Published Online: April 25, 2006
Published in Print: April 26, 2006, as Field Trip Lets Millions Be Virtual Spelunkers

Technology Update

Field Trip Lets Millions Be Virtual Spelunkers

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More than 10 million students were expected to go on a field trip this week to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, N.M.—without leaving their classrooms.

The April 25 field trip, coordinated by Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., was to consist of two live virtual tours of the cave featuring scientists, park guides, and first lady Laura Bush. Students in grades 3-8 were invited to call in or e-mail questions to be answered on the air, or to participate in an online discussion during the 90-minute broadcasts.

The organizers billed the event as the largest simultaneous visit ever to a national park. It was also described as the largest “electronic field trip”ever broadcast by BSU, which has organized more than 50 such trips since 1996.

Organizers offered a range of ways to access the broadcast: satellite television, a local cable-access network, or streaming video online. Thirty-five public-broadcasting stations across the country also agreed to show the program.

The trip’s coordinators recommended that classes watch the show on television rather than over the Internet, because video streaming can slow down other computers in a school’s network. Also, watching the broadcast on TV would free up computers for students wanting to participate in the online forum during the show.

Mark Kornmann, the coordinator of electronic field trips for BSU, said that as of last week, participants had registered from eight countries. Many classes registered online before the show to access supplemental online material, but preregistration was not required, he said.

Registered teachers have had access to Web-based curricula about the life and geology of the caverns for the past month.

Also during that time, students have been able to play a video game on the university’s Web site in which they could explore a virtual version of the national park.

“Exploring Carlsbad Caverns” was slated as the final electronic field trip run by BSU this school year. Five trips are scheduled for next school year, including trips to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. More information about the field trips is online at www.bsu.edu/eft.

Vol. 25, Issue 33, Page 16

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