10 Reasons Why Virtual Field Trips Benefit Students

Virtual field trips are a great way to supplement in-class instruction with fresh content, real-world examples and expert instructors from all over the world.

Are you interested in learning more about virtual field trips? You have come to the right place! 

banyan global learning virtual field trips

Virtual field trips are no longer a dream of the future, now that Internet access and video-conferencing solutions (like Zoom and Facetime) are widely available. In fact, as remote learning grew due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have increased in popularity.

This article is a great resource for those of you interested in trying a virtual field trip for your classroom (or school district). Before we list our 10 reasons, let’s answer the question:

“What is a virtual field trip?”

Generally speaking, a virtual field trip is simply a field trip delivered by technology and experienced from the classroom (or school). A virtual field trip uses tech-based resources such as online content and/or video-conferencing to give students the learning experiences gained from a traditional, in-person field trip.

Virtual field trips provide experiential content beyond what can be learned from a textbook. They can be synchronous or asynchronous… interactive or non-interactive. Additionally, some providers offer a lesson plan to supplement the field trip. Also, sometimes they can be hosted by an instructor.

We call our service a “Live Virtual Field Trip” because our trips feature live instructors who are experts in the subject matter and trained to make the experience fun and engaging. Accordingly, advanced trips (like ours) can involve multiple hosts at different locations, and utilize classroom technology (like iPads or computers) to engage the learner in real-time with the teachers, as opposed to a passive viewing of a TV show or video.

10 Benefits of Virtual Field Trips

Now that we have a definition, here is a list of the top reasons why we think virtual field trips are a great tool for educators.

1. A new perspective

Virtual field trips offer a new spin on a class topic. We mentioned before how they are designed to provide a learning experience beyond the textbook. They give students access to real life “artifacts” allowing them to learn by seeing.

When done well, they allow students to go beyond the facts and take a deep dive with the subject matter. 

2. Varied teaching styles keep students engaged

Educators know that a new teacher can create a spark in the classroom. Virtual field trips bring change and diversity to the school day. When done well, a virtual field trip with a live instructor is more fun and engaging than an in-person field trip!

3. They can be tailored to the classroom’s needs

Unlike a textbook or standardized curriculum, virtual field trips can be personalized! They can be designed to be open-ended and can follow students’ questions and desires. This allows the instructor to match the students’ learning interest and maximize engagement.

4. Bang for your buck

Virtual field trips are usually more cost-effective than in-person field trips. For example, there is no need for transportation, insurance and other hard costs. There are many free ones and the fee-based options are generally very affordable when compared to in-person options. This allows teachers and administrators to create a “field trip experience” more often with a given budget. Also, annoyances like finding chaperones and collecting permission slips are eliminated!

CILC is a great resource for popular free and paid virtual field trips. We are an award-winning provider in their directory!

5. Offer unique curriculum

Virtual field trips allow schools to offer unique curricula that are not traditionally offered, but are still critical to student learning and/or health. A prime example of this is social emotional learning. This is a growing area of importance for our students, however many schools do not yet have the resources to offer it consistently.

If your school is interested in Banyan’s social emotional learning curriculum, click here.

6. Students can form unique relationships with an online instructor

Students can develop a unique relationship w/ their virtual teacher. Especially on difficult/critical topics, students can open up on issues they wouldn’t necessarily do with their in-class teacher. A virtual instructor that is a specialist or expert on a given subject can unlock interest and contributions from their students.

7. Virtual teachers are usually technology experts

Virtual instructors are often adept at harnessing classroom technology. They can bring in exciting tools for students to use and also provide in-class teachers with tips/tricks. Tech is no longer a barrier when you have a tech expert in the classroom (virtually).

8. Give your teacher a break

A virtual field trip can be a welcome rest stop for a busy in-class teacher! Especially when there is a topic that is not a teacher’s strength or a non-core subject. A virtual teacher is an elegant solution. 

9. In-class teachers may have something to learn

Now that remote teaching is a new skill required for in-class teachers, they may have something to learn from a virtual field trip! A good virtual instructor can model best practices for online teaching. Therefore, In-class teachers can learn new methods or styles of teaching that they can incorporate beyond the virtual field trip.

10. Access to experts 

Students need to see experts and role models in action. Virtual field trips can bring almost any expert into the classroom. Consequently, students can see firsthand what they do and interact directly with them.

