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Social Studies- Virtual Field Trip

Page history last edited by Holly Kerkes 9 years, 4 months ago






Virtual Tours 

Take your learners on a field trip without leaving the classroom






The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Virtual Tour

Powered by the Smithsonain Institution

Photo by Strixaluco





Virtual tours: The quick view


  • What are they?

               Navigable Pictures of Locations

  • Why use them?

               Easier than Driving (Flying)

  • How can I find one for my class?

              Search for your Destination and "Virtual Tour"





Virtual tours - The range of experiences


     Virtual tours may be anything from a collection of snapshots of a particular destination to interactive interfaces giving the "you are there" feeling and providing linked information about what is being seen.  The more seamless and interactive tours are often more awesome, but even a tour using simple technology can be a wonderful source of information and can provide learners with a sense of exposure to a location without the expenses and logistics of a field trip.  Many companies provide software and image acquisition for mid-range virtual tours.  At the high end, Google has used its street view technology and ultra-high resolution images of artworks to offer highly-interactive virtual tours of major museums.


     Numerous examples of virtual tours are available, and the number and quality of tours is expected to grow rapidly.  A small selection of tours, illustrating the increasing level of technological sophistication, is included in Table 1.


Table 1.  Examples of tours from simple to complex.

URL  Physical site Image(s)  Navigation  Extras 


Washington, DC Single photographs  Click on the map  Textual information at each site 
Black Chasm 
Single panorama  Pan   
http://www.nps.gov/featurecontent/ncr/linc/interactive/deploy/index.htm#/introduction Lincoln Memorial Linked spherical panoramas Pan, tilt, zoom, jump Text boxes about selected features


Museums (worldwide) Street view  Pan, tilt, zoom, travel  Seamless links to ultra-high resolution images 





Virtual tours - Benefits for the learners (Value Added)


Build visual and cultural literacy

Showing rather than telling

Can be building geographical knowledge at the same time

Learning the compass rose, mapping, and abstract representations of space. 





Virtual tours-Applications to social studies lessons


        There are various applications for Virtual Tours in Social Studies.

       Below you will find links to lesson plans which include virtual tours on different Social Studies Topics. 

       All are appropriate for elementary school age level.


Civil War Battlefields-Virtual Tour



Virtual Tour Permission Slip



The Aquifer Virtual Tour



Native American Virtual Tour (includes Virtual Tour worksheet)



Washington D.C. Virtual Tour (includes Virtual Tour worksheet)






Virtual tours-Meeting curriculum standards


Virtual tours can be used to meet NETS.T standards

2a.  Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.


Virtual tours can be used to meet National standards:



If the tour is of an appropriate location it may meet Core standards: 

English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grades 6-8 (Social Studies before grade 6 are integrated into reading standards.  For example, a virtual tour might demonstrate integration of Knowledge and Ideas  RH.6-8.7.:  Integrate visual information

(eg,. in tours, charts, graphs, photographs, videos or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

 From: http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards/history-social-studies/grades-6-8/



The following site offers a list of National Standards met by interactive media.






Virtual tours - The places you might go




Historical sites and monuments:


The Lincoln Memorial Virtual Tour

Powered by the National Park Service 

Picture By BAR Photography






The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY USA Virtual Tour

 Featuring The Starry Night By Vincent Van Gogh (and many others)

Powered by the Google Art Project

          Picture by Tracing Vincent  




Geological sites:


The Virtual Cave, Virtual Tour of Caves Around the World

Powered by Good Earth Graphics

Created by Dave Brunnell

Picture by Suziq B.




Schools and Colleges:


Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY Virtual Tour

Powered by Your Campus

Picture by Joe Gaylor






                     Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany-Austria, Castles of Germany Virtual Tour

                     Powered by Germany Tourism

                     Picture by OD321




This technology is relatively new, the list of virtual tours grows daily.





Virtual tours - Navigating within the tour


                  Example of controls in the Lincoln Memorial Virtual Tour



     Unfortunately, there is no consensus on what inputs should be used to control interactive tours.  Input from the mouse works in most panoramas; clicking to one side centers the image more toward that side.  In many spherical panoramas (also known as 4-pi images) the four directional-arrow keys provide pan and tilt functions.  And sometimes <control> and <shift> provide zoom out and zoom in, respectively.  Some sites provide on-screen control bars.  In sites with linked circular or spherical panoramas, there is often an arrow superimposed on the image to navigate from one vantage point to another.  There may also be additional icons superimposed on the image to indicate available hyperlinks to additional information or images.




Virtual tours - Enhancing what you find online 


The best virtual tours create an experience like walking or flying through and around a space.  But just like a real world tour, the goal is not only to have been there, but to have learned along the way.  And, just as there are usually stops on a real world tour where/when additional information is presented, one can use a virtual tour as a thread to connect additional information.  The better tours already incorporate some of this, allowing one to zoom in on details or providing seamless links to additional material.  Even with the better tours, bringing in additional material at selected sites along the tour allows the tour to be customized to the needs of the class.  If the virtual tour is a guided tour and the teacher is acting as a docent then pausing the tour to re-direct to additional information is straightforward.




 Virtual tours - Creating your own tour



From original images


single images

stitched imagest to make a 360 degree panorama.

Linking to floor plan or map


From sourced images


linking stops on pre-existing tours

Using images layered onto Google maps to teach Geology/Geography on a "drive" across the country


Build tours







Devices to capture panoramic images:




References and additional resources



Teacher's Guide to Virtual Tours



For educators devoted to the topic of Virtual Tours in education



Teacher facilitated Virtual Tours



Long list of Virtual Tours



Free tech for teachers














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