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" Middle school classes also could link up with classrooms around the globe to create a virtual fieldtrip exchange."

The Virtual Tour’s Backpack

Download Raleigh Trolley tour (HyperStudio, Mac only)

Download Southern Coastal Heritage tour (HyperStudio, Mac only)

"The virtual fieldtrip helps students and teachers alike make connections to the community and back to themselves."

Virtual Fieldtripping

Categories of Virtual Fieldtrips

Whether the students create or take a virtual fieldtrip, the experience enables them to make connections between themselves and their immediate environment. The first category of virtual fieldtrips that we will outline is the the post-fieldtrip activity. This virtual fieldtrip should be designed to help students synthesize what they learned on a class fieldtrip. Prior to taking a class fieldtrip, we recommend assigning each student a particular item to research. The student will be responsible for gathering information about their assigned topic and organizing this information for the class. For example, if the class visited Washington, D.C., student assignments may include the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, etc. During the class fieldtrip, students will take turns using a digital camera to photograph their assigned topic. Note: If a digital camera is not available, students should take pictures with a regular camera and have the film developed onto a computer disk or use a scanner to digitize the images.

Once the class returns from the fieldtrip each student will use HyperStudio to create a HyperStudio "card" with a digital image and description of their assigned topic. Depending on the students’ familiarity with the software, the cards may include a digital image and text or advanced options such as audio, video, animation, or testing items. The teacher will need to add buttons and connect each of the student-created cards into one stack. Once the student-generated fieldtrip has been created, the entire class should view it. The class presentation may serve as a culminating activity for the fieldtrip. The fieldtrip may also be presented to other classes in the school or to classes in the future.

Middle school classes also could link up with classrooms around the globe to create a virtual fieldtrip exchange. For example, students at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh, North Carolina could create a HyperStudio stack that describes their school, community, state, and nation. Likewise, School 295, a middle school in St. Petersburg, Russia could create a stack describing their school, community, and nation. These virtual fieldtrips could then be exchanged via the Internet so the students in each country could learn from their global peers.

Using the virtual fieldtrip in this capacity helps to develop a class bond and it offers a tangible product of which they can be proud. Creating virtual fieldtrips also encourages students to see themselves as historians and savers of their local history. Middle school teachers who were studying their local heritage created a virtual fieldtrip of downtown Raleigh, NC.

The second category of virtual fieldtrips, the pre-fieldtrip activity, helps to prepare students for an upcoming class fieldtrip. Imagine that you and your class are planning an upcoming visit to the North Carolina capital, Raleigh. Prior to your fieldtrip, your students can preview the sites they will be visiting. North Carolina’s State Department of Public Instruction has created one example of the virtual fieldtrip as a pre-fieldtrip activity. The Virtual Tour’s Backpack is available at the following site:

This site provides students with a map of the city and the option to take digital tours of North Carolina capital area landmarks, government buildings and places of interest. Using the information available on this site, students can decide how much time should be allotted for each place of interest and plan a walking tour of the city. Another suggested activity would be for students to use the virtual fieldtrip and work in teams to write a scavenger hunt. These scavenger hunts could be exchanged among teams and serve as a guide for the actual fieldtrip. Using virtual fieldtrips in this capacity piques students’ interest in upcoming class fieldtrips, helps to prepare students for the learning experiences during the fieldtrip, and gives students a responsibility and sense of control over the upcoming fieldtrip.

The third category of virtual fieldtrips, the fieldtrip made by others, aims to provide students with information about areas that they are unable to visit as a class. The Internet holds hundreds of virtual fieldtrips created by students, teachers, government agencies, and others around the world. Using virtual fieldtrips on the Internet enables students to make connections with other adolescents who may share some of their concerns and helps students appreciate cultures other than their own.

Many of the online virtual fieldtrips are interactive; meaning those students can pose questions to experts such as historians, scientists, politicians, and astronauts. Examples of online virtual fieldtrips include:

The fourth and final category of virtual fieldtrips is a teacher-created fieldtrip. Teachers may have opportunities to travel outside of the school day. Travels to local sites or vacations to distant locations can serve as teachable moments back in the classroom. For example, during the summer of 1998, middle school teachers from across the state of North Carolina gathered at the coast to learn about North Carolina Coastal Heritage. These teachers took pictures of different sites and culminated their experiences into a HyperStudio fieldtrip. Their fieldtrip was uploaded onto the World Wide Web and will serve as an instructional tool for middle school classrooms across the state. The Southern Coastal Heritage fieldtrip is available as a Macintosh download.

The virtual fieldtrip experience is an excellent model of a teaching strategy that was not possible before the advent of computers in the middle school classroom. Virtual fieldtrips benefit students, families, schools, teachers, and communities. Teachers are lifelong learners and virtual fieldtrips give us the chance to stretch old paradigms about how we teach and how we learn. And if you think that Erikson finishes with you once you are identity achieved, think again. Throughout our lives we are reinventing ourselves, tinkering with our identity. This is normal and as we grow we move into the latter stages of our development (Erikson, 1968). This is the time when we reflect on our choice of our life’s work and rededicate ourselves to giving back, helping smooth the way for others to provide the encouragement and hand out the tools. The virtual fieldtrip helps students and teachers alike make connections to the community and back to themselves.


Arnold, John (1993). A Curriculum to Empower Young Adolescents. Midpoints Occasional Papers. Columbus, Ohio: National Middle School Association.

Bronfenbrenner, Urie. (1986). Alienation and the Four Worlds of Childhood. Phi Delta Kappan , 67 (2), 430-436.

Erikson, Erik. (1968). Identity Youth and Crisis. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Frost,Robert (1962). In the Clearing. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Garbarino, James, (Ed.). (1985). Adolescent Development, An Ecological Perspective. Columbus, Ohio: Charles Merrill Publishing Company.

HyperStudio multimedia software. (1997.) El Cajon, CA: Roger Wagner Publishing, Inc.

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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 2, Issue 1, January 1999
ISSN 1097-9778
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