Are you ready to try one?

We hope you found this article useful. In our view, a virtual field trip is a great way to augment or supplement classroom instruction.

If you have more questions or have interest in discussing our content and what we could do for your school, feel free to contact us!

Grasping The ‘Chain

Written by Marty Perlmutter

How do you introduce middle school students to something as vast and multifarious as blockchain technology? Where do you begin? And where do you aim to take these bold sojourners on this seething sea of possibilities? Do you start with NFTs (which every adolescent on the planet knows are associated with sports and games)? How about DiFi – digital finance? Who hasn’t heard of Bitcoin, or Ethereum? The experts say the most essential thing of all is the DAO. What is that and why does it matter?

So, again, where do you start? And what is the goal?

If you peruse the literature of academic probes into blockchain technology, what you encounter is wide praise for immutable records as a way to do reliable certification. This is paired with widespread interest in learning how to code. But are these the right goals for Banyan Global Learning? Our curriculum leaders have been probing more than coding skills.

For our fifth through eight grade students, we aim to create a spiraling sequence of lessons that will provide an overview of a vast and rapidly developing landscape. We will present a glimpse of the mechanics at the core of this tech, then engage learners in considering how they can engage in the activities we’ve heard about – creating Non-Fungible Tokens, Initial Coin Offerings, smart contracts, issuance of certificates – with some understanding of the landscape in which this unfolds.

BGL aims to convey a visceral sense of how these innovative expressions of value and mechanisms for replacing centralized authority offer new mechanisms for reliable transaction and recollection. The paradox at the heart of blockchain technology is that it dispenses with trust.

Wait, what?

To understand this, it might help to be a middle schooler coming into a world where the biggest players in finance, governance and public safety have failed dramatically in the past decade or so. Spectacularly failed.

Out of the ashes of the recent global fiscal meltdown, a mythic coder conceived a new way to keep records – completely transparently, with powerful encryption, distributed in profusion on machines all over the planet, in a collective record that can never be altered.

To anyone thinking about future creation of value, this must have seemed at the very least intriguing. To game players, NFTs are catnip. To deep thinkers who wonder how stability could ever return to financial systems, this glimmers intriguingly. And to thinkers who wonder how we can escape from the many traps in our world of central banks, central governments, central data records, and private capital blockchain technology and its spawn – NFTs, ICOs, smart contracts, certificates, DAOs — point to a possible New Jerusalem. Here there will at last be the “permanent record” some of us recall as a cudgel poised by high school teachers in our past. This might be the real thing.

Immutable records. Stored transparently with unbreakable encryption. Replicated on machines everywhere. It does sound millennial, doesn’t it?

Whatever this brings in the way of new kinds of experiences, new tools for transactions, new ways of remembering what we’ve done, blockchain technology is bigger than Bitcoin. It’s bigger than all of digital finance (DiFi to the hip). It’s way bigger than NFTs. And what lies beyond all the nifty buzz may be a set of tools and a way of thinking that could become the bedrock of a future society in which governance of every kind shifts.

crypto

We will teach the encryption part with interactive games. We will invite students to form autonomous organizations with rules for every kind of transaction. We’ll provide classes with Monopoly money, and invite them to “invest” in existing or entirely new digital coins.

We’ll create certificates for each level of accomplishment in the class, and demonstrate how these certificates would live on the blockchain. We’ll design NFTs, and we might put one or more up on Ethereum. Any NFT will be paired with a smart contract so the creators get enduring recognition, and possibly payment.

In short, we aim to enter these rich and roiling waters, immersing ourselves in the many dimensions of blockchain technology. The least of this will be coding – though we will show what key steps look like in the bit world. That is not our curriculum’s focus. There will be many places to learn how to code for this tech. 

BGL aims to create digital citizens with global vision. We cannot know the jobs of the future that will be shaped by the ‘chain. But we can begin to help students experience the style of thinking, and the design sensibility, that will shape that future. And that shared vision of a future these students are bound to build will last longer than any technical hack.

Student Choice Amplifies Student Voice

Written by Maddie Hunt, Tsai Hsing Grade 8 Teacher

As a self-proclaimed Type A personality, I value an environment that feels calm, predictable and direction-oriented. I am the type of person with color coordinated calendars hanging on my fridge, planners with meticulously sorted tabs and a keen appreciation for an empty email inbox at the end of each day.

So why on earth did I choose the vocation of a teacher?  Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes in a classroom knows that attributes such as predictable and calm feel more like the outliers than the norm.  I imagine my motivation for choosing the life of an educator is the same as the vast majority of those in the profession: the students.  No matter how chaotic, unpredictable and messy teaching can be- there is nothing more rewarding than working with students.

students working

So as I began to narrow in on my own teaching pedagogy, I struggled with creating an environment that was both structured and empowering.  How could I help my students grapple with critical thinking while still maintaining the boundaries and parameters that give us direction?  I quickly began to find that organization and creativity did not need to be mutually exclusive- rather they work quite well in tandem.

Enter: student choice.

It was easy to see that once my students were allowed to make choices around their learning, engagement would rise exponentially.  Students finally felt ownership in their academic journey- it was no longer about what their teacher needed them to learn but empowering them to learn with conviction.

There have been countless moments in my teaching career where the integration of choice in projects, assessments or discussions has amplified student voice.  Most recently, our 8th graders at Tsai Hsing were grappling with concepts such as being an Upstander amidst gender inequities.

student project

Two concepts that have a lot of layers to unpeel. So instead of spewing my own interpretation of how to be an Upstander in life’s difficult moments, students were presented with some rudimentary information on the topic and left with one simple directive.  How will you stand up to the injustices of today?

student project

Now this is where things really got cool.  With beautifully planned templates and color coordinated lesson plans, my students were given a platform to share their own ideas.  They needed to write, develop and procure a short film that would inspire their communities to not only understand current day gender inequities, but also be empowered to stand up to them.  I. Learned. So. Much.

What inequalities were our youth facing? How did they experience gender equality? What would they feel empowered to do about it?

As I watched, with privilege, all of their short films I was again reaffirmed that when students are given opportunities to be creative and take ownership of their learning, their voices shine.  

So to all of my fellow teachers out there, I would challenge us to think about how we can continue to offer and integrate choice in our classrooms.  I don’t have the perfect recipe- (if you have one- feel free to send it my way), but I do know that once we allow our students some sovereignty  in their education, we are allowed to sit back and rhear their voices, passions and self-worth shine.  And really- what more can we ask for as teachers?

Shark Tank! Project-Based Learning over Video Conferencing

Written by Patricia Reiter

Shark sightings were reported in our 7th-grade Learning Live classes this past December! Our students participated in an entrepreneurship competition modeled after Shark Tank, the popular television series where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to savvy investors. Inspired by the show we launched our students head first (pun intended!) into an ocean (again!) of product development and high-pressure pitching. They absolutely loved it.

shark tank
Our sharks consisted of a former CFO, COO and executive vice president of IBM Global Services, a computer vision research engineer, and a product manager. They considered our students’ pitches carefully and asked pointed questions within each of their respective expertise (finance, computer engineering, marketing).

The students were definitely in “unfamiliar waters” as they sunk or swam. Abner, Gene, and Ian were ready when they were asked about the product liability for their small-space-living-problem-solving “Double Sofa Emergency Alarm System Toaster Clock”. Their fire retardant material was water-resistant/stain-resistant and even had a built-in alarm system that called the authorities for help (whether or not you used the automated wifi connected communication). Oh, it also detected earthquakes and sounded the alarm but still made you breakfast.

Another student, “HC” proposed a new currency just for students. The currency would work just like Taiwanese dollars but would be given to students from their teachers for things like good behavior and high grades. HC furthered that the money would expire two years after graduation. This would allow students who worked hard to gain a positive start in life.

Our former CFO was intrigued but wanted to know how HC made money on the product. HC replied, “You have a credit card, right?” and explained that he would assume the credit card company role and keep a small percentage from all transactions. Since the projects had to be realistic but not real, HC was able to explain that he already had funding approved from the Taiwanese government in an effort to promote domestic spending and to retain the best local talent in Taiwan for the first two years after their graduation. This would help to solve a major problem facing Taiwan right now: a brain drain to neighboring China where economic opportunity can oftentimes be greater than in Taiwan.

HC got a new partner! The Tsai Hsing future business leaders did an exceptional job representing their classes and their school to our impressive and impressed SHARKS! Did someone say, “Shark?”

Give Your Brain a Break… Before it Breaks!

Written by Lila Perkins

Coronavirus. 

Pandemic. 

Remote learning.

Too many things out of our control.

Did I raise your blood pressure yet? Or make you pop a blood vessel? If so, my apologies. But seriously, how do we protect our brains from the onslaught of news and information they absorb every day, on top of trying to keep our lives going? And how do we encourage our students to keep striving academically through it all?

“Sometimes you need to give yourself a break when you’ve had a lot of life change.” 

— Barbara Freethy

According to Psychology Today’s Nick Morgan Ph.D., “Our brains still work. They’re just stressed out.” 

“…attention spans,” he says, “once lost, don’t go to Mars, never to return, unless you get really, really lucky and the International Space Force commissions a rocket to rescue you. Rather, they need 30 seconds or less to refresh themselves and they are back, strong as ever, ready to raise your consciousness still further hour after hour.”

Dr. Morgan illuminates the importance of taking small breaks when completing day-to-day tasks. It is easier to tackle the challenge of brain-fatigue when working at a micro level.

Starting with something as simple as closing your eyes…

And breathing…

Inhale…

Exhale…

For 30 seconds, I invite you to enjoy the gifts of silence and stillness here with me. See what you notice in your body after you read this sentence. 

Is your neck stiff from craning to look at your screen? Are your eyes sore and strained? Do your hands ache from endlessly typing and scrolling? How is your spine? Are you hunched over, lungs unable to fully expand on inhalation? Are you fidgeting, trying to stay focused?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you could use a Brain Break.

“Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have.”

— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

In my own lessons, I’ve witnessed how just 30 seconds of strengthening that precious mind-body connection makes a difference in the way our students process information. Committing to one or two Brain Breaks in a lesson that lasts about an hour can increase the overall amount of information they retain. Brain Breaks can also make the lesson more enjoyable to participate in!

So what does a BGL Brain Break look like? During a live virtual class, students need a traditional brain break as well as a break from watching a screen! We use many strategies to keep students engaged, focused and brain-ready. For instance, our puppet friend Olive from our Digital Citizenship programs has a marvelous routine that keeps her on track when studying and using technology!

We use Olive’s tools in many of our lessons. When we notice our students exhibiting signs of brain fatigue, our instructors work to ease them out of it with some gentle stretching, neck rolling, eye blinking, and good ol’ fashioned wiggling around. Reducing tension in the body makes one more receptive to taking in new information.

If someone asks me, “What are you stressed about?” I can usually name twenty things off the top of my head. But what about the classroom of students in front of me? I put myself in their shoes. A third-grader may have nothing ‘real’ to worry about in your eyes, until you consider things they may be hiding for the sake of doing well in school.

This pandemic is affecting kids in ways we as a society will not be able to grapple with until years from now, when they’re old enough to put more words to their feelings. On top of the stress of being too young to understand many things in the world around them, today’s youth must constantly worry about this unprecedented pandemic. And climate change. And gun violence in schools. And… well, anything you’re worrying about, trust and believe the kids are worrying about it, too.

Many if not most children these days have 24/7 access to the same news and media outlets that adults do. They see what we see. They hear what we hear. They feel the same stress we feel. And many of these children are told that their stress is nothing compared to what adults deal with. This cannot be further from the truth.

“There’s room for all of you, and for everything you experience—the grim and the glorious, the wounded, wounding, healing and healed.”

— Hiro Boga

It is the responsibility of those in positions of power and influence to provide the empathy and support that children need in this moment. The very least I as an educator can do for them is carve out 30 seconds of my lessons to make sure their brains can cool down and reset. When they watch me wiggle around and make a fool of myself, and they smile and join in- I know this is worth it. No matter how small, these Brain Breaks are worth it. When time allows, I do more than 30 seconds, inviting them to suggest a relaxing movement or activity. I encourage them to connect with their own bodies and see what they need in these moments of brain fatigue.

I see the disruption that this pandemic has caused as an opportunity for educators to restructure the way we all teach and learn. We need to be more connected with our brains and bodies now than ever before. We must validate the stress we all feel, and do our best to support each other. Give your own brain a break. Teach these kids to give their brains a break. Prioritize reducing stress. We all deserve that much.

“When you rest, you catch your breath and it holds you up, like water wings…” 

— Anne Lamott