Lounge
Tramline's Virtual Field Trips versus WebQuests
by Kim Foley

For the sake of this article, when I talk about Virtual Field Trips (VFTs), I'll be speaking specifically about Tramline's Virtual Field Trips. They were created using TourMaker software, an important distinction for reasons discussed further down.

I have been asked about Virtual Field Trips versus WebQuests often enough that I decided to write a bit about it. There are many similarities, but also some differences. I can speak from an expert viewpoint about Virtual Field Trips, however, I am not a WebQuest expert so bear that in mind as you read on.

  • First of all, WebQuests are expressly intended to be inquiry-oriented activities. VFTs are also typically inquiry-oriented, but they are not limited to this usage. For instance, you could create a VFT about beaches, with the goal of pure fun.

  • Both VFTs and WebQuests can draw much of their information from existing Web resources (why reinvent the wheel?), but can also incorporate custom pages.

  • Both VFTsand WebQuests are typically designed to make efficient use of a learner's time and to spend time focusing on using information rather than searching the Internet.

  • Tramline developed TourMaker with the very specific goal of creating an educational tool that would help to organize and focus Web resources into a simple, useable package. WebQuests also have a specific educational goal but I will leave it to others to state the inspiration for the creation of WebQuests.

  • A major difference between VFTs and WebQuests is the presentation format. WebQuests are presented in a web page following a suggested template, and a TourMaker field trip is a packaged software application that runs from a web page.

    - With TourMaker created Virtual Field Trips, since the software generates the resultant trip, the format is consistently the same, providing an overlay to the visited web site and simultaneously visible custom directions for students or commentary about the visited web site. There are built-in Navigation and Orientation aids (such as an easy-to-use control panel, a way to tell how long the trip is, and a way to tell where you are within a given trip), which is not the case with all Virtual Field Trips out there. These aids keep learning focused and on track while still allowing exploration of Internet resources. Teachers can use TourMaker to create their own field trips for use in the classroom as well as globally. Students can use it in the same way but can also create "Internet reports," a sort of "modern-day" extension of using a word processor to create a paper report, incorporating the latest research, multiple experts, and so on.

    - Students can explore web pages on a given tour, actually leaving the scripted tour but with one click of an ever-visible button they are back on the defined tour at the point where they left from (maintains context and keeps them from getting lost in "cyberspace"). With WebQuests, I'm pretty sure that when you click on a link you will either open a second window, or have to use your browser's Back button to return to the WebQuest main page.

  • Virtual Field Trips can be used in any number of ways to serve a variety of educational goals. I would offer that WebQuests probably fit that as well.

  • Once uploaded to the Web, both Virtual Field Trips and WebQuests can be accessed at any time, by anyone.

For more information on Virtual Field Trips, explore this web site, or check out my book, "The Big Pocket Guide to Using and Creating Virtual Field Trips," available for purchase here.

For more information on WebQuests, see Bernie Dodge and Tom March's site at http://webquest.sdsu.edu/.

 

 

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