Virtual Field Trips is a curated set of applications complied in a web tool called "EdShelf," which is a search engine of websites, mobile apps, desktop programs, and electronic products for teaching and learning, Julia Prescott, a library media specialist at a middle school. The author compiled seven virtual field trips through her free account and she has made her "EdShelf" accessible to others. The seven virtual field trips are NASA Virtual Field Trip, Virtual Nerd, AirPano Trip to Mount Everest, Himalayas, Google Literature Trips, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Panoramic Virtual Tour, Sound Uncovered, and Sail the Book. This review considers the navigation of the search engine, "EdShelf" and two of the seven virtual field trips curated by Prescott. The author curates other topics through EdShelf. No specific subject area, course, or learning goals were identified for this set of virtual field trips. The user is expected to examine the field trips to determine their usability for specific learning goals. Because it is a curated list of tools available through EdShelf, the virtual field trips do not consistently offer the same types of instructional materials or teacher resources.
Type of Material:
The virtual field trips could be used for self paced individual exploration related to identified learning outcomes. The instructor might also consider screen casting and narrating a portion of the virtual field trip to support learning outcomes. A narrated screen cast of a virtual field trip might also make an excellent writing prompt or test question.
The EdShelf as well as the virtual field trips compiled by the author are web based and accessible from any internet browser. Some resources within a Virtual Field Trip require disc space for download of full programs explore offline. Users should pay attention to download requirements if offline access to free programs is desired. The reviewer accessed two of the seven virtual field trips through Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Learning goals, course objectives, or common core standards unique to the subject matter addressed by the virtual field trip is addressed. For example, the NASA virtual field trip explores areas of the earth's surface that are similar to Mars. This virtual field trip might be used for goals, objectives, or standards related to geology, the scientific process of investigation, comparing and contrasting in any content area, or the skill of scientific observation. Each virtual field trip should be evaluated based on the learning outcomes to be achieved.
Target Student Population:
The author of the collection suggests that the virtual field trips are appropriate for students in grades K-14. The material could be used by pre-service, in-service and teacher educators within their instruction.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Basic computing/app skills
Each of the apps has own content focus. Some can be used for more than one content - for example Google Lit Tips can be English and social studies/geography.
Because this is a curated collection and the curator did not create the materials, navigation and functionality of some the items are not of equal good quality. Two of the virtual field trips require the trip to be downloaded to the computer and then launched. The system used to down load the NASA virtual field trip was running Windows 8.1 on a dell touch screen with plenty of RAM and storage space. However, some reviewers were unable to download a specific Google Lit Tours (Things That Must Not Be Forgotten)to explore its offerings. After filling the required survey to access the tour, it was disheartening not to receive what was expected. Mixed quality content is hard to evaluate as a collection.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Each of the seven has material that can be readily integrated in to several content disciplines. Most can be used by individuals or as a group task or even used with a one-computer classroom and projection device.
Accessibility across desktop and mobile devices and internet browsers is a concern. Evaluating a collection that is not based on similar features and offerings is difficult. The collection ranges in quality from poor to good.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Virtual Nerd app - User can select subject and device platform from drop down menus.
NASA Virtual Trip is interactive with visuals and easy to navigate.
AirPano Trip to Mount Everest is web –based and requires Flash. It has graphics and sound and user has control over them.
Google Lit Trips are web-based and downloadable with a variety of topics for all grade levels.
Sail the Book offers lit trips about six nonfiction maritime literary works.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Panoramic can be used by Mac or Win desktop or mobile devices.
Sound Uncovered is interactive book simulation that is easy to navigate.
Accessibility across platforms, desktops, mobile devices, and internet browsers was an issue for reviewers.
Other Issues and Comments:
Allows for student review, content refresher and individuals can work at own pace.
Educators could utilize these as supplements to learning content and/or use for lesson materials. Students could use this for content review. It was difficult to evaluate a collection with varied quality standards. All aspects of the virtual field trips were not accessible.
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