TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Not everyone gets to experience the stunning views of the Colorado River bed in the Grand Canyon in person. But a pilot class at ASU’s School of Sustainability is using storytelling and 360-degree views to teach about various places around the state and the world.
“It’s not just your brain that’s working,” said associate professor Rimjhim Aggarwal. “It’s all your senses that are being used, and the idea is that the student is given the opportunity to explore whatever they want to.”
The virtual field trips (or VFTs) already available through ASU online were produced by the Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX), and the idea now is to have students start making them as a way to improve education. The team found that engaging experiences like VFTs are better than, say clicking around on Google Maps because the VFTs include a built-in tutoring system.
“So as you go through it, we can ask you questions and if you answer it wrong, we’ll know and we can pop up an appropriate video with a professor correcting what you just did,” said Tom Ruberto, a geology PhD student who is working with ETX on the project.
Joe Tamer with ETX says the project combines three dimensions: sustainability, education and technology. Part of what the nine students are learning is how to capture 360-degree pictures, videos and sound.
“They had a lot of technology that I’ve never even heard of before, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore,” sophomore Casey Rapacki said. She had taken one of Ruberto’s geology classes previously and was intrigued by the VFTs he used when he taught.
The end-product of the VFT vision would have come in handy for some elementary kids in southern Arizona, for example. Last week their scheduled trip to Saguaro National Park was canceled because of the government shutdown.
“If I can’t actually go to the Grand Canyon, then a virtual field trip is a worthy substitute,” Tamer said. “When you go to the Grand Canyon, I can’t take 100 students down to the river level and see these rock formations. However, in a virtual field trip I can take a thousand students.”
The National Parks Service has been in touch with the ETX Center about making virtual field trips for parks all over the country.
With the $100,000 grant the school just earned to kick-off the VFT program, they’re starting small – looking to create field trips fairly close to home. But as it grows, they envision sending students to places all over the world and spreading the VFT concept all over the internet.