Traditional Field trips are great, but they do have their drawbacks. Maybe you don’t like the long bus ride. Maybe you have difficulty getting enough chaperones to volunteer or maybe traditional field trips are just too costly. Virtual field trips are a great way to bring the world to your students without the hassle of a real field trip.
One of the best resources for virtual field trips that I know of is PORTS: Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students. PORTS is run by the California State Parks and their rangers. The park rangers will do a video conference with your class that provides real time, two-way communication. The ranger can answer students’ questions and present a multimedia, live lesson to the students on a topic related to one of the state parks. The students can interact with the park ranger as if they were right there, even though they are miles away.
Some of the PORTS topic include:
To prepare your class for the video conference, PORTS provides lesson plans, digital videos, digital images, and other media materials on the PORTS website. All you need is a computer or tablet with a camera, a projector, and a high speed internet connection. PORTS is completely free, high quality, and are constantly adding new topics.
To get started, go to the PORTS website and check out the descriptions of the different topic (called Units of Study). Then fill out the registration form to request a particular topic and date you would like to schedule the video conference. The ranger or coordinator will get back to you by phone or email. Make your request early in the year, because spots fill up quickly.
Another resource for virtual field trips is the Microsoft Community Skype in the Classroom Virtual Field Trips. It is also free, is set up similar to PORTS, and uses Skype to do the video conferences. You do need to set up a username and password to sign in to the site. It has virtual field trips from all over the world.
Lastly California State Parks has partnered with Google to create an experience similar to street view on Google Maps for many state park trails and beaches called Google Trekker. They did this by mounting a 3D camera to a backpack and walking the trails. This provides a self-guided way to see nature at our state parks without leaving your classroom. Check out all the locations available at this website. This is also free, but is not interactive with a ranger and is not in real time.
I hope this gives you some ideas of ways you can use technology to bring the world into your classroom and provide an engaging, memorable learning experience for your students.
Breakout EDU is an immersive learning game platform where students use critical thinking skills and teamwork to solve a complex puzzle in order to open a locked box. You may have heard of Escape Room activities that have become very popular and are popping up in cities all across the country. Stockton has two Escape Rooms that opened in early 2018. Breakout EDU is the educational version of an Escape Room. In an Escape Room, a group of people works together to solve puzzles, search for clues, open locks, and escape from the room before the time runs out. In Breakout EDU a group of students works together to solve puzzles, search for clues, open locks, and open the final locked box before time runs out.
A unique thing out Breakout EDU is that the games can be completely physical with real locks or completely digital with virtual locks or my favorite a hybrid of both physical and digital locks and problems to solve. Click on this link to see three types of digital puzzles and locks. See if you can unlock all three locks before the time runs out.
A physical Breakout EDU will require you to purchase some items (separately or as a kit). Once purchased these items can be used over and over for different Breakout EDU games. The kit that is available for purchase from the Breakout EDU website comes with:
- Large Box
- Small Box
- Key Lock
- 3-digit Lock
- 4-digit Lock
- ABC Multilock
- Directional Multilock
- Color, Shape, and Number Mulitlock Wheels
- Invisible Ink Pen
- USB Drive
- UV Light
- Hint Cards
- Reflection Cards
There are hundreds of Breakout EDU games already created for all kinds of curriculum and content topics and for different grade levels. You can also create your own or easily adjust one that has already been created. In addition to the content knowledge that students will be learning or applying, Breakout EDU games require the very important skills of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.
Students use critical thinking to solve the problems and puzzles. This may involve sorting, ordering, synthesizing information, making connections, evaluating, and comparing. By collaborating on solving the puzzle students will utilize the different strengths of each student. You will probably not finish in time unless you work together and collaborate. Communication is also key to finishing the Breakout EDU in time. One person may find a clue that another group needs to solve a puzzle or open a lock. When one locked box is opened there may be something inside that will help another group solve their puzzle. Without good communication, the group will waste a lot of time unnecessarily. Creativity is important because solutions to puzzle are not always obvious and require students to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to use the information and solve the puzzles.
Students will be engaged, working with others, and actively learning. Breakout EDU is adaptable for any subject and grade level. Once you do few of the ones available on their website, you will be ready to create your own Breakout EDU games with the help of their creation programs. If this sounds interesting and you want to know more about Breakout EDU, I will hopefully be presenting this during the beginning of the year Professional Development days.