It would normally take about seven hours to get from Jonesborough to George Washington’s historic estate in Mount Vernon, Va. On Thursday, a group of David Crockett High School faculty members were there in a matter of seconds.
The Crockett faculty took a maiden voyage into the world of virtual field trips with a visit to the historic plantation home of the country’s first president thanks to a new video-conferencing system the school received through a grant presented to the Niswonger Foundation.
Utilizing a Tandberg camera system and an Internet connection, the school has the ability to go virtually anywhere in the world.
“It allows teachers and students to connect with art museums, NASA, zoos — anything that you can think of that would be of educational value and connect virtually with a live connection,” librarian and media specialist Annette Boreing said.
During the school’s first foray into virtual field trips, the faculty spent about 30 minutes talking with Slammin’ Joe, a Mount Vernon character based on one of the plantation’s slaves. This was just a taste of what teachers and students will be able to do in the future with the high-tech webcam system.
By signing on to the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration, or CILC, website, teachers can browse through a variety of places to take their students. Some of the locations include trips to the Nashville Zoo or the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
Programs also offer schools the chance to bring in specialists they wouldn’t normally be able to visit, such as one program that allows science classes to watch an autopsy.
“This can bring high-quality people into our classrooms that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to all over the world at a relatively inexpensive cost when you think about it,” Boreing said.
In an educational landscape where testing is key, Boreing said it’s becoming more and more difficult to take students out of the learning environment within the walls of the school.
With virtual field trips, this is both easier and much more economical.
For about $100 per trip, the entire field trip process has been streamlined and becomes much more feasible for the entire school system.
In taking the classroom into the digital world, Boreing said it just makes sense that field trips are now being done this way, given how much technology has infiltrated the world of education.
“Our kids have the technology in their hands all the time. They’re Facebooking and they’re Skyping. They understand this,” she said.
Another perk of the system is the opportunity for school-to-school conferencing.
“It doesn’t have to be this big provider giving you this information. We could hook to other classrooms and share information and share teachers and things,” Boreing said.
Daniel Boone High School also has a Tandberg unit, which will allow both schools to create interactive learning programs. Boreing said there’s already plans to create a professional development course that utilizes the system.