I was recently challenged to create an virtual field trip for my HASS (Humanities and Social Sciences) preservice teacher class. I have struggled with the idea because I basically think that simply going somewhere “virtually” is not a field trip. I have played with a few ideas and settled on “touring” the online spaces of a place.
However, there is some interest in using digital tools to create field trips so I had a go at making one. This is a tour I created using the BETA version of Tour Builder, a Google Earth Experiement. It is pretty straight forward. You plot locations on a map, write a story and share images and film.
I decided to explore the tool and use general themes and topics in the HASS curriculum to guide my story. The tour tells the story of the places and spaces I have inhabited throughout my life, what they look and feel like and how I and others interact with the environments.
The problems I have with a tour like this is that they are very surface level and tap into the narcissistic end of the social media environment. I hesitate to use tools like this with students because instead of challenging students to think deeply about a space, we cater to pop cultural understandings. I still think there must be a way to do good quality field work online without resorting to a virtual poster presentation that lacks substance.
It’s fun and a time suck. Humanities and Social Science students should be online being sociologists, geographers and historians, not making things pretty and looking at a bunch of photos.
One thing which I did not feel comfortable telling in my tour were the Aboriginal peoples’ stories of the places I have been. I always hesitate writing Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander content because I am not Indigenous. I hesitate to be another white person telling someone else’s story and creating “content” on behalf of local Indigenous communities without consultation. Therefore, I only touch very surface level on the Aboriginal peoples of the places I have lived. This is far from satisfactory, but if you were to teach the curriculum appropriately and ethically, I suggest contacting your local Indigenous people(s) and developing content in consultation.
I would love to hear what you think of the tour and of Tour Builder.