick. His website is packed full of great educational tips and free resources, never once would he link us or send us down a path that costs money, he truly believes educational materials should be free and is doing a wonderful job at accomplishing this.

A screenshot from my computer during a virtual field trip. A cell in Alcatraz.

It may not have the same impact as walking the streets themselves, but I will attest to the fact that it’s more engaging than pictures in a textbook or on a computer. It’s different, it’s interactive, and it’s educational. 

Another screenshot from my Alcatraz field trip.
The White House

I invite you to play with these virtual field trips this summer while school is out so that when your students come back in the fall you can be ready to do this in the classroom with them, or send them home with the assignment to explore a new place during distant learning. When you’re done, come on back here and let me know how it went and share any tips you have for other teachers! 

Cover photo from pexels.com

Feature Friday: Joe Capson

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Joe Capson, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Joe is in his first year of teaching and has great insight on teaching challenges as well as the evolution of technology. Here’s what he has to say. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

I really enjoy getting to know the students and I absolutely love the subject matter, which makes teaching it fun. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

When I was in high school I worked at a summer camp called Pine Basin for three or four years. During this time, I had to teach two classes a week and I felt like teaching was something that I could do and that I had a talent for. Also, my family is filled with educators and I have always felt close to the education system through my family. 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

There are a million different interesting historical videos and I love to utilize them in my class because students relate to videos and it breaks up the monotony of classes sometimes. I also utilize my smartboard for interactive activities and for note presentations. 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?

I would recommend the book Hatchet as well as the various sequels to it. The reason why is because the book teaches you that you can do hard things even as a young teenager. Also, it teaches kids self-dependence, an appreciation for the outdoors, and it is a great read to boot. 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge that I face is classroom management. I tend to try to teach high energy and I encourage student involvement in my lessons. However, in doing this I feel that students take advantage and want to shout out or joke too often or during inappropriate times. I try to make my class fun but I have to struggle to find the balance between a class that is fun and a class that is only fun with no learning or discipline. Finding that balance has been a challenge. 

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

That at first I would probably hate it and feel overwhelmed and terrified and question my life choices, but after teaching for a while and getting to know the students you really get invested and you become friends with your coworkers and you’re not alone in all of this. Suddenly you find yourself sad with the thought that these students have to leave. I wish someone told me that it was okay to feel discouraged and downtrodden. I also wish someone told me that college only prepares you so much for being in the classroom and to really understand anything you need to just do it. 

How have you seen education change through time?

I have only taught one year but I already know that it has changed since I was in middle school. The students today are good kids with similar challenges that we all face, however all of those challenges are amplified through social media, access to technology at any time, and popular culture. When I was in middle school if you were cool, you had a Razor flip phone. Now you are not cool unless you have an iPhone 10. Also, technology has been implemented far more in the classroom online forums and class iPad sets are not rare at all, whereas when I was in high school, one teacher had iPads and we all thought it was crazy.