Using Skype for Virtual Field Trips around the World

New technologies, such as social media, have found their way to the academic setting. More than at any time in the history of education, it is easier now for students to share ideas and collaborate with one another. For example, many classes have created their own Facebook groups to enable students to post their ideas and ask questions. Similarly, teachers use Facebook groups as an avenue for conducting online exams instead of the traditional classroom exams.

Likewise, online programs, such as Google Docs and Kami, make it possible for students to edit their work online and to share them with other students. If the students don’t have offline software like Microsoft Word, they can easily visit these websites to edit their work. Most importantly, however, students can collaborate and share their documents through these programs.

Skype and Virtual Field Trips Aside from the abovementioned tools, Skype is also now being used in the educational setting. Skype’s core function, which is to enable long distance voice and video calls, has made it easy for students to collaborate with other classrooms and teachers all over the world. Students can connect with other classrooms, from other locations, and read aloud to the students. They can also use it as a tool to conduct an interview or communicate with a teacher or an expert. The best part is that they can do it for free.

Recently, Skype is being utilized for another classroom activity that was never thought to be possible before. It can now be used to conduct virtual field trips for students inside the classroom. This new method of doing field trips has risen due to economic decline, which has made it more difficult for students to afford actual field trips.

How it works Virtual touring using Skype is not a very complicated process. The teacher has only to make sure that Skype is installed on the student’s laptop. A high-quality web camera and a microphone (preferably a USB one for lesser feedback) are also required. Of course, a fast Internet connection must be present in the classroom for better real-time streaming.

After setting up Skype, the teacher contacts an employee from a preferred field trip itinerary beforehand. They need to make sure they are both available at an agreed date and time for the tour. Once everything is set, the two parties can now connect with Skype so that the employee or tour guide can show the students a virtual tour of the vicinity. Teachers and students can also use Skype as an avenue for interviewing experts from a distant place. For example, they can interview a ranger from the Yellowstone National Park and learn more about its ecology, geology, and history. They can also interview a shark diver and observe sharks, in real-time, away from the safety and convenience of their computer screens.

Indeed, a virtual field trip is not the same as an actual, on-site one. However, at a time when school fees are getting more expensive than ever, a virtual field trip can be a satisfactory and fun alternative. In fact, during the few cases that this method was employed by some classes, students reportedly enjoyed the experience! After all, it depends on both the teacher’s and the students’ abilities and willingness to make this classroom experience worthwhile and engaging.

Maria Dublin
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Maria is a writer, an editor, and a law student. She plays for the Philippine national touch football team, and does a lot of travelling during the holidays